Do not begin to exhale (blow out) until you are near to completion of the repetition. This will cause you to lose tightness.
Most people will need to think about forcing their knees to stay outward during the up and down motion of the squat. It almost feels unnatural for the novice trainee to keep his knees tracking along the proper “groove” when the motion is very new. Your knees, technically, should track at the same angle that your toes do. Yes, powerlifters, you keep your legs wide and point your toes forward because this tightens your hips on the way down and up from the hole, but we’re not talking about that. Figure 56, pg. 56, Starting Strength demonstrates this graphically and gives an excellent explanation.
Some amount of forward lean is natural, and in fact, is necessary. It is impossible, with a free weight barbell, to keep your upper body at a 90 degree angle to the floor. You cannot maintain any form of balance this way and if you try, you will fall onto your rump.
The bar, as it rests on your back, must remain above the midfoot area throughout the range of motion. It is common for a new trainee to lean back too far or, more commonly, lean forward too far. However, some amount of forward lean IS NECESSARY in order to keep the bar over your midfoot. The lower on your back you hold the bar, the more forward lean will be necessary.
The problem is that people have a tendency to lean so far forward that their heels come off the ground, or they end up putting far too much stress on the glutes and lower back and their squat turns into an impromptu good morning. Keep the bar tracking above the midfoot area, and you will be fine, as long as you don’t round your back.
This stems from hamstring tightness pulling your lumbar spine at the bottom position. Weak spinal erectors and tight hamstrings are the most frequent culprits. It’s actually not a huge issue unless it is severe and will often be present to some extent in all trainees. It’s worth noting that butt wink is more severe when there is less weight on the bar rather than more. In other words, just because you are witnessing major butt winking when you do a bodyweight squat, does not mean it’s the same when expressed under a loaded barbell.
Things you can do to reduce butt wink:
Do this stretch, except keep both legs straight. The lower leg stays flat on the floor with your knee straight and your foot straight up and down (in other words, don’t allow your leg to rotate laterally/outward). The other leg also stays straight. This will help “stretch your hips apart” as well as loosen up those banjo-string hammies.
You can also do this stretch with a towel. Same rules apply, keep your legs straight. Another variation is to do these in a doorway. Your lower leg stays flat on the ground and runs through the doorway. The upper leg is held flat against the door frame. Another necessary stretch will be to start in a full squat position with your hands flat on the ground about 2 feet in front of you. Straighten your knees while keeping your hands flat on the ground. You should feel a VERY powerful stretch in your hamstrings. Keeping your knees straight, walk your hands inward toward your feet until you are able to touch your palms to the ground without bending your knees.
Be sure to do these stretches AFTER your workout, not before, as pre-workout stretching can actually weaken your muscles.
Squats are actually not “bad for the knees”, but they are, in fact, good for the knees. Properly performed, they evenly and proportionately strengthen all muscles which stabilize and control the knee (in addition to strengthening the muscles of the hip and posterior chain, upper back, shoulder girdle, etc.). When the hips are lowered in a controlled fashion below the level of the top of the patella, full hip flexion has occurred, and this will activate the hamstrings and glutes. In doing so, the hamstrings are stretched at the bottom of the motion and they pull the tibia backwards (toward da’ butt) which counteracts the forward-pulling force the quadriceps apply during the motion. As a result, the stress on the knee tendons is lessened since the hamstrings assist the patellar tendon in stabilization of the knee. A muscle supporting a tendon which supports the kneecap is going to be better than the tendon having to take up the entirety of the strain by itself..
Think about Olympic lifters. They squat VERY deep (almost ridiculously deep) all the time, frequently 5 or 6 times weekly, with very heavy weight. If deep squats were so bad for their knees, they wouldn’t be able to squat that deep, that often, and that heavy.
Partial squats, however, will NOT activate the hamstrings, and the amount of shearing force on the patellar tendon increases exponentially. What WILL happen if you do partial squats is that your quadriceps will become disproportionately strong as compared to your hamstrings, and the following are likely results:
If it’s too heavy to squat below parallel, it’s too heavy to have on the back.
– Mark Rippetoe, Starting Strength, pg. 18
Don’t be afraid of the squat. Learn to embrace it.
Having said that, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and we’ll assume you are part of the 1/4 that isn’t afraid of the squat. Determine what your goals are. If you want to get as big as possible, all over, then you will most definitely want to become a master of the squat. Your physical structure might not be ideal for the squat. You may have zero aspirations of becoming a powerlifting squat champion. You might not really give a flying fig how much you squat.
But if you SERIOUSLY want to be as large as you possibly can, all over, then yes, you will squat, even if you already have big legs.
There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that produces the level of central nervous system activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning as the correctly performed full squat.
– Mark Rippetoe, Starting Strength, pg. 19
Squats spur full body growth when combined with full body training much better than full body training without squats. If you want to look like some Abercrombie model, then find another program and enjoy your nice, easy training style. If you are serious about adding muscle to your frame, then get under the damn bar and make it happen.
Hip drive is getting out of the hole using your posterior chain, basically the glutes and the hamstrings. One of the best ways to guarantee a pure hip drive while getting out of the hole is to curl your toes up. By curling your toes up, your system can not go forward, thus the load will now be shifted from your glutes and hamstrings to your quadriceps.
If by curling the toes up, you fall backward while getting out of the hole, this is an indicator of dormant or too weak glutes. Deload till you find the weight you can manage with a good hip drive and continue progressing and powering your glutes.
Another indicator of a good hip drive is feeling the glutes getting squeezed and tightened unconsciously while getting up. It feels as if the whole weight is moved up by your glutes. If you get a sore quadriceps instead, I guarantee you that you’re not curling your toes up and the weight is shifted forward instead of up while getting out of the hole. A quadriceps-dominant back squat is a leg press, not the interior-posterior-balanced squat type recommended by all Rippetoe books.
…(the leg press) restrict(s) movement in body segments that normally adjust position during the squat, thus restricting the expression of normal biomechanics…(it) is particularly heinous in that it allows the use of huge weights, and therefore facilitates unwarranted bragging. Please slap the next person that tells you he leg-pressed a thousand pounds. A 1000-lb. leg press is as irrelevant as a 500 lb. quarter-squat.
– Mark Rippetoe, Starting Strength, pg. 61
The leg press is an excellent tool for an intermediate or advanced physique athlete to use for quad and/or glute and/or hamstring development. However, it has NO place in the routine of a novice trainee, and it has no place in this program, despite its uses and advantages.
The Manta Ray
If you have had shoulder problems, the Manta Ray can be a pretty useful piece of equipment. Its use is certainly not advised unless absolutely necessary, because it lengthens the lever arm between the weight and the rotation point (i.e. the barbell and the hips), which can cause problems with the lower back. It can also “wobble around” atop the shoulders causing a load shift affect, which also can cause problems with the lower back.
However, if you are experienced enough with the weights to know you NEED a manta ray, then by all means, it is better to squat with one than to NOT squat with one.
If, however, you simply want to use a manta ray for comfort’s sake, then don’t bother squatting at all. The amount of pain tolerance from a hard, heavy set of squats will be too much for you if you can’t take a little bar sitting across your shoulders. Perhaps you should take up a different hobby…knitting, for example.
The Safety Squat Bar and The Buffalo Bar
Assuming you have had an injury of some sort, or you have shoulder joint flexibility problems for whatever reason, then absolutely. The buffalo bar and safety squat bar both are outstanding pieces of equipment, especially for the lifter who has had shoulder problems *raises hand and points to self*. They certainly can create a different training effect than squatting with a conventional bar setup, but the training effect can be quite beneficial, especially for those with shoulder injuries who cannot squat otherwise.
Understand, however, that the novice trainee should NOT choose these devices over the basic barbell back squat. Their use should be limited to those who have injuries and cannot perform a barbell squat.
EDITOR’S NOTE - Both the buffalo bar and the Safety Squat bar are used by knowledgeable powerlifters as assistance lifting devices. Obviously my statements do not apply to them, as they would have no reason to read a “novice training program description” for anything other than mild curiosity’s sake.
The Back Pad
If your back hurts excessively while squatting, then chances are good you aren’t flexing your upper back muscles sufficiently to “pad” your skeleton. When you grip the bar, you must keep your hands in toward the body as closely as possible while gripping the bar BEFORE you unrack the bar and start squatting.
In other words, get under the bar, bring your hands in as closely as possible along the bar, grip the bar with a thumbless grip, lift your elbows back and up, and step under the weight. By keeping your hands close and your elbows back and up, the muscles of your entire shoulder girdle, as well as your trapezius muscles, will all “bunch/hunch up”, which will provide significant padding for the bar. Ensure the bar is kept in the “low bar position” at the lower-rear portion of your traps and rear deltoids, and you should be fine.
The main problem with the pad, in addition to making you look like a wuss, is that it tends to throw the center of gravity off. For an experienced trainee, this won’t be a problem, they can compensate (and they probably wouldn’t ask to use a pad anyway). For a novice trainee, this can be VERY detrimental to proper technique and balance development inherent in the learning process of the squat. So, all joking aside, the pad might help your upper shoulders “feel better” while squatting, but once you get to heavy weight, that little pad won’t do jack squat, except for throw off your technique! If you have a shoulder injury, then the pad won’t help at all. Look into using a Buffalo Bar, a Safety Squat Bar, or a Manta Ray
Deadlifts are an outstanding exercise, however, squatting before deadlifting is necessary for a variety of reasons
Squats serve as a more efficient and general “warmup” and preparation for your weight training sessions than deadlifts. Deadlifts will fatigue the upper and especially the lower back muscles prior to beginning the squats, which can definitely be hazardous to the health of a trainee, especially a new trainee. The last thing you want while squatting is a set of spinal erectors that are unable to bear the load. You can still frequently deadlift to near-limit poundages after squatting, but you will NOT be able to do that on your squats if you deadlift first.
Squatting first and squatting every workout is also ideal because it sends a strong growth signal to the entire body.
3 sets of 5 ≠ a set of the fabled “widowmaker” 20-rep squats, where after you’re done with the squats, you are done with the training. Your lower body will get taxed during the 3 sets of squats, but a novice won’t be able to squat enough weight to leave them unable to properly perform their next exercise, which is a bench press or a standing press. The lower body rests as you work the upper body with the pressing exercise.
So, as mentioned elsewhere, perform the squat properly as often as possible, and you will maximize growth in your entire body (assuming you train your entire body). Just make sure you do it everyday, and you do it first. If you have bum knees or you’re an old fart like me, then you will possibly need to make adjustments. See This Section for some ideas on adjustments that you can make.
Although this can put your knees and hips in a more advantageous position, it is not recommended for a number of reasons.
You can get all the benefits of using a block of wood, with none of the detriments, by rewarding yourself with a pair of solid squat shoes. They are well worth the price and they will make you a better, safer, stronger squatter as well.
This shouldn’t really happen. If you squatted so much weight that it is making your legs sore immediately after squatting, you may have started with too much weight.
The next day or the day after you will experience some soreness, but it shouldn’t be too bad. Just be especially careful going down stairs. In fact, avoid stairs if you can and take the elevator.
If it’s really bad take some Ibuprofen or NSAIDS to help relieve the pain.
information from startingstrength.wikia.com