The squat is an essential component used in strength training exercises, the squat is a natural movement in which you crouch then stand up. Squats work the entire lower body, this includes the Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes and surprisingly the Erector Spinae (as the muscle group contracts isometrically). There are many different types of squats, these may include the Back squat, Front squat, Overhead squat, Hack squat, One-Legged squat, etc. The preferred Squat to improve your performance include the Olympic, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding Squat. Squat training will improve your functional mobility, prevent injuries and improve your performance.
The Olympic Squat is classified as a High Bar Squat, it requires you to focus on two things, that your weight is on the outside of your foot and that your toes are in an outwards position. The Olympic Squat requires you to push your knees outwards to engage the glutes as you descend to the bottom position then using your outward leg drive to accelerate from the bottom position of the squat. When doing this method be cognizant to pull your scapula into your back pockets to help lock the spine into a neutral position as you ascend from the bottom position.
The Olympic High Bar Squat is one of the leading exercises when it comes to building strength in the quads and glutes, it allows for a maximum range of motion, it's a great torso stabilizer, less loading/stress on your lower back due to your vertical position, it's great for the core, less stress on your knees, and better to be used as a transition exercise for all other lifts. Although there are many reasons as to why this exercise will benefit you when training, there are drawbacks. These drawbacks include; less weight can be lifted, more loading can cause injury on the knees, and if not done correctly it could cause serious injury to your Erector Spinae. The Olympic squat is performed relatively quick with a controlled eccentric and meteoric concentric action.
The Powerlifting Squat is primarily used to lift more weight, this form of squat will not damage the knee but notably strengthen it. When doing the Power Squat the bar must be placed low, just below the tops of the deltoids, traps and just above the rear deltoid. The Power Squat involves maximising your body's biomechanics and the distance the bar travels to enable you to lift greater loads. Some benefits of the power squat include more loading on the posterior chain, more weight can be lifted, does not put strain or injury on the knees, strengthens the muscles in your legs, back and upper body. This type of squat is best used when powerlifting competition is your goal.
The Bodybuilding Squat is a multi-joint exercise used to effectively develop the muscles in your legs (Quadriceps - Rectus femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Intermedius, Vastus Medialis); (Hamstrings - Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus, Biceps Femoris). This squat builds overall strength and power but must be done with good form otherwise injury could occur. Some of these injuries include knee problems, lower back strain and muscle tearing.
To prevent this you must make sure to take a balanced grip on the bar in the rack, duck under the bar and stand up with your feet directly under the bar, step back whilst standing upright with the bar resting on your upper back.
Breath deeply making sure to gaze straight ahead, hold your chest out, maintain a neutral spine whilst tensing your abs and glutes. Keep your feet pointed slightly outwards to ensure your knees follow the angle of your feet as you bend your knees when descending. You should be able to feel the stabilisers in your back and abs working to keep you solid. Continue to bend your knees, easing your hips back until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your body should be at a 45 degree angle. Now return to the start position making sure to breath out.
“From personal experience my preference is the Olympic squat as it maximises muscle activation and minimises injury”