Set your feet under the bar, at about shoulder-width apart. I’ve seen countless squatters in reader submitted videos who take the bar out in a split stance. This may work on lighter weights, but it will hold you back at maximum attempts because it can throw you off-balance.
A lot of people are going to stand back [away from the rack] and you know this is wrong because when they stand up, the bar comes [back instead of up] out of the rack... This will work at 50%-60% but once you get above 80%, it's gonna make the bar feel really heavy because you have to lever up with your back to get it out. Instead we need our feet to be forward and under the bar.
John Paul Cauchi
As you’re squeezing under and getting tight, think about setting your feet directly underneath your hips and parallel to each other. DO NOT SET YOUR FEET IN AN OFFSET FASHION!
Exhale Ribs Down
Before you approach the bar, exhale hard to allow the ribs to come down and the pelvis to come up and underneath you slightly... Get the air out to optimize your starting position, and then approach the bar.
The closer to center you can keep your hands on the bar, the thicker and more stable shelf you create... Unless your shoulders are too beat up, you’ll be better off inching them in.
The correct grip places the wrists into a neutral position and the forearms and elbows are closely aligned with the torso. The typical errors we see in this step involves trainees rolling their hands up over the barbell, putting their wrists into flexion, and holding the bar in place with the heel of their palms often with their fingers off the bar entirely. This raises the elbows far too high causing... the bar to roll up the neck... The wrist should be put into a neutral position... and if the lifter can't maintain a neutral wrist, then a little bit of extension is preferable to flexion.
...a narrower hand position will help you keep your upper back a little tighter and more stable. When you bring your hands in, your scapulae naturally have to retract harder (so your middle and lower traps will be tighter, along with your rhomboids), and your shoulders will naturally have to adduct (tensing your lats a bit)...In general, your hands should be as close as you can comfortably get them. If you can get them closer without pain in your wrists, shoulders, or elbows, or just feeling super uncomfortable, then you’d probably benefit a little from doing so.
The closer you can put your hands to each other on the bar the easier it will be to have a tight setup. Make sure though that your elbows are inside your hands to maintain tightness. Using a thumbless grip often improves the comfort of a close hand position.
When you go with a very narrow grip (i.e. shoulder width), and then crank your elbows underneath the bar... Setting up in this way gives you a ton of stability and control through the upper back, and it also helps keep you from getting pitched forward with the bar on your back (which is never a pleasant experience!)
...pull your grip of the bar in just a little. This will force your shoulder blades together and fire up your upper back and erectors.
In the low bar squat, the bar should be resting on your posterior deltoids. [Any pain] generally comes from letting the bar rest directly on the spine of the scapulae. Just moving the bar a teensy bit higher ... or lower should take care of that discomfort.
If I had the bar on my back and my wrists are cocked back, that's not gonna be a good position for my elbows; vice-versa if I have my knuckles pushed too far forward you can already see that it's driving my elbows back. A way to correct this is just to have a neutral position with the wrists... keeping it straight... versus rolled forward or backwards.
Generally, the narrower your grip the better position you're gonna have on your back... you're gonna have a very nice shelf on your upper back made by your delts - very nice shelf to hold the bar. The ideal grip is gonna be the narrowest you can go without hurting your shoulders.
Once you've got your hands placed where you want them, squeeze the bar as hard as you can. The harder you're squeezing that bar, the more muscles you can recruit.
I want you to grab [the bar with a] full hand... so now my whole hand is on the bar. When I wrap around my pinkies are on there as well. That's going to distribute the force throughout the whole arm and upper back to allow you to keep your upper back tighter. [Otherwise] all that force is creating bicep tendinitis.
...your elbows should be down and pulled into your sides... “scratch your rib cage with your elbows.” This will help create lat tension to aid in torso rigidity and upper back tightness.
Squeeze your elbows towards the middle of your body to improve upper back tightness in the setup. Once you squeeze them toward your body as hard as possible, force them forward, under the bar. There will be very little movement of the elbow forward if you are doing a good job of squeezing them in.
I cue my lifters to pull their shoulder blades/scapulae back, and then rest the bar on top of this “muscle shelf.” Even the lightest, boniest human being known to man can do this without resorting to a pad or towel in between themselves on the bar. When you place the bar too high on the back, it ends up resting on the neck. On the other hand placing the bar too low again puts a ton of demand on mobility through the shoulders... you end up arching the upper and lower back in an effort to compensate.
...make sure your chest is up before you ever unrack the bar! To help in getting your chest up, think about spinning your elbows down and underneath the bar. Again, this will help lock in your upper body/torso position and get you ready to squat!
So you want to elbows to be directly under the bar the entire lift. Your torso more or less is gonna follow your elbows. If your elbows are pointing down, your torso is gonna be pointing up. That's what you want. So try and keep that position as you descend.
Bend the bar
...you should actively pull your shoulder blades together.
...make sure that you are squeezing that bar with everything you have ... I want to [be] taking that bar and pulling it through your back like you're trying to rip it out the front of your chest ... because the more that you can meld that bar to your body ... visualize trying to bend that bar across my back like it's a horseshoe ... I'm trying to rip the bar through my body and come out a couple inches above my nipple line.
I think the easiest cue for a lot of people is to think about pulling the bar apart or squeezing the bar over your back... Personally that doesn't actually work for me. I like to shrug up and then pull down. So [I'm] shrugging up and going to tighten up everything that's in this upper back and then when I pull down I'm gonna kind of let my traps relax. I don't want tight traps; that's gonna prevent me from using those muscles effectively.
Squeeze everything towards the middle of the body: shoulder blades fold together, elbows pull together slightly behind the body... So basically your elbows are gonna end up pointed at the top of your butt, and finally... push your elbows under the bar.
Inflate + flex
Instead of breathing into your chest, take air into your belly, inflating it like a basketball. This will stabilize your entire midsection. To belly breathe, take a deep breath while forcefully pushing your belly out. This should help you use your diaphragm to draw air into your belly. During the lift, try to exhale forcefully against your closed throat. This action, called the Valsalva maneuver will help you build up enough pressure to stabilize yourself under big weights.
When you inhale, your stomach should inflate to the front and sides (which has been described as “360 degree expansion” by Chad Smith and “inflate your obliques” by Chris Duffin), rather than your chest and shoulders rising.
When we take a deep breath of air, and our shoulders rise upward, we are actually causing our stomach to sink inward like a thin tree. We want to do the opposite and make a thick tree. I ask people to mimic how they feel, with their stomach, after they eat a ton of food on Thanksgiving. They usually push their belly out, distending it. This pushing out motion creates a “large trunk” like a thick tree. So we first need to take a large breath WHILE we pull that air into our lungs by making the sides of our stomach pull outward, like our thick tree. We then can push outward—focusing on the sides of our stomach—like a pufferfish to initiate our brace and hold it.
Get air into your midsection by focusing on breathing into your low back, this will create 360 degrees of pressure, improving performance and helping your back stay healthy. Get air before you bring the bar out of the rack with your hips.
You want to breathe into your belly ... as much into your belly as you can. If you wear a belt, you try to push into the belt 360. If not you just make sure the whole torso is tight. Typically you can get more air into the torso if you breathe through your nose first into the torso and then your mouth.
This part can be tricky. Once you’re underneath the bar, you’re going to take a big breath in, but you’re going to do that while keeping your core in the same position. In other words, don’t take a big breath in and let the lower ribs flare and the pelvis tilt forward.
If I'm gonna have you stand in a squat stance and I had a broomstick right and will whack you in the stomach, how are you gonna tense your stomach? How are you gonna keep it tight? Now what if I'm gonna hit you in the oblique? What if I'm going to hit you in the lower back? What are you going to do to be able to make sure when I swing that broomstick the broomstick's gonna break - you're not gonna break. Are you gonna pull air into your stomach? Are you gonna flex your stomach? I'm gonna use a bat, now what are you gonna do? It's gonna be even tighter.
A good way to brace for [low rep] squats is to make sure you take a huge breath, tighten your whole core, make sure your core is [neutral]... that much bracing takes a lot of energy. [For high rep sets] all you want to do is make sure you breathe in, tighten your abdominal muscles to some extent at least and stay nice and upright, focusing on keeping your core tight to make sure it's not wobbly...
[If] that bar comes up when you breathe, then... it's going to come back down when you're squatting up and... because that comes down, it pitches you forward. So we want to keep [the breath] down.
One really common mistake that we'll see in breathing is people who fail to take the air into the abs and push out through the obliques... Stability is going to be generated here through the obliques, the abs, [and] the hips... So it's air in through the nose, finish through the mouth, push that air down and out through the obliques trying to make your waist as wide as possible.
HOLD YOUR INTRA ABDOMINAL PRESSURE
HOLD YOUR INTRA ABDOMINAL PRESSURE
If you brace wrong or you don't brace at all, it ends up making your core your limiting factor. Not allowing your legs to express their strength as much, not taxing the quadriceps and other leg muscles as much... and that prevents you from getting the most out of the exercise.
Hips forward explosively
Arch your [upper] back and push your hips back... and break the bar out of the racks by pushing your hips forward.
Unrack the bar by driving your shoulders up into the bar aggressively. A lot of people find that, especially with very heavy loads, unracking the bar aggressively makes the weight feel less intimidating than gingerly unracking the bar. Start with your hips a bit behind the bar, take a deep breath into your stomach, tense your back, and drive the bar up off the hooks by driving your hips under the bar and pushing the floor away from you.
I stand up like I am finishing a world record rep... the reason why you're standing up so violently is because how this bar feels in your back from the moment that it leaves the rack is going to be very important for the outcome of this squat... Standing up explosively like you mean it is going to do a lot to make that bar feel lighter on your back.
Unracking is the way that you set the tone for the squat, so don't take it gently. Don't be timid about it. Be assertive with how you unrack the bar.
As you’re getting ready to unrack the bar, think about pushing your upper back aggressively into the bar. Really try to feel the weight out, dominate it, before you ever take it out of the rack.
Next, stand up with the bar, and this part is key – hold it there for a second! Too often, you see people stand up and start stepping back all in one motion. This may be fine if you’re using what amounts to light weight for you, but as the weight gets heavier, you need to demonstrate more control. So stand up, and let the plates and your body settle for a minute. Feel it out, and then start to step back.
CONTROL. You gotta take your time so everything is tight, up, let the bar settle... A lot of times these guys go [up] and the bar's not settled so it's still moving, then they try to set up too fast and all of a sudden they're [shaking] because you get all that reverb going on the bar and your body hasn't absorbed any of it. So you want to let the body absorb it.
Too often, people are... beginning their squat while other forces are still in motion, and the last thing that you want to do when you are trying to squat a heavy weight is deal with forces that you did not expect. So make your walkout methodical. Slow it down, take your time, build a ritual that you do the exact same thing with an empty bar on your back as you do with 900 pounds on your back... DO NOT RUSH IT. Once those plates quiet down, your body quiets down, and you have a brace... THEN it is time to initiate your descent.
Slide step plant
Once you unrack the bar, take a little step back with one foot, take a little step back with your second foot, and make a small adjustment in the direction your toes are pointed if needed...and then widen out your stance with your third step.
The walkout should be achieved in 3 steps maximum and can be achieved in 2. Step back with your off foot, set your dominant foot and then make any repositions of your off foot necessary to find your stance.
I like to use three steps to set-up when squatting. The first step clears you from the rack/J-hooks. And in reality, it may be more of a 1/2 step than a full step.
One mistake is unracking the bar with a wide foot position. If you unrack the bar with a wide foot position it makes it very hard for you to perform a good walkout when you unrack the bar... you waste a lot of energy and you also don't involve as many muscles as possible... in contrast, when you unrack the bar with a closer foot position... you involve all of your strength... it's much easier to open up when you walk out.
You need to become ... deliberate on your walkouts... it should just be step step step ... no extra movement. No turning, no coming up on your toes. Just step step step because anytime you move you're losing energy... Mentally it's going to screw you up, it's also gonna screw you up physically.
...it's literally three half steps. So my first step is going to separate me from the rack, my second step is going to set my foot here, and my third step is simply bringing the other foot into line with that second step. So from here I'm ready to squat.
...you're gonna slide your dominant foot back ... until it's in the center of my body - not picking it up... then you pick [your other foot] up and find exactly where this foot would be when you're in your right stance, and then I can just step back with [my first] foot.
I teach people to take three steps on the walkout. The first step is one step to clear the rack and that step is really short. The rule of thumb that I use is that the toes of the back foot should line up with the heels of the front foot. The first step is just to clear the racks and it's straight backwards - not sideways - and it's very short: about one foot length. From there the second step is out into your squat stance and then the third step is out into your squat stance. From there, there should be no more shuffling or movement... over time you should be able to find that pretty instantly.
Jon Paul Cauchi
When you set up under the barbell, squeeze your glutes during your unrack and leg press the bar out of the rack. Then keep your glutes squeezed throughout the walk-out, and make sure they're engaged before you lock your abs tight to take your air and begin your squat. It may take getting used to, but you'll feel a lot more stable and pressure will be taken off your low back...
Hip width + 30 degrees
For a raw squat, the feet should be set approximately hip-to-shoulder width apart. There are no hard and fast rules here, as everyone’s body (and therefore their squat) will be slightly different. A general rule, however, is that the wider your feet, the more toe flare you need...And if you’re super narrow, the feet are going to be toed out very slightly, if at all... The moderate stance width works incredibly well with a slight degree of toe flare.
Squat with your heels directly under your shoulders. This creates room for you belly to pass through your legs when you Squat down. It makes breaking parallel easier. If you have long thighs with a short torso like me, your heels should be slightly wider apart than if you have short thighs with a long torso. But your heels should always be about shoulder-width apart when you Squat.
There's not too many guys that [stand] wide and are proficient. You end up using more hips and not enough quad. I'd like to be a little closer to use more muscle...
You want to make sure your feet are adequately flared out, which will help then you want to actively think about driving your knees out in the direction of your toes but not excessively beyond the direction of your toes.
You're going to take a stance where your heels are basically shoulder width or hip width apart and your toes are going to be turned out about 30 degrees. I want your knees to track the same direction as your toes and i want your knees to go out so we we turn our toes out.
Heel + big toe + little toe
You want to make sure you have three solid points of contact with the ground – your big toe, your pinky toe, and your heel – with your weight evenly distributed across all three points.
Focus on maintaining 3 even points on contact in your feet throughout the lift, weight should be even through the big toe, little toe and heel. Do not focus on excessively sitting back onto your heels if you are a raw lifter, this is not advantageous because you don’t have a suit to sit back into.
If you have a flat foot, we will try and grab the floor with the pads of our toes WITHOUT curling them and create a higher arch. If your arches are already “high,” we need to grab the floor with the pads of our toes by pushing them down and out to flatten that arch. This gives us the most amount of surface area and stability within our foot, which is the front line of our force production. If this surface is not evenly grounded, the force will not efficiently be transferred up to our legs to our hips.
While curling the toes may be a great way to strengthen the small muscles of the foot, pressing the big toe down and back is the most optimal way for most to anchor the foot to the ground and create an active arch within the foot. This action called rooting allows you to generate sufficient tension in the foot which will transfer throughout the rest of the body.
Shift the weight back towards the midfoot, or even slightly towards the heel.
You should have three points of contact: underneath your big toe near the ball of your foot, the outside edge of your foot, and then the heel of your foot. That's three points of contact.
If we look at your foot, we've got three different parts: the base of your heel, the base of your first toe, and the base of your fifth toe. When you squat, all three of those need to be an equal contact with the ground. That's called a tripod foot... If all three of these points are on the ground equally, you're gonna be able to produce a lot of power.
Grip + Twist
Your whole foot has to stay on the floor. So if you're trying to cue turning out and it's not working and you're still coming up forward do something else. Think spreading the floor apart, driving the heels down, [or else] you're going to start to go down and your mind's going start thinking 'I'm falling forward' then you're going to miss it out of the hole.
“Screw your feet into the floor.” With your feet firmly planted, attempt to externally rotate your hips, like you’re trying to point your heels toward each other, and your toes toward opposite walls. You may feel the outside of your foot pressing firmly against the wall of your shoe.
What I'm actually doing with my feet is taking my toes and I'm spreading them out... I'm trying to grip the floor with my feet and then I'm trying to crank it outward... like I have an Eagle Claw or Talon... which leads up to setting my knees, stacking my ankles... give me a good strong base for me to start descending on.
Grab the floor kind of like a cheetah grabbing the ground or you can try to twist your foot out or you can push your foot out it's all gonna do the same thing, which is trying to keep the foot flat on the floor
“Spread the floor.” Imagine a fault line opened up between your feet, and you’re trying to drive your feet apart to rip the crust of the earth in half. This tends to be the most effective for wider stance squatters who point their toes out farther.