How To Master The Back Squat

5 min read


If you are looking to build a strong squat, whether you are doing it for the first time or need some extra guidance on how to improve and get those numbers up, then this article is for you! This article supports the recent must-listen AdapNation Podcast – Episode #19 – Increasing Squat Strength – A True Masterclass.

Follow this article step by step where I give you the tools to prime and warm up effectively, before breaking down the squat step by step. At the end of this article you will reach the last video where I perform the back squat, bullet pointing all the steps in this article that I have broken down that you need, in order to perform a strong back squat.

Movement Priming  

1. Worlds Greatest Stretch x 10 reps 

This is a great drill for opening up tight hips, ankles and the thoracic spine before getting under the bar.

  • Step forward into a lunge position placing your hands next to your foot
  • Lift the arm that is closest to the front foot and drop your elbow towards the floor
  • Then rotate that same arm towards the ceiling, going as far round as you can whilst maintaining tensions throughout the body


2. Behind Neck Press x 20 reps

This drill is to help prime the shoulders and fire up those back muscles before placing a loaded bar in the same position.

  • Using a dowel or a light bar; place onto your upper back and then press towards the ceiling
  • Pull back down and pull the bar into your shoulders squeezing your lats by pulling your shoulder back and down towards you back pockets


3. Full Squat Hold x 1-2min

Before performing the squat with weight, I like to get into the full position and hold at the bottom for a minute or two to open up my ankles, knees and hips and check they are happy before loading with weight.

  • Holding onto a fixed position drop down into full squat
  • Once in the bottom position, move around side to side, back and forth and push knees out to improve your ankle and hip range of motion


Activation Drills

1. Swiss Ball Hip Extension x 10 reps

This drill is to help fire up those all important glute muscles ready for squatting which can often become lazy due to sitting.

  • Lying back on a swiss ball with only your upper back and feet flat on the floor
  • Raise your hips to the ceiling without rolling the ball back
  • Pause at the top and try to squeeze and feel your glutes working
  • Drop back down by hinging through the hips and not rolling the ball forwards


2. RKC Plank 2-3 x 10″

To squat with a weight sitting across your upper back takes a great deal of core strength, so by holding and creating tension throughout the whole body you’ll feel everything connect as one creating a strong stable core.

  • Place your feet a few inches apart and bend your arms so that you are resting on your forearms
  • Squeeze your glutes, brace your abs and grip the floor by pulling your elbows towards your feet


3. Prone Y into W x 8

This drill is to help fire up all the muscles in the back and shoulders to help keep the bar tight during the squat.

  • If you haven’t got a bench then you can lie on a swiss ball or even on the floor to perform this drill
  • Firstly you want to engage your lats by pulling your shoulder blades back and down
  • From there you want to raise your arms above your head into a Y position
  • Then bring you arms back down by pulling your elbows into your side, and try to pull your thumbs towards the ceiling by squeezing shoulder blades back together


Technique / Positioning 

1. Bar Placement 

When doing the back squat you want to avoid placing the bar on your neck which could lead to injury. So we want to make sure that the bar is placed across your shoulders.

I am demonstrating with a dowel to make it clear in the video. High-Bar Placement.

  • Pull your shoulder blades back together and then try to find a nice shelf where the bar sits
  • There are a few other bar placement options however that is for another article so for now this is a good place to start


2. Tighten Upper Back 

We want to make sure that the bar is tight across our back to help create full body tension.

  • Place your hands just outside shoulder width (if range will allow; if not go further out)
  • Squeeze shoulders back together
  • Pull elbows under the bar


Creating Tension 

1. Squeeze Your Glutes 

In this video I am demonstrating that when I squeeze my glutes, it pulls and tucks my hips under to align my pelvis and stop me from hyperextending though the lower back.

  • Squeeze your glutes as your brace your abs and tuck your hips under


2. Screw Drive Feet

Our connection with the floor is incredibly important and we need to make sure we have  strong stable feet if we want a strong squat.

screw your feet into the floor

  • Imagine you are standing on newspaper and you are trying to scrunch  it up with your feet and then rip it apart by screw driving your feet into the ground and out
  • This will help you drive the knees out as you lower into the squat as demonstrated in this video to avoid knee valgus (knees collapsing) ..
  • Screwdrive feet into the ground and drive knees out
  • Also foot width and foot angle varies from person to person depending on bone structure and joint range
  • A good test is to jump on the spot three times and see where you land and that will give you a good indication as to where your natural squat stance it


3. Belly Breathing

So just before we perform the squat we need to make sure we brace through deep belly breathing. Learning to brace properly helps us to use our diaphragm, and fire up those deep abdominal muscles to create a strong and stable core. This is so we don’t crumple under the bar when it gets challenging. Our core is like our natural weight lifting belt and learning how to use it is a game changer.

This video is an example of what it looks like, you can practice away from the back squat by breathing into your hands to feel the pressure as you expand your belly…

  • Just before you squat, you want to take a deep breath of air into the body by breathing into your belly (push air down and out) then hold whilst you perform the rep (imagine you are about to go under water)



1. Break from the Hips and Knees

To avoid either sitting too far back into the squat and putting all your weight onto your heels or leaning too far forwards and putting all your weight onto your toes, we want to break evenly from both the hips and knees to ensure we go straight down and keep all the weight evenly distributed in the middle of the foot, this is where the centre point of gravity is.

  • As you initiate the movement, bend both the knees and hips at the same time, dropping straight down into the squat
  • Also the depth of the squat will depend on your bone structure and what your joint range will allow. Personally, I always aim for just below parallel (where your thighs are in relation to the floor)


2. The Full Squat

So here I am performing all of these steps together, in just a few seconds to set up and perform the back squat.

  1. Placing the bar on my shoulders and pulling my elbows under the bar and tightening my back
  2. Pull my hips under by squeezing and bracing both glutes and abs
  3. Screwdrive my feet into the floor
  4. Take a deep breath of air into my belly
  5. Break from knees and hips driving knees out
  6. Return to the top and repeat…


If you would like to listen to our podcast where we cover this topic then click here to listen.

Hope this article helps and please don’t forget to give it a like or a share!

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