Exercise Of The Week – The Barbell Squat

by Tia Dewick in Training

barbell squat

Implementing barbell squats into your exercise routine can have numerous benefits. Not only do barbell squats enhance leg strength, they also engage the upper body. Therefore the main muscles engaged during this exercise are quadriceps, hamstrings, soleus (also known as the calf), gluteus maximus and the erector spinae (the muscle which runs directly along your spine which stabilises the movement).


By positioning the barbell upon your shoulders, your centre of gravity raises and thus promotes core stability. Enhancing core stability and strengthening the lower back not only promotes good posture but also reduces the risk of injury. Therefore you can endure a longer and harder working day with reduced deficits.

Benefits of Squats

1) Build muscle all over the body

2) Burns more fat

3) Promotes and maintains balance

4) Enhances jumping and running performance

5) Reduces injury risk

6) Enhances flexibility

7) Strengthens core and joints

Key Points

  • Ensure feet are shoulder width apart and are completely parallel to one another.
  • Slight bend in the knee to reduce the impact at the knee joint
  • Torso upright
  • Hands positioned approximately double shoulder width apart and grasp the bar with your hands facing forwards
  • As you begin to squat push your weight down through your heels and ensure that the knees do not exceed past the alignment of the toes. Try to avoid leaning forwards and keep your torso in an upright position.
  • TO AVOID INJURY DO NOT squat past the point of anterior pelvic tilt.

If you squat through this anterior pelvic then there is a potential for lower back injury. Try to maintain a straight spine by either asking someone to look out for this tilt or you can watch yourself in the mirror. As soon as you know the depth that you can squat. Aim for 3-5 sets of 10 reps.


  • Once you reach your optimal squat depth begin to push back up through you heels until there is only a slight flex at the knee joint to avoid the knee ‘locking out’.


Variations for Progression

Wide base (sumo squat)

Front barbell squat

Overhead squats

Each of these progressions will reduce the stability of the movement and therefore increase the rate of work for the exercise.


Variation for Regression

Smith machine squats to stabilise the movement


This exercise is perfect to promote both leg and core strength. Adjust the weight to suit you and let us know how you get on!