Squats have all kinds of benefits, from strengthening muscles to increasing endurance and helping with weight loss, but even some of the most seasoned gym rats may be used to only one kind of squat. Fitness trainers agree there are plenty of different ways to (properly) do squats—from the traditional kind to squats with added resistance. If you're interested in adding more variety to your workouts (and your squat types), learning how to do a barbell squat—and others like the front squat and back squat—could be beneficial to your exercise routine.
Parade consulted top trainers to break down the barbell squat step-by-step. Keep reading for squat how-to's, plus answers to frequently-asked squatting questions. Weightlifting bar
A barbell squat is exactly what it sounds like—a squat done with weight in the form of a barbell that rests on the traps and shoulders.
According to Dr. Nathan Kadlecek, PT, DPT, CEO of Kadalyst Wellness and Physical Therapy in Monterrey, CA, this exercise is also known as a barbell back squat.
Barbell squats are widely considered a workout for your glutes, but they actually work out a whole lot more than just your bum muscles.
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"The barbell back squat primarily works the glute muscles, quads, hamstrings and adductor (inner thigh) muscle groups," Kadlecek adds.
If you're new to barbell squats, you may be wondering what's so great about them or what their benefits are.
"It’s beneficial to do barbell squats because as we get older, we lose muscle mass and strength," Dr. Kadlecek explains. "Barbell squats counteract that loss of muscle and strength and helps us to stay fit, active and strong throughout our entire life."
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Particularly for competitive lifters, Dr. Kadlecek adds that barbell squats help athletes "build explosive power." One advantage more seasoned athletes might have is a reduced risk of injury due to frequent training and increased strength.
There are clearly a ton of advantages to integrating barbell squats into your fitness routine, but we all have different goals in the gym. How do you know if barbell squats are for you?
"Anyone who wants to build significant lower body strength, gain muscle mass, and improve their quality of life [can do barbell squats]," Kadlecek says. "This ranges from kids all the way to senior citizens, athletes and non-athletes alike."
That being said, lots of athletes and competitive lifters prioritize barbell squats, and other kinds of squats too.
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However, Kadlecek also adds that barbell squats aren't necessarily appropriate for everyone. Most crucially, anyone with a lower-limb fracture or anyone non-weight-baring will want to avoid this exercise.
"Now, there are other variations of squats that I might have people do instead of barbell squats as they aren’t appropriate for everyone," Kadlecek explains. "If you have pain in your hip, back, knee, etc. with barbell squats, this doesn’t mean they are bad for you, it might just mean that you need to warm up better, start with a different variation of a squat, use less weight, change your range of motion or modify some other variable."
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A lack of range or mobility may also cause barbell squats to feel painful or more difficult. In that case, Kadlecek recommends a different kind of squat altogether.
"One other caveat is that if you have poor shoulder mobility, poor ankle mobility and poor hip mobility, it may be more difficult to get into a good position during the barbell squat," Kadlecek says. "I would start this individual with a bodyweight squat or goblet squat to get started."
Any trainer will tell you that it's really important to warm up before engaging in any kind of exercise. Barbell squats are no exception!
"Warming up is important as it increases the internal temperature of the musculature as well as provides lubrication to the joints," Kadlecek says. "This allows the muscles to contract more efficiently allowing you to move more freely and with less discomfort."
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But a warm-up is just that—a way to get ready before the real-deal workout. As such, there is no need to go all-out in a warm-up.
Barbell Weights "Keep it short and sweet," Kadlecek advises of your pre-squat warmup. "You should absolutely not be warming up for more than 10 minutes. It’s overkill after that."