Squats – Ultimate Guide From A Pro

The squat, the dynamic squatting down and standing up – a movement that we unlearn over time.
The deep squat is easy for a small child due to the anatomical conditions and the not-yet-fully developed or softer passive structures.
When growing up, many people find deep squats very difficult. Poor posture, lack of mobilization, and flexibility often play a role here. In this article, I would like to give you tips on how to improve your squatting.


Squats are a position, movement, and strength exercise of fundamental importance for Olympic weightlifting. A well-developed and consistent squat is fundamental for the pulling technique and pulling power and therefore for the successful performance of snatch and clean and jerk.

■ Back Squat (high-bar)

■ Front Squat

■ Snatch Balance

In addition to training overhead strength and the direct transfer to the snatch, the snatch balance also serves as a precise technique check. The dynamic whole-body movement of the pull squat allows overactive and underactive muscles to be precisely identified and the movement improved through corrective exercises.

How to perform back squats correctly:
  • Slide your elbows under the barbell and activate your upper back.
  • The elbow position determines the position of the rib cage, i.e. the upright position of the thoracic spine. Keep your elbows under the barbell for a more upright torso.
  • Start by bending your knees!
  • Actively push your knees forward. This is a good transfer to athletic performance for a weightlifter – as hip activation provokes a forward lean.
  • Pay attention to a controlled eccentric (releasing) execution of the movement.
  • The releasing part of the movement is primarily responsible for building muscle and strength.
Activated muscles of the front squat

In contrast to the back squat, the front squat is an excellent indicator of full-body strength. Due to the front rack position of the barbell i.e. the trunk and quadriceps, are activated more. This also enables a more upright deep squat and relieves pressure on the lower back. A strong upper back (trapezius and rhomboids) is required to stabilize in the front squat, which is often a limiting factor for holding strength in many cases. If your upper back is rounding off, you should perform exercises like face pulls, rowing, or pull-ups.

Generally, back squats allow you to move heavier loads as they are a less specific exercise than front squats. Back squats only train the legs, whereas front squats also work the shoulders and wrists. The technique for the back squat is therefore much simpler, as the barbell is placed on the back and does not have to be held in front rack position. This results in greater power output.

As a guideline, the 1RM in the front squat should be approx. 75 – 85% of the 1RM in the back squat.

1RM describes the one-repetition maximum and refers to the maximum amount of weight you can lift for a single repetition for a given exercise.

So if your 1RM back squat is 150 kg, you should be able to front squat 127 kg. If the front squat is significantly weaker than the back squat it indicates a weaker quadriceps.

Myth: Squatting low (less than 90°) is harmful

If flexion is decelerated at a knee angle of 90°, higher shear forces act on the knee joint than if the movement is continued in the deep squat position. At a right angle in the knee joint, the load lever, i.e. the thigh with the resistance (which is your body weight plus the additional load), has the greatest distance to the pivot point (knee joint) and therefore the greatest torque. The contact pressure of the patellar tendon is strongest at this point and is therefore the least optimal position of the movement sequence.

The risk of injury is significantly higher with a half squat due to the shearing forces and pressure load. The myth that “deep squats are harmful” is therefore false.

The squat is a very dynamic movement pattern. In the following, I would like to discuss common movement compensations and the resulting incorrect postures. It is often not only limited mobility due to soft tissue or a joint capsule that is too tight that causes movement compensation, but overactive and underactive muscles can also play a significant role:

Table: Possible causes and corrections for the squat

1. Improve your internal hip rotation

The sacroiliac joint (= the sacroiliac joint of the body) serves as a buffer zone between the lower and upper body. Squatting frequently increases compression and reduces mobility in the joint. It can be helpful to improve internal hip rotation to get more movement in the SI joint. In some cases, the SI joint can be blocked, resulting in leg length discrepancies and problems with proper squat execution, including pain.

2. Pay attention to strong eccentric leg flexors

The leg flexor is the main stabilizer of the knee and should be trained primarily in eccentric holding power. Also, ensure a balance between the leg extensors and leg flexors. The leg flexor should account for at least 70% of the strength of the leg extensor. This works against the advancement of the knee and relieves the cruciate ligaments. In this context, the hamstrings should be trained in a combination of internal and external hip rotation to optimally address all parts of the back thigh.

3. If you want to get better with squats- DO SQUATS

No other exercise stretches the soft tissue in the lower body to the same extent and thus improves flexibility. You can also do the squat more often than any other exercise.