Muscles Targeted: While executing a successful barbell squat, the muscles that will be most utilized are the quadriceps, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, calves and various back muscles to a lesser degree. Your quadriceps will be the primary muscle group that is being utilized with this movement. Other muscle groups within the legs and back will be utilized as well, due to the fact that the barbell squat is a multi-joint compound movement that recruits many different muscles. Including squats in your CrossFit workout routine, or WOD (workout of the day), will help you build muscle mass and strength in your lower body, along with your overall physique, since the squat is one of the most powerful mass building movements you can incorporate.
Exercise Instructions: To successfully perform a barbell squat, make sure you first choose a weight that is comfortable for you to warm-up with. Your first couple of sets should be used to get your muscles warm and your body ready for heavier working sets. To begin, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and position the barbell across your shoulders, so it’s resting on your trapezius muscles. Your feet position is very important. Aside from giving you a stable base, it also allows for proper mechanics that begin with your ankles all the way up to your spine. You should point your toes slightly out in order to get the deepest possible squat position while also ensuring your knees stay out versus collapsing inward. You will hold the barbell in this position for the duration of the exercise so make sure it’s comfortable and placed correctly across your lower trapezius muscles. Once you are in position, you will then proceed to slowly go down into the squat, while always maintaining proper posture. Proper posture is achieved by keeping your chest up, back flat and your butt out. You will squat down as low as you can comfortably go, which is usually when your legs reach about a 90 degree angle and your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause for a brief moment at the bottom and then push back up using your quadriceps until you are in the starting position. Do not lock out your knees at the top. Keeping a slight bend in your knees will allow you to put maximum and continuous tension on the quadriceps while also relieving the pressure from your knee joints, which are very delicate.
Things To Avoid: While performing the barbell squat you need to focus on maintaining proper posture throughout the entire exercise. This means focusing on keeping your head and chest up and keeping your eyes looking straight ahead. Do not round your back or hunch your shoulders. You should feel the weight on your heels, not on the balls of your feet. Avoid letting your knees go inward and collapse inside. You want your feet to be pointed a little out with your knees pointed in the same direction while you squat down and up. Do not let your knees go over your toes as you squat down. They should be aligned directly over your feet, not past them.
Reps and Sets: If your goal is to build muscle then focus on doing 8-12 repetitions per set for 4-5 sets. If you want to gain maximum strength then you will increase the weight used and lower the repetitions down to 4-6 reps per set. Make sure to avoid overtraining your legs with too many workouts. Performing just one leg workout per week is sufficient for growth if you are hitting it hard. Make sure to rest completely after your leg workout and you might even avoid doing any cardio for 1-2 days after your leg workout just to make sure you provide the large muscles of your legs to fully recover.