Muscle Targeted: Barbell squats, along with deadlifts and bench press, are considered the best muscle building exercises because of the variety of muscles involved. The barbell squat is a compound exercise which means that multiple joints are used during the movement and this allows several muscle groups to be trained. Primarily, it targets the quadriceps, gluteus and hamstring muscles. It also, to a lesser extent, works out the core muscles, your lower and upper back, shoulders and arms. Your bones and ligaments are also strengthened using this great exercise.
Exercise Advice: Proper form is essential for overall safety and effectiveness. If you have access to a gym which has a barbell rack, practice your form within the space of the rack. Use very light weights starting out until you are ready to take it to the next level.
To begin this exercise, approach the bar and put your hands on the bar slightly wider than shoulder width. Place your head under the bar and position the bar so it rests on your trapezius muscles (not your neck). Raise the barbell off the rack and step away from the barbell rack. Ensure that you have enough free space so you can do the exercise correctly. It is very important not to raise the weight with your arms. Your arms are there just for support. Bulge your chest forward and lower the weight slowly while pushing back with your hips. As you push back with your hips, slowly bend your knees and lower your body downwards. How low you want to go varies from person to person. The deeper you go, the more the gluteus will be working. The position of your feet is a factor which is also left for you to decide. Some people like a really wide stance while others like a narrow stance. Keep your back straight through the entire range of the exercise. When you have lowered the weight down to the point that is comfortable, bring the weight back up by pushing up using your legs and staying focused. Beginners should do this exercise in a slow and controlled manner, while experienced bodybuilders and strength athletes can train a little faster (but always controlled) which will help train for explosive strength (football, basketball).
Things To Avoid: The most common mistake is placing the bar on your neck instead of farther back on your trapezius muscles. You should never place the bar so it produces tension in your neck, unless you want to get hurt. Put the bar on your upper back or on your traps. That way your neck will be safe from injury. Another dangerous mistake is engaging your calves while raising the weight. By raising the weight that way, you are using improper form. It is dangerous because you could lose your balance and get injured. Always stay focused while doing barbell squats. Do not twist your neck and make sure to look straight ahead, ideally into a mirror.
Reps and Sets: Commonly, the amount of repetitions should be in the 6-12 range. More than six repetitions are needed to engage muscle growth and hypertrophy and less than 6 reps are used for overall strength and power. It’s recommended to do two warm-up sets with a light weight. Once your muscles are warm you can increase the weight and train with maximum intensity and effort.
Other Exercises To Use: There is no exercise that can replace the barbell squat which is the king of all exercises for muscle mass and power. But, that does not mean you should not include other exercises into your leg routine. For example, after doing barbell squats you could several sets of leg presses and finish with leg extensions. You can also include walking dumbbell lunges as a finishing exercise in your overall leg workout.