How To Squat Properly For Muscle Growth

Updated on April 6, 2023

Squats are essential for anyone looking to build lower body strength and muscle mass. However, many people perform squats with improper form, which not only limits their muscle growth potential but also increases their risk of injury. 

It is essential to understand the proper form and technique for each phase of the exercise to perform squats correctly. In this article, we will take a detailed look at the four critical phases of the squat: setup, creating tension, ascending, and descending.  Each of these phases is crucial to execute squats safely and effectively.

One common issue with performing squats is discomfort or pain from the barbell on your back. To alleviate this, we’ll also cover how to use a best barbell pad to protect your neck and shoulders during the exercise.

This guide will help you perform squats properly to achieve maximum muscle activation and growth while minimizing the risk of injury. So, let’s dive in and learn how to squat correctly for muscle growth and strength.

Setup

When it comes to performing squats, the setup is a crucial factor in determining the effectiveness and safety of the exercise. 

The proper setup ensures a stable and strong base to execute the squat, allowing you to lift heavier weights and work for the targeted muscle groups more efficiently. A good setup also helps to prevent injuries by maintaining proper form throughout the movement. 

To do it,

  • Start by positioning your feet shoulder-width apart and pointing them slightly outward. 
  • Place the barbell on the upper part of your back, not your neck, and grip it firmly with both hands. 
  • Engage your core, keep your chest up, and maintain a neutral spine position. 
  • Take a deep breath and brace your abs before you start the descent. 
  • Keeping your weight centered over your midfoot and heels throughout the movement is crucial. 

Tension

In addition to improving muscle activation and strength gains, creating tension also helps to prevent injury during squatting. By stabilizing your core and maintaining proper posture, tension helps to distribute the load evenly across your body and minimize the stress on your joints and ligaments.

It can reduce the risk of lower back pain, knee pain, and other common squat-related injuries. Moreover, creating tension before executing the squat helps you maintain control and balance throughout the movement, ensuring that you perform the squat safely and properly.

To create tension, hold a deep breath while tightening your abs, glutes, and quads. It will create intra-abdominal pressure, stabilizing your core and protecting your lower back. 

Additionally, squeezing the barbell with your hands and pulling your elbows down will create tension in your upper back muscles, helping to maintain a stable barbell position during the squat.

Finally, focus on pushing your feet into the ground as you begin the descent, which will help to create a solid foundation for the squat and improve your overall stability.

Ascend

The ascending phase of the squat is where you will exert the most effort and engage your muscles the most. Focus on pushing through your heels, driving your hips forward, and maintaining proper form and tension throughout the movement. 

Here’s how to do it properly:

  • To execute the lift correctly, focus on pushing through your heels and driving your hips forward. 
  • Keep your chest up, and maintain a neutral spine position to prevent any unwanted rounding or arching of your back. 
  • As you ascend, continue to create tension by tightening your abs, glutes, and quads and squeezing the barbell with your hands. 
  • Maintaining control and balance throughout the movement is essential, avoiding any sudden jerking or tilting of your body. Keep your knees in line with your toes, and avoid letting them cave inward or outward, as this can put stress on your knees and lead to injury. 
  • Finally, fully extend your hips at the top of the lift, squeezing your glutes as you stand up. It will ensure that you get maximum muscle activation from the movement.

Descent

The descent phase of the squat is equally essential as the ascending phase, as it sets the foundation for a proper squat. 

Focus on maintaining control, keeping your knees in line with your toes, and creating tension throughout your body. It will help you execute the descent safely and adequately, leading to better muscle activation and gains.

Here’s how to do it:

  • To execute the descent correctly, start by lowering your body with control, keeping your knees in line with your toes and your weight centered over your midfoot and heels. 
  • Descend as low as you can comfortably go, keeping your chest up and your spine neutral. 
  • As you lower yourself, continue to create tension by tightening your abs, glutes, and quads, and keep your core engaged. It will help stabilize your body and prevent any unwanted rounding or arching of your back. 
  • Make sure to maintain a slow and controlled descent, avoiding sudden drops or jerks that can cause injury. 
  • Finally, when you reach the bottom of the squat, pause briefly before ascending back up. This pause helps you maintain proper form and control, leading to greater muscle activation and strength gains.

The Bottom Line

Squats are among the most effective exercises for building lower body strength and muscle mass. By following these steps for proper squat form, including setting up correctly, creating tension, and ascending and descending with control, you can perform squats safely and effectively, leading to improved muscle activation and growth. 

Also, proper squatting can help prevent common squat-related injuries, such as lower back or knee pain. It is essential to approach squatting with the mindset of gradual progress, starting with lighter weights and gradually increasing your load as your strength and form improve. 

Incorporate squats into your workout routine, and with proper form and consistency, you will see progress in your lower body strength and muscle mass.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.