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What squat? Breaking down the types of squats

strength and sprint speed, sport central coast
Did you know that among all the types of squats out there, some types might be better for you than other types? Everyone is different, meaning one type of squat may work better for you than others.

Before we get started, it’s important to note that one type of squat is not better than the other. This is entirely down the individual, their training goals, flexibility, body type and form.

So let’s break it down!

Back Squat

Namely the most common type of squat, this is generally what you see most people doing in the gym. The back squat places the barbell on your upper traps, and places most of the load on the posterior chain (mostly the glutes and hamstrings). This also places the weight directly down your spine, which places compressive forces on the vertebra, particularly in the lumbar region, which forces the core muscles to work harder in order to protect your lower back. However, don’t let this put you off – any exercise/kind of loading when performed incorrectly can place inappropriate forces on the lower back. Maintaining an upright torso and not letting yourself fall forward during the drive upwards of a squat is crucial.

Within the back squat, there are actually 2 types, and it mostly comes down to personal preference.

High bar The high bar back squat is what is typically referred to as standard, Olympic lift placement, and places the bar on the top of the traps. The placement of the bar high on the back encourages a more vertical torso, which encourages a vertical descent which puts more emphasis on the quads.

Low bar The low bar back squat is identical to the high bar, apart from bar placement. The bar is positioned a few inches lower on the back, which allows for more forward lean of the torso. This targets more of the posterior chain, particularly the glutes and hamstring, and often allows heavier loading.

Front squat

A front squat involves placing the barbell at the front of the body, resting on the shoulders. This results in a ‘pulling’ of the body forward, and an increase in knee flexion, placing more emphasis on the quads. It can also encourage core control and allow a ‘deeper’ squat.

Other variations to try

Sumo squat

Sumo squats are a good variation if you struggle with knee pain, as the movement takes some of the load off of the knees and places it on the hips. They can also help to engage the glutes more if you are quad dominant. In general, you can make most squat movements a sumo squat by changing your stance (a sumo stance is wider, with toes pointed slightly out).

Box squat

Box squats are great if you have trouble sitting back in your squat while keeping your torso upright. A unique aspect of the box squat is that it interrupts the stretch-shortening cycle. This means that during the pause at the bottom of a box squat, the stored elastic energy is lost, and therefore makes the athlete utilise their maximal concentric strength in order to overcome the load. This is a great tool in strength development.

Split squat

Split squats are a great variation to add in to your routine, because as well as training hypertrophy, they also train balance and assess strength imbalances.

Our tips for nailing squat form and performance

1. Check your form
Performing any of the above squats with incorrect form can be potentially dangerous and can result in injury. Ensuring that you correct your form before upping your weight is vital!

2. Stretch your hip flexors
Tight hip flexors are often the reason that many people experience difficulties or pain when squatting. Make sure you stretch your hip flexors to ensure proper form, without pain.

3. Strengthen your glutes
Having strong glutes can benefit squat (and deadlift!) performance and is beneficial for the function of the whole posterior chain. Exercises such as glute bridges and hip thrusts will focus on strengthening your glute muscles. Disclaimer: The information on this page is for informational purposes only. Do not start new exercise without the recommendation of a professional. Do not rely on this information, get advice from a professional.
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