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The Olympic bar squat is an incredible movement with a variety of benefits. Unfortunately, many gym beginners and pros neglect this complex movement because of fear of capability, improper form, or just because it’s a move that requires the practitioner to be highly focused and aware.
Skipping the Olympic bar squat is also partially due to the creation of “alternative” movements and equipment developed recently to work legs. When it comes to boosting lower body strength and building thicker, stronger legs, the squat is the most influential exercise. When paired with weights or an Olympic bar, squats also help to burn fat and increase muscle growth everywhere else on the body due to its intensity and workload stress on the body. Whether you are working out to improve your physique, get strong, or just to maintain your health, you should be adding squatting to your regimen.
Front Squats vs Back Squats: What’s the Difference?
Squatting is vital to overall strength in the body because it engages the biggest muscles in the body: the back, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. These muscles are also key for balance and overall movement. Since the squat involves multiple joints, it’s a highly compound movement. Other benefits of squats include the release of free testosterone in the body from metabolic stress. This increases your rate of muscle growth and fat burn everywhere on the body.
However, there is a bit of debate about which variation of the squat is most effective: front squat or back squat?
The back squat is the most popular variation of the squat. To perform the back squat, place the bar across the top of the back and shoulders and behind the neck. Since the weight distribution is placed on the back/posterior part of the body, back squats engage and strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, and low back. You don’t need as much flexibility in the hips and ankles to do a back squat. When performing a back squat, you can safely add more weight.
The front squat movement involves holding the bar across the front shoulders, in front of the neck with the arms folded under with the hands. Performing front squat engages the quads and upper back more. Flexibility is much more important when performing front squats, and the spine is required to be more upright. While glutes and hamstrings are still engaged, it is not as intense as the back squat. Weight is also more limited in front squats because of how the bar is supported.
So which variation of squats is superior? That depends on the individual. Exercise experience, goals, and current physical condition should always be considered. To improve overall power and more of a metabolic stress promoter, the back squat is an excellent addition to your regime. Whereas, the front squat is beneficial for increasing strength in quads and upper back, as well as for people that have some shoulder and lower back problems.
The Best Ways to Increase Squat Strength
Many people don’t realize that at first there is a steady pace to doing squats properly. First, the practice of getting a good form down is key to prevent injury and ensure that your practice produces optimal results. Next, it’s important to have the discipline to do squats regularly. Finally, adding weight and gradually seeing how strong can one actually get when it comes to putting a bar on their back and getting low.
There are many techniques that can help increase squat strength. Of course, adding more weight to the bar is simple and what most squatters will do. However, there are many facets to fitness and strength. To increase squat strength, you can round out your training with these other simple approaches.
Squat Bar Exercise Speed
One way to improve your squat strength is to work on your speed during a squat, especially during warm-up sets. It may seem counterintuitive but it does help contribute to overall strength. When working on squat speed, focus on the power in the standing or upward movement of your squat. If you’re concerned about the balance of the bar, try putting bands on the bar or use chains for acceleration to help out with speed.
Squat Bar Exercise Power
If you’ve never heard of box squats, you have not understood the power that can be implemented in your squats. To perform a box squat, you begin in a seated position on a bench or chair, with the Olympic bar on your shoulders, and stand with the Olympic bar from this position. Box squats allow you to focus on exploding upward. With box squats, rather than training for speed, you train with more weight.
Squat Sticking Point
While speed and power are important, it’s also important to focus on pausing at specific points during your reps. There are 3 sticking points to focus on when squatting. The first point is referred to as the “lockout, or the top part of the squat, the second is the midpoint, and the third is the return to the squatting end position. Pausing at each of these points engages a form of static training. Static training helps make your muscle fibers thicker and stronger.
Any powerful exercise needs to be balanced with flexibility. The muscles you’re building also need to have a high range of motion otherwise you could pull or tear a muscle. This is just another thing that is easily overlooked by many bodybuilders and powerlifters. Squatting involves the hips and shoulders. Stretching these areas will help with getting down deeper, being stronger, and safely performing these exercises. Squatting also involves your back, specifically, your thoracic extension. A rounded upper back going to make deepening your Olympic bar squats a challenge. To help with this, stretch and warm-up your upper back so you don’t roll forward.
Olympic Bar Squat Programs
There are many programs claiming to help out with getting a bigger squat. But our favorite, because it seems to be most effective, is 5×5 programs. 5×5 programs involve doing 5 reps and 5 sets in different variations. One version of this program is called the “Madcow 5×5” and it goes like this: 3 lifting sessions weekly, alternating between light, medium, and heavy training sessions of 5 sets of 5 reps.
Bar Squat Depth: How Far Do You Need to Go?
We’ve seen that squats are a highly engaging and developmentally crucial exercise, for any fitness goal. There is also a multitude of ways that you can increase your squat strength. Now, the final question when it comes to the form of squats remains: how deep do you need to squat to get a solid burn? You may have seen a few people at your local gym sit deep into their squat, going far below “parallel.” This appears to be and certainly is an intense movement, however, is it always necessary? For most people, no, it is not.
When it comes to the squat, form is key. Most people that try to go too deep too quickly, are severely compromising their form and could end up stressing their body in the wrong places. Parallel squats are effective for the majority of people’s fitness goals, which are to improve strength and physique.
A parallel squat is when the quads are completely horizontal and level, parallel to the floor. Going deeper into the squat with either too much weight or performing too many reps has shown to cause joint issues, heightened inflammation, and even adversely affect an individual’s gait (manner of walking).
Looking at the below parallel/ deep squat, the movement is increasing the range of motion. A larger range of motion does not always mean an exercise is going to be more effective for building strength. In fact, you can damage some of the very important soft tissue, ligaments, and tendons that are engaged when performing squats. A great challenge for even the most astute athletes is to maintain proper form. On top of this, studies show that muscle activation remains the same between parallel squats and deep squats.
Your butt does not need to hit the floor for it to be a “good” squat. This is just not optimal or fair, there are various body types and it isn’t easy for everyone to get deep. Parallel squats are effective, powerful, and can be performed by most, if not all people.
ARCHON Olympic Bars Turn Your Home Into a Full Gym
Squatting is a highly beneficial exercise for your body and everyone should be doing it. Whether using just your body weight, an assisted bar, dumbbells, resistance bands, or an Olympic bar you can improve your body’s strength, balance, and posture with squats. When you work consistently to improve and increase your Olympic bar squat, you can exponentially increase these results.
Olympic bars are a crucial piece of fitness equipment to utilize. Upper, lower, and full-body targeted exercises can use this, and you can easily and steadily increase your strength by adding more weight. The ARCHON Olympic Ball Bearing Bar is engineered for durability. We have standard and women’s Olympic bars in stock that can be delivered straight to your door, Order yours today at www.fitarchon.com and start getting your squat strength up!