The back squat is one of the most intimidating exercises in the gym.You put yourself in a vulnerable position where weight is on your back and you’re also fighting against gravity. It’s not like the deadlift where you can simply drop the weight if it’s too heavy or the bench press where you can find ways to maneuver through.
If you’ve never squatted with weights you might be nervous. Luckily, there are ways to get yourself mentally and physically ready to squat with weight on your back.
Before you add load to a movement make sure you can do that movement with your bodyweight. One of the prerequisites to back or front squats should be bodyweight squats. Bodyweight squats will help you develop proper movement pattern. When you skip this step, you put yourself at risk of having some compensations when you start using a barbell. These compensations usually come from muscle imbalances or previous injuries. Once you get comfortable with your bodyweight, I recommend doing some Goblet Squats with a kettlebell or dumbbell. Goblet squats will teach you how to brace when squatting as well as improve your squat depth.
Imagine a knight going into battle without his armor. That’s what it’s like doing barbell squats without developing the necessary muscles. Your armor is your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and other muscles that you use for squatting. I talk about the best squat accessory exercises in a recent post. The only one that I wouldn’t recommend for new squatters is the Goodmorning because it involves putting a barbell on your back just like the squat.
Build Power Base
It’s one thing to have the muscles need to squat and it’s another thing to be able to use them powerfully. One thing that really helped have a smooth start with my barbell squatting was having a solid power base. Having power helps you move the weight faster and easier so you won’t have to grind and struggle as much. That’s why I love doing speed work. Before I ever stepped under a barbell my speed work came in the way of plyometric jumps and sprints. These exercises will develop your fast twitch muscles, which are the ones primarily responsible for moving heavy weight.
Squatting with weight on your back can be intimidating but if you prepare your body for it you’ll be setting yourself up for success. By focusing on technique, muscle development, and power development you’ll be setting the stage for successful barbell squatting.