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How to do a Barbell Squat

The squat is one of the best exercises you can do! It’s a compound movement that incorporates the whole body. Your legs are engaged to move the weight up and down, your abs and lower back muscles stabilize your trunk, and your upper back, shoulders, and arms balance the bar on your back. It might sound complicated, but don’t panic! We’ll give you the technique tips to execute a barbell squat.

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced weight lifter, it’s always good to review proper form for the squat. To learn about the setup for bar positioning, hand placement, foot placement, and elbow positioning, check out this blog that covers that topic.

There are three essential tips you need to keep in mind when performing a barbell squat:

  1. Walkout

  2. Breathing/Bracing

  3. Break at the knees and hips

Before we get started on the lift, here is some equipment you may need, although not necessary, to begin squatting.


The Squat Walkout

Some people may not even think about the walkout as part of the execution for the lift, but it’s just as important. Your knees will be slightly bent under the bar; once you straighten your legs out, you’ll take three steps back—the first two to push away from the rack and the third to get your feet aligned. You want to minimize the number of steps and movements. It might seem trivial, but if you think about someone maxing out their weight in the squat, that entire load is on their spine. You would want to conserve as much energy as possible for that maximal lift.

How to Breathe When Squatting

Have you ever thought about your breathing during squats? If you’re new to squatting, you should be especially mindful of your breathing and bracing during the movement. You want to achieve a tight core through intra-abdominal pressure when lifting heavy and loading the spine. We have an entire post dedicated to teaching you breathing techniques for heavy lifting.

❌ You don’t want to breathe by raising your chest and shoulders.

✅ You want to breathe into your stomach, expanding your ribcage. When wearing a belt, you’ll be breathing into the belt!

Knee VS. Hip - What Should Break First in a Squat?

Lastly is breaking at the hips and knees simultaneously. Moderate forward knee travel is okay as long as you plant your feet and the bar path remains over the mid-foot. You’ve probably heard someone say, “Don’t let your knees go past your toes!”. That’s an older myth that still circulates. Especially if you’re doing high bar squats, the knees tend to track even more forward. Research suggests there is going to be variation in the stance of each lifter, so keep that in mind but don’t worry if your stance looks different from another lifter.

Recap How to Squat:

  1. Walk out the bar in a controlled manner with our 3-step walkout.

  2. Before the rep, breathe and brace for the lift.

  3. Next, break at knees and hips simultaneously while controlling the descent.

  4. And lastly, push and drive through the feet to lift the weight!

Our founder, Megsquats, takes you through a step by step on technique and tips for perfecting the squat in the video.

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