The barbell squat is a compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, with a primary emphasis on the lower body. It’s considered one of the most effective and functional exercises for building strength and muscle mass in the legs, particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Additionally, it engages the core, lower back, and stabilising muscles throughout the body.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to perform a barbell squat:


  • Start by placing a barbell on a squat rack at about chest height.
  • Position yourself under the bar, so it rests on your upper back and traps. The bar should be positioned just below the base of your neck.
  • Grip the bar with both hands, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Foot Placement

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider.
  • Point your toes slightly outward to accommodate the natural angle of your hips and knees.


  • Unrack the barbell and take a step or two back to clear the rack.
  • Brace your core to stabilise your spine.
  • Initiate the movement by pushing your hips back and bending your knees simultaneously, as if you are sitting back into a chair.
  • Lower your body by bending at the hips and knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground or as far as your flexibility allows. Ensure your knees are tracking over your toes and not collapsing inward.
  • Keep your chest up and your back straight throughout the movement. Avoid rounding your lower back.


  • Push through your heels and engage your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes to return to the starting position.
  • Exhale as you stand up, fully extending your hips and knees.


  • Perform the desired number of repetitions, maintaining proper form.

Tips for a successful barbell squat:

  • Start with lighter weights to master the technique before gradually increasing the load.
  • Keep your head in a neutral position, looking straight ahead or slightly upward.
  • Ensure that your knees are aligned with your feet and don’t cave inward during the descent.
  • Warm up adequately before performing heavy squats to prevent injury.

The barbell squat is a versatile exercise that can be adapted for various fitness goals, including strength training, muscle building, and overall functional fitness. If you’re new to squats or have any existing medical conditions, it’s advisable to consult with a fitness professional or healthcare provider before incorporating this exercise into your routine.

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