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F is for Form

by Adrian Arellano

Of all the aspects there are to consider when putting a training program together, the most important one is form. It is also the aspect that is ignored the most. I don't care how intensely you train, how periodized your training is, or what odd objects you use. Using correct form targets the muscles better and stimulates them more than sloppy form. If you don't have your form down well, you will not get optimal results for your training. What's more, you can actually injure yourself. So, instead of getting better results from your training through proper form, some people get injured through using improper form. Before you can think about TUL, order of exercises, number of sets, number of rest days, and amount of cardio, you gotta get your form down. Sure, you can get away with small errors in form when the weight is light, but when you start adding plates to the bar, those small errors will turn into big injuries.

The Squat

This is the movement that should be the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.....er....uh...exercise routine. The squat is probably considered the king of all exercises by a majority of hardcore lifters. This movement has packed more muscle on skinny frames than any other in history. The bad thing is: IT’S HARD. Most people aren’t willing to work hard so that they can get bigger and stronger.

However, you aren’t like that. You’re willing to pay your dues on the big exercises ‘cause you know it’s gonna pay off in the long run. Now before you come up with an excuse of “but squats hurt my neck”, I hafta say: EVERYBODY CAN SQUAT. There are no excuses. Well....there are a few people who have very very bad knee or back injuries and can’t squat, but 90% of the population can and should. Don’t get me wrong, leg presses are a good substitution, but they aren’t gonna give you the whole body effect that squats will. Squats will give you a total body workout that leg presses are unable to give you. Squats also cause your body to realease more hormones than other exercises.

Potential Dangers

There are potential dangers when squatting as there are when doing anything else. Squatting is only as dangerous as you make it. If you do it half-assed and don’t concentrate, you’ll get hurt. Squatting IS NOT bad for the back. In fact, it strengthens the back by making you stabilize your trunk while squatting. Squatting is also good for strengthening tendons throughout the knee. I’ll elaborate on the dangers while covering other aspects of the lift.

Equipment Needed

All ya need is a bar, lots of weight, and some squat stands. A power rack would be almost a necessity, but if all you have is squat stands to rack the weight, you can get by with that. If you’re gonna do them with squat stands, I’d do them outdoors that way you can just drop the bar off your back if you’re not gonna get the rep. Also, I’d NEVER go to failure when doing them without any kind of spotting apparatus.

For those of you who get aches and pains in your shoulders because the bar places a lot of stress on that area and you don’t have that much padding there, you might wanna consider using a Manta Ray. I personally don’t like ‘em, and they actually make my shoulders hurt (I don’t have problems with my shoulders hurting while squatting). However, others swear by this piece of equipment, so it might be worth a shot.

I don’t advocate using a belt because all it helps you do is lift more weight. Also, it robs your obliques and lower back musculature of stimulation by stabilizing the trunk for you. Also, don’t wear any powerlifting gear. This will just help you lift more weight and won’t help you get stronger.

The shoes you wear aren’t too important. Don’t wear high heel shoes if you’re a drag queen, and you probably shouldn’t wear shoes that are too soft. Also, don’t wear shoes that let your foot slide around the sole in the inside.

You’ll also need to wear some clothes....unless you workout at home. But still, I wouldn’t wanna drop a plate on any part of my anatomy.

Stance, Bar Placement

I would first try this stuff with an empty bar and practice a few days or weeks, or however long it takes to get it down. Step inside the rack. Grip the bar the same way you would during a bench press (shoulder width apart). Make sure you don’t point your elbows back. This causes you to bend forward and is potentially harmfull to the back.Keep them pointing towards the ground.

Duck your head under the bar, and put some pressure on it with your traps. Make sure the bar is resting on your traps and not on that bone that sticks out of the back of your neck. The bar should be below that bone. Ok, now make sure you are in the middle of the bar. Pick the weight up, and stand at attention like a soldier. Try to stand with a bit of an arch in your back, and keep it that way all the way through your squats. Try to also stick your chest and ribcage out.

Your legs should be about shoulder width apart or a little wider. Keep your toes pointing straight ahead (however, if when you try squatting, your knees go out, you should point your feet in the direction your knees go). Don’t take a stance that’s too wide!

You shouldn’t be looking up, but you shouldn’t be looking down. Keep your eyes and head elevated and focused on something that would be just above your head.

The Descent

Now you are ready to do the eccentric portion of the squat. Take a deep breath, and keep the same soldier posture (also, be sure to keep your abs tight) and drop your butt as if you were about to sit on a chair. It is not uncommon for your torso to bend forward a bit from the hips,but make sure you don’t round your back. Try to keep the bar in line with your ankles, and don't let your knees go beyond your feet. When you get to the bottom position, you shouldn’t sit on anything a la box squats or bounce out of the bottom. These are both very dangerous.Don’t hold your breath. You shouldn’t come up until you get to the point where the femur inserts into the hip is as low as the top of your knee. Don’t stop before this point. If you do, you are robbing yourself of the hardest and most productive part of the movement. I’ve seen tons of people do squats where they only go 1/4 of the way down. Those aren’t real squats and won’t get you as big and strong as these will.

The Ascent

Once you get to the bottom, don’t bounce. Keep all the weight on the heels of your feet, and not on the balls. Your feet should remain flat on the floor and the heel shouldn’t come up. If you find your heel coming up, you need to stretch your calves and hamstrings more. Again, make sure you don’t round your back when coming back up. All you hafta do is push with your back and hips at the same time. Push back with your lower back muscles as if you were locking out a deadlift or doing a hyperextenstion. Push your hips up with the glutes by trying to bring your shins in toward the center of your body by trying to extend the knee. Exhale on the way up.

Well, that's about it. Using form such as I described will only make your workouts harder. Sorry, but it's better in the long run. I'll be happy knowing I made somebody throw up on leg day because they tightened up their form.

 


Reader's Comments:

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2015-11-22 
 How to loose some surface area from my aaidmonbl area?How to loose some surface area from my aaidmonbl area?I'm 19 and a college student. I work at a Quiznos (standing up but having to stand still for 4-6 hours on M, W, F, Sa, Su) and I have to sit in class from 930am til 215pm (45 min break from 1215-1pm) Its a community college so I must drive 45 mins to and from before i can get home. I pick my gf up from school and we go to the library to do our homework every day except for thursdays (in which i have a class from 6-10pm)Since i've been back at school these last 3 weeks. I feel i have gained some weight. Not on a scale, (only 2lbs) but my belly looks and feels a bit larger. I havent been eating right, missing breakfast some days and having to settle for fast food for lunch and I have missed a few dinners sometimes, and been having to hit the snack foods a bit more than i like. This time last year, I started working out after never working out before and gained 20-30lbs but lost some fat. Now I'm 6'0 -6'1 and 200lbs (was 170-180lbs this time last year) but I'm the biggest around I have ever been in my life. (pants still need the belt, but the fat is accumulating above the waistline on my belly) I also have had man boobs (though I've been relatively thin most of my life despite my eating habits and lack of exercise)I'd like to be in the best shape of my life since I'm not even 20 yet, not start on a path towards an unhealthy life. Any suggestions on workout routines and foods. (I normally don't drink sodas, but have recently, and more junk food. I'm thinking that I'd loose some water weight when I change my habits and drink more water and green tea like I used too) And I plan on weightlifting and jogging regularly, I suppose I was just wondering if there was any more advice/ recommended exercises (not a miracle thing, I mean I want to work hard and and know that it will not be an instant procedure) I would also like some advices on lunches I could pack from home and food meal ideas for breakfast and diner (even if they are having to be from town)I've also been tired the last few months, even when I sleep and I'm wondering if it could be related to my lack of eating or exercising healthily/regularly. Whats a recommended amount of time a 19 year old male should be sleeping. My lack of activity recently was when my toe got smashed at work and I had to stay off of it for 2 months. Its really been since then that I started to get more belly fat and man boobs.I'd like to thank everyone now that will be answering my question. I'm turning life around and spending less time gaming and more time focusing on expanding my mind and building my body (not body building, but being in shape) I realize what my prioritys should be and am trying to become a better person in general.Thought about this after I posted. It took about 2 months of being a lazy gaming teenager to become the biggest i've been before (belly fat wise) Though I'd still consider myself medium build. I also only took from about november til december of going to the gym about 2-3 times a week to gain the muscle. What body type would I be?Thanks everyone:~Newly inspired teen
2011-09-16Paul
 I started 20 rep squats with 205, then added 10 lbs every week. I am now up to 290 x 20. I have added 13 lbs to my frame and my knees no longer ache. I learned the hard way not to eat at least an hour prior to this.
2010-01-02SteveO
 Thanks for posting...new to squats and really trying to get good form before I put some real weight on. This really helped, much thanks.

Steve
2009-10-14joel
 i can squat up to 315x10..the elbow thing really helps, i always wondered wtf that was
2009-09-12Clay
 What should someone do about instability in the knee?

My right foot is very pigeon toed and I think it causes problems in my knee not tracking properly
2009-07-10JJ
 I have been following this type of form on squats and I super set pullovers after my squats. Puke every workout!
 
2009-05-08scrappy
 Squats rule. Period...just make sure you follow the above instruction to the T.
2009-04-21Vlad
 Danial, just keep doing them. When I first started doing squats I started with bar and I acted dumb and did 2 sets of 5 115lb squats. I could barely walk the next day.
2009-02-04Evan
 The leg press may be good, but the thing is though you are not using all of your strength, because you are seated.
2008-08-10PADDY
 Good stuff squats rule,although i prefer leg press.
2007-12-31anonymous
 Nice, this inspired me to do squats, thanks. Also, a good leg workout is lunges with 50 pounds in a backpack.
2007-02-25doggy
 yo man great post .. THE ELBOW THING IS KEY.. ive been squatting for a year and a half and the quality of my squat workouts always vary.. i just realized its because some days i have a habit of putting my elbow back which causes my back to arch a bit!!
2006-03-25Rebekah
 Iam really glad you wrote this article.....I have been dreading squats on leg day becasue I havent been doing them right....now I do and look forward to doing them.....
2006-01-06Tony
 My first squat was with 95lbs. It was awkward and felt heavy. Through perserverance and consistent training, I now use 315 for sets of 20. Squats give core strength that upper body workouts alone don't. You can't build a house on a weak foundation.
2005-11-14danial
 my innerthigh hurts when i squat. what should i do to overcome this problem?

 


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