Barbell Back Squat Video Guide

Exercise Profile

  • Strength
  • Barbell
  • Compound
  • Push
  • Intermediate
  • Calves, Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back
Quads Exercises Diagram Target Muscle Group

Exercise Instructions

  1. The squat is the king of all exercises, working over 256 muscles in one movement! Set up for the exercise by setting the barbell to just below shoulder height and loading the weight you want to use.
  2. Stand under the bar with your feet at about shoulder width apart.
  3. Position the bar so that it is resting on the muscles on the top of your back, not on the back of your neck. The bar should feel comfortable. If it doesn't, try adding some padding to the bar.
  4. Now take your hands over the back and grip the bar with a wide grip for stability.
  5. You should now bend at the knees and straighten your back in preparation to take the weight off the rack.
  6. Keeping your back straight and eyes up, push up through the legs and take the weight off the rack.
  7. Take a small step back and stabilize yourself.
  8. Keeping your eyes facing forward slowly lower your body down. Don't lean forward as you come down. Your buttocks should come out and drop straight down.
  9. Squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, and then slowly raise your body back up by pushing through your heels.
  10. Do not lock the knees out when you stand up, and then repeat the movement.

Exercise Tips

Squat Tips:

The are many mistakes that can be made when squatting, so it's important that you have your technique down before you attempt squatting heavy weights. If you are squatting correctly, you should not feel pain in your lower back. Lower back pain is usually a sign that you are not using correct form and/or your core is weak.  

Common mistakes when squatting:

  1. Rounding the lower back: It's crucially important that you keep a straight back when you squat! You can ensure your back is straight by keeping your eyes facing forward, chest out, shoulder blades back, and back arched. Keep your core muscles tensed throughout the movement to help hold your back in place.
  2. Pushing from the balls of your feet: This puts unnecessary strain on joints and tendons. Always push up through your heels. Curling up your toes can help you get the technique right.
  3. Leaning forward: This happens when your hips move up faster than your shoulders. To prevent this keep the rep timing slow and controlled and stick your buttocks out as you go down.
  4. Knees come too far forward: When you squat down, your hips should be dropping straight down, not coming forward. Using a light weight, perfect your form standing side on to a mirror. Your knees should never track out and over your toes.
  5. Not squatting deep enough: Using squats to their full potential requires squatting down at least until your thighs are around parallel to the floor.
  6. Knees in or out: Don't point your knees in or out when you're lowering or pushing the weight. This puts unnecessary strain on the knee joints.
  7. Looking down: As soon as you look down your back rounds, simple as that.

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84 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Fri, 06/23/2017 - 01:39

Man o man ur site iz so incredible first of all and second . My issue iz I have been training for 2 years now , and it's very hard for me to gain weight that my top priority ATM I have a lot of background but then I don't see results I wonder why or what am I doing wrong

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 06/23/2017 - 09:22

Hi Zayed,

To gain weight you have to consume more calories that you burn.

Start here:

Use that calculator to determine your calorie needs. Then add 250-500 calories per day to that to put yourself in a calorie surplus. Test that calorie goal out for a couple of weeks and measure your results. Then determine whether to add more calories in again if you're not seeing the results you'd like.

Hope this helps!

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Fri, 06/23/2017 - 13:08

Hi Zayed,

Make sure you have entered in the correct measurements and they match, i.e. lbs and inches vs kg and cms.

It works fine for me. Be sure that everything is filled in and that the measurements match.

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Posted Fri, 06/23/2017 - 12:11

Ty sir . And to that when am calculating my intake calorie it's says fill the rest , which is am pretty sure that I did fill everything all though it won't show up to me the calculation .

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Posted Wed, 02/08/2017 - 11:50

Love the beginner series. I'm 62, 5'7", and weigh 175. The videos made me more comfortaable about beginning a program. The only thing I'm not clear on is how much weight to begin with for each exercise? I've only done medeocre working out over the years so it's been years. Is there any guide to help direct me as to a ballpark weight to use for each exercise?
Thank you.

JoshEngland's picture
Posted Wed, 02/08/2017 - 15:11

Hi Paul,

Picking a weight to start off with is highly individualized and takes trial and error. The best approach I've found is to pick a weight that you know you can do for whatever the prescribed rep ranges is for your program. If you can get them easily and have gas in the tank, feel free to move up in weight. If you cant, drop down to a lower weight.

It's always better to underestimate your strength when picking a weight in the beginning. Going for a weight that you are incapable of performing the exercises with perfect form with is an injury waiting to happen.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Fri, 02/17/2017 - 12:49
Paul Oliveri

Thanks Josh, sounds logical.

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Posted Mon, 04/03/2017 - 16:25
Dale jansen

Weight used depends on several factors.
Your current level of conditioning.
Your goals.
Your mechanics.
Your technique.
If you are deconditioned and/or have no training background as an athlete or a coach, a good strength coach will be pivotal in getting started.

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Posted Mon, 11/07/2016 - 09:33

hii i m 23 year old nd my current weight is 65 and i have loss 7 kg after joining gym but i m trying to loose my lowebody completely can u plzz suggest me some workouk routine for lowerbody so dat i can reduce my lowerbody. i also wanted to add that i have tried all kind of weighted workout but still not getting d result plzz help me in this

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Posted Fri, 09/02/2016 - 14:09

Hello, Im a 24 years old male with 72kg and 1.95m, what should be my starting weight? And after how many weeks should I lift more weight and how much should I lift?

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Posted Thu, 03/24/2016 - 05:32

Hi! Im trying for fatloss and weightloss, doing barbell squats, twice a week on rack. 4 sets of 20 reps, with 10kg plates. Im doing walking lunges with dumbbells(5 kg), leg curls, and 4 sets of 20 reps of double staircase step ups with 5 kg dumbbells. Im following this routine since 2 months. My query is, what should be the variation in my routine, after this. I mean should i try for more plate weight, or more sets. Primarily i want to lose weight, and fat.
Pl guide me into this!
Thank you!

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Posted Sat, 01/23/2016 - 15:55

Hello! I have a small injury on my lower back and as a consequence my doctor told me to avoid squads. How can I replace them?
Thanks in advance

MikeWines's picture
Posted Mon, 01/25/2016 - 10:23


Start with these:

Also, keep in mind that general medical practitioners aren't as knowledgeable regarding biomechanics, rehabilitation, or exercise physiology so take their advice regarding lifting with a grain of salt.

It would be wiser (in my opinion) to see a professional who specializes in movement such as a physical therapist who would be able to accurately diagnose your injury and then prescribe an effective rehabilitation strategy.

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Posted Thu, 12/31/2015 - 04:22

Hello I am thinking about getting back in the gym again. Last time I was working out I used this routine but never really saw improvements with my squat. I am no longer sure if squatting is for me at all. Maybe I am just acting like a girl but I have had major back surgery in the past and my spinal cord is no longer completely straight.

Should I
A.Just keep trying at lower weights I feel comfortable at until I can progress
B.Supplement squads with other workouts
C.Find a new routine all together because squatting is so important for this one

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Posted Wed, 03/23/2016 - 08:58
Patt Smith

Dude A all the way man. Squats are SO crucial to your time in the gym. Squat twice a week. work low weight and get your form perfect for every rep before you go up in weight

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Posted Sat, 10/10/2015 - 00:52

Should feet be at shoulder width apart or wider. Currently I place my feed wider than shoulder width, they say its a wider squad. Please let me know if i should change my stance. Thanks

MikeWines's picture
Posted Mon, 10/12/2015 - 10:22

That will depend on a number of factors (mobility, hip anatomy, goals, preferences, etc.) but suffice it to say, wherever you're comfortable and allows you hit depth safely using proper biomechanics.

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Posted Mon, 05/05/2014 - 11:38

Is there another video showing better squat form where the person does an actual full ATG squat?

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Posted Mon, 12/09/2013 - 09:36

For the first exercise in the chart it shows "reps: 963 sets". So how many reps should I perform?

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Posted Mon, 08/26/2013 - 06:37

i can squat about 40kg my max is 50kg but im not sure what weight i should use for each set of reps any help?
Exercise Sets Reps
Squat 4 12,10,8,8

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Posted Thu, 08/08/2013 - 14:45
Odiachi Sylvester

This site is just to good to ignore the informations it carries. Keep it up!

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Posted Fri, 07/12/2013 - 21:39

Squat till u puke

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Posted Sat, 05/25/2013 - 11:43

Hi, I have been squating regularly for a few months. Since I started with a small weight, I don't use a belt. However, I am gaining strength and I think at some point I'll need a belt. When should I start using a belt?
I am 1.76m and 80kg, currently squatting 70kg, 4 sets of 8 reps. I have no back issues. Thanks in advance.

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Posted Tue, 05/14/2013 - 09:52

Hello. I can do more than 10 reps for this exercise, but adding more weight could be a problem. Not for the squat itself, but just getting the bar onto my shoulders feels awkward. Any advice?

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Posted Sat, 05/11/2013 - 22:26

I find that after doing squats, they no longer seem to hurt my hamstrings. But I still feel the burn everywhere else where i normally would.

I have access to dumbbells only and tend to hold two of them by my side as I do the squats. Should I up the weight, or do more reps of squats to feel that hamstring burn again?

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Posted Sat, 03/23/2013 - 08:04

I'm like Chris. I can't do squats. My form just goes to mush. I have tried ever since PE in Jr high school. teachers and Chavez upset with me. I've tried for several several years to do them. I just never am about to get them right

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Posted Tue, 04/02/2013 - 20:39

That is because there are million people telling you a million different things. Go back to the old school. I go back to the old trainer in high school 1985. Put a flat bench or a chair behind you in the squat rack. Get under the bar and put yourself in your athletic base (middle linebacker base, for reference.). Now, sit down. Touch and back up. Remember to sit like an adult, not like a teenager. Do not sit all the way into the chair or the flat bench but touch the front and explode back up. Go light and work on your form.

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Posted Fri, 05/10/2013 - 13:43

yes, when starting use a bench to sit on, pretend it's a scale, only put about 1/3 of your weight on it, then come back up

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Posted Mon, 03/18/2013 - 14:43

how safe is this technique for someone , already with a history of back aches?

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Posted Sun, 02/17/2013 - 23:59

Can i replace the barbell with a dumb bell instead. unfortunately they do not have a bar bell at the gym.

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Posted Sun, 01/20/2013 - 00:28
dillon easler

What if you cant get you arms back that far to grab the bar

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Posted Thu, 01/17/2013 - 16:55

About the dumbest thing you can do is use the Smith Machine for Squats. While it's great for many things, it's terrible for squats.

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Posted Fri, 12/21/2012 - 04:29

I can squat fine and used to use barbells at my old place but no barbell weights at my new gym - what can i do instead?

Joey's picture
Posted Fri, 12/21/2012 - 13:41

Definitely want to keep squats in your routine! Dumbbell or pile squats are an option.

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Posted Fri, 11/16/2012 - 14:52

sqates sometime bring knee problems please help

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Posted Wed, 11/14/2012 - 00:39

is there something else i can substitute for squats instead? i dont want to worsen any back problems that i have.

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Posted Thu, 05/30/2013 - 14:27

hack squat? u can let go of the bar if its too much, or leg press

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Posted Wed, 11/07/2012 - 14:20

Do to injury, I cannot do squats.
My left leg will not bend at the knee more than about 30 degrees.

However, I do not want to avoid working the muscles.
Does anyone have any alternative exercises I could try?

Would a one legged squat be dangerous??


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Posted Mon, 11/26/2012 - 13:55


Most knee injuries can be rehabilitated with the proper physical therapy. I tore my ACL my freshman year of college and it took quite a while before I was able to have full range of motion again. I would suggest doing some serious stretching to regain motion before attempting to do squats. Squats with limited range of motion will actually be more dangerous for your knee than going all the way down because no weight will be transferred to your hips/butt.
I would warm up on something like a bike (low impact on knees) and then lay flat on your back and scoot the heel of your bad knee as far as you comfortably can towards your butt and then hold it for a few seconds. Once it becomes slightly uncomfortable, slowly move you leg back down to a flat position and repeat around 10 times for 2-3 sets. There is such a thing as overstretching so this shouldn't be incredibly painful but it also shouldn't be comfortable by any means if you want to make progress.

I would start to practice your squatting motion in a pool or hot tub where the water can take away most of your body weight. In the shallow end or on the steps you will be able to keep form without risking injury from having too much weight. I would do sets of these in the water mixed with running/power walking in the shallow end for resistance while rehabilitating your knee. Once these stretches start to become more comfortable try moving to body weight squats. (try to avoid the smith machine as it may seem like an attractive alternative to just using your body weight, but that thing sucks! trust me) Focus on keeping the weight on your heels. You may have to really get a good sweat going before trying these to make sure that your muscles are warm and you are able to go all the way down. If you feel uncomfortable you can hold onto a bar in front of you for support, just make sure if you are holding the bar not to be leaning forward on your toes. You can also get a spotter to assist you from behind (this can look a little awkward if you get embarrassed easily). Another way to have a "spotter" is to actually put a bench or stool below you that requires you to break parallel to sit down on. You can start off by actually sitting down and then standing up until you are comfortable enough to do the motion without the bench going all the way down. If this still isn't working for you it means you need to keep working on your range of motion before adding the weight of your body. Once you can do body squats on your own, move to the bar and then to added weight. Push yourself but never do it at the expense of breaking your form.

I thought I wouldn't be able to squat again and am now back to doing a max set of 5 at 295lbs going below parallel! Start slow and stay positive. Knee injuries are a bitch, but you can get through it with the right rehabilitation and attitude. I would recommend doing this at least 3-4 times a week to get your range of motion back. Also make sure you are icing your knee after your stretching/strength building workouts to help prevent swelling. You are most likely to have a little bit of swelling from the stretching but this shouldn't alarm you. There really isn't a "replacement" exercise for squatting because it is arguably the best compound movement there is in weightlifting. There are plenty of other exercises to strengthen your legs (dead lift, lunges, leg press, leg curls, etc..) but I think if you focus on getting your range of motion back you will be able to squat within a few weeks/months (healing time will most likely depend on your age/effort). I've never actually written anything on one of these walls or any kind of forum in fact, but felt inclined to since I went through a knee injury myself. Hope this helps and good luck!

(also, once you have your range of motion back and strength up you should be able to do one legged squats, but that will be a ways down the road. They take much more strength and flexibility than a regular squat)

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Posted Tue, 10/09/2012 - 07:35

can this exercise be done with dumbbells?

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Posted Sun, 10/07/2012 - 17:53
Benard bosire Asira

Please I meed help seriously,when I squate Istarted Ifeeling pain at the knee joints what could be the problem??

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Posted Sun, 09/09/2012 - 13:39

Hey, this guy is not squatting in a full range of motion. What gives? Why squat to where your thighs are parallel to the floor? Just curious.

Joey's picture
Posted Mon, 09/10/2012 - 15:49

He is going parallel. Here is a video of the deep squat where he goes below parallel:

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Posted Mon, 10/01/2012 - 12:31

Just a difference in terminology, but people should be aware that the "deep squat" is what Medhi (Stronglifts) and Rippetoe (Starting Strength) would refer to as a "full squat." Hip joint needs to descend below the knee joint or you're not getting the hamstring stretch. IMO deep squat is what you want to be doing or you risk muscle imbalance, but I'm no expert - just going off experience and what I've read.

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Posted Sun, 09/02/2012 - 18:43

Dang my gym doesnt have a squat rack. What can I do?

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Posted Tue, 08/21/2012 - 20:05

I can't do squats either because it is too heavy for me and also I have thoracic scoliosis. I started working out about a week ago and I gain little by little by my strength to lift weights is my problem and also my endurance. Do you have any advice for my problem? I really can't afford to have a personal trainer to help me out.

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Posted Tue, 08/07/2012 - 19:36
Ali Omar

Is the 45 degree leg press even an alternative to this exercise?

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Posted Tue, 07/24/2012 - 05:31
Tyler Newstead

Hey, I broke my left ankle years ago and can extend my left foot down farther than the right, but can bend the right foot back farther than the left. I find that this throws off the dynamic on doing squats and I have to stop when I cant bend my left ankle anymore. In essence I can't go down as far I should by a few degrees, about 5 or so. My question is, will this impact me at all long run? If not fine, if so is there something I can do to augment my workout to compensate.

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Posted Wed, 07/11/2012 - 11:38

Hi, just hoping for some advice. I joined the gym back in March just hoping to tone up and get my body into a good shape. I had already stopped smoking for nearly a year and I dont need to loose anymore wight, but I dont really seem to be seeing any progress. I do on the cardio equipment and resistance. I havent worked with any dumbells or anything like that yet and to be honest I dont really have the confidence to be using them in the gym. So can you tell me please which equipment i should be using to see an overall toned difference in my body. Cheers!!

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Posted Tue, 06/05/2012 - 00:59

Definitely should not squat parallel. Bad instruction there. ATG or just below parallel to make sure that you aren't putting unnecessary strain on your knees. It has been debated forever, but physiology and research are pretty solid that ATG is the proper and natural way to squat.