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Why do barbell squats [Article, Free Download]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

May 10, 2019 9:30:00 AM

Why do barbell squats

Why do barbell squats

The barbell squat trains your entire body with special emphasis on your quads. This exercise will give you optimal outcomes for the time invested for full body power development. 

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What is your why


Before we go into the details of why to do barbell squats let us dig a bit deeper. Let me ask you a couple of questions: 


  • Why do you want to train? 
  • Why do you want to get stronger? 
  • Why do you want to look better? 
  • What happens if you do? 
  • What happens if you don’t?


These questions might seem irrelevant to you. They will determine your long term success. Digging deeper on these questions will be crucial on how committed you will be to your fitness goals. In fact, they will even open the door to happiness if you take them seriously and reflect thoroughly on them. 


Most people go through life with this mindset: 


  • What do I want 
  • How do I get it 
  • Why do I want it 


If you let your kind be guided by what you want you will be chasing your own tail. What you want changes constantly based on what you surround yourself with and who you are with. This is highly volatile and inconsistent. So will be your actions and plans. No wonder you feel exhausted, lonely and annoyed. If you flip the order of these questions in their head this will change: 


  • Why do you want something 
  • How do you get it 
  • What do you need to do to get it 


When you first dig deeper on why you want something everything you and think about will get more meaning. This will have an impact on how you appreciate yourself and interact with others. In combination starting with the why, will you more likely to succeed and be happy while you do it. Daniel Kahneman explains how this works on a psychological level in his book thinking fast and slow. Simon Sinek makes an excellent case for this on his TED talk on the golden circle.


Strength development


The squat helps with developing strength from your legs. Compared to other options like air squats or kettlebell squats the barbell squat has the advantage that you also work your lower back and abs during the movement. The barbell squat also helps to work on your balance as the barbell has to be kept in your back. 


You are also able to use more weight than with most exercises. This brings a greater stimulus to the muscle and especially to your nervous system. When it comes to strength, the nervous system is almost as important if not more important than your muscles. The quicker and more rapidly the five the impulse to the muscle to contract, the stronger you are. 


Muscle development


The barbell squat has been a staple in developing big quads. If you want very big legs you probably want to invest some time into the barbell squat. 


To get the most out of the barbell squat for your quad development try to squat deep and stay under tension. Avoid bombing into the whole and stay controlled at all times. Work in the 8 - 12 repetitions per set range to go for hypertrophy. Do 3 - 5 sets of this. 




In powerlifting, the barbell squat is mandatory to compete. Therefore you have to develop a good barbell squat to be successful. 


In total, you form the best total out of 9 lifts. You do three squats, three bench presses, and three deadlifts. The best result for each lift will be added together to form your total. If you don't establish a result in any of the three lifts you get disqualified. 


Usually, the total splits about 40% for the squat, 40% for the deadlift and 20% bench press. Therefore it is important that you develop a very strong squat in this sport as it makes up a considerable amount of your result.


A preferred option for powerlifters is the low bar squat. This variation usually gives up some speed to provide more stability during the lift. This enables the lifter to load more weight on their back. 




Weightlifters use the barbell squat to bring up their strength. It is often one of the first movements which get taught to new lifters. 


The back squat is not mandatory for weightlifters to compete. Often they move on to swap the barbell back squat for the front squat in their training. The front squat has more carry over to the clean and jerk and snatch. Once a solid strength base has been established the overhead squat is usually also being trained. 


The preferred variation for weightlifters for the barbell squat is the high bar squat. The high bar squat gives up some stability during the movement in favor of speed. This is more beneficial to weightlifters tja. Powerlifters as the limiting factor in the lift is bringing the bar overhead. Therefore you want to spent as little time as possible to bring it up. Weightlifters are oftenable to squat a lot more weight than they move in competition. 




Bodybuilders use the barbell squat to make their quads grow. For bodybuilders the back squat is completely irrelevant for competition. There is no carry over. Still, it is great exercise to attack the quads to grow. 


While powerlifters and weightlifters want to minimize the time they spent under the bar body builders try to do the oppposite. The goal is to maximum time under tension. 


Alternatives to the barbell squat 


There are many alternatives to the barbell squat. I will assume that you want to work with resistance. Therefore the following alternatives:


  • Leg press
  • Smith machine 
  • Belt squat 


The leg press machine is a variation which puts the weight above you and no weight on your shoulders. This takes pressure of your upper body. The advantage for you is that you can train when your shoulders are injured. The backdraw is that you do not need to activate your core and that the position you put yourself in is not very realistic. 


The smith machine fixes the bar for you so that you don’t have to balance it. The rest of the exercise stays the same. The smith machine is the one that simulates the barbell squat the closest. The backdraw is that you can get trapped in the machines quite easy when something goes wrong. 


The belt squat takes the weight off the shoulders while putting you in a real world setup. This is one of the favorites of seasoned athletes who still want to squat, but have to protect their lower backs. 


Why do barbell squats


The easy answer is: because it’s awesome. There are only little other exercises which make your quads grow the same and are so satisfying. 


Topics: Lift stronger, Squat, Fitness, Strength, Barbell