Back Squat Basics


A Part of Fierce Play's Barbell Powerlifting Series

The back squat is one of the most fundamental weight lifting exercises used by athletes to strengthen the lower half of the body. The squat relies on the athlete’s ability to perform an air squat while holding a barbell on the backs of the shoulders for added weight. Just as with the air squat, the back squat requires good hip, ankle, and torso control to get the hip crease below the knees, and it is a movement that increases strength in the legs. Athletes will immediately feel leg muscles activated as they perform the movement, with the bulk of the exercise focusing on the use of the quadriceps and glutes, but also an activation of core muscles as they keep the torso in a good position.

Watch the video clip below for a full explanation of technique, tips and tricks for performing the movement with efficiency, as well as precautions for staying safe.



  1. Set Up at Shoulder Height: Set up the j-hooks and barbell to be just below shoulder height as you stand in front of the rig. This will allow for you to easily get the barbell on and off of your shoulders before and after you perform the back squat movement.
  2. Thumbs Width Grip: To find a correct grip, place your hands about thumbs’ width off the smooth part of the knurling, or rougher patterned part, of the bar.
  3. Step Under and Away: Once your grip is set, step underneath the bar and stand upright to get the barbell on the backs of your shoulders. Step one or two feet back and away from the rig and complete a full squat movement.
  4. Remember the Basics: As you perform the back squat, keep the basics of the air squat in mind: keep your feet about hips’ width apart; ensure toes are straight forward or possibly slightly angled out, depending on your mobility; keep your weight in the heels with your butt back; stay focused on moving the knees directly out over the feet; and maintain an upright chest. All of these are essential to perform the back squat without injury.
  5. Look Straight Ahead: As athletes focus on keeping proper form, it’s common to see them look down at their legs or toward the ground. However, this actually pulls the upper back down and throws you out of position. Focus on keeping eyes forward to keep the rest of your body in proper alignment.
  6. Focus on Range of Motion: When dropping into the squat, proper range of motion is having your hip crease below the knee. This helps take weight and pressure off the knee itself and engages your glute and hamstring muscles to provide maximum strength for your entire leg versus just the quadriceps muscles. Also be sure to fully extend hips open at the top of the movement for the most bang for your buck.


QUESTIONS: Ready to get started, or curious to learn more about how Fierce Play can help you meet your health and wellness goals? Contact us for more information. Also feel free to check out more of our videos series to learn how to perform the basics with solid form and efficiency. 


Fierce Play’s Barbell Powerlifting Series focuses on proper technique, as well as tips & tricks, to master some of the foundational movements that will be integrated into many of the workouts you will perform. Start your next workout with the confidence and skills to do the movement safely and effectively.