The Back Squat is the staple of many training program it is a great exercise and hits the whole body, developing strength. It is a basic movement with lots of benefits, however there are lots considerations to maximize your results for the Back Squat. Now we are not talking about a 600 lb Back squat though if that is your goal have at it. We might be talking about a 60 year old desk worker doing a 150 lb back squat and then heading home out to see their grand kids with no fear of their back going out while walking out the gym door. So lets look at the Back Squat.
Should you be doing a back Squat. For most people the answer i would say yes, however there are some exceptions. If you have some serious back issues, like degenerative discs then the back Squat is probably not for you at this moment and maybe never, (that does not mean no squats just there might be better squat options) Depending on your knees it might be better to do other squat variations as well. The problem is it is easy to load heavier then peoples knees or back can handle and the way the load is placed it can stress the back. People with stiff ankles should work on their ankle mobility before loading heavy squats. The lack of movement will place extra stress on your back and knees. Now if you move decently well your knees and back should be at less risk. Another thing to look at is your height, while it is not impossible to do back squats if you are taller (6’4″ or above) just be mindful. Your leavers are longer placing extra stress on the joints. So if you are taller and have a history of back or knee issues you might want to avoid the back squat, however if you are taller and have no issue then you should be able to back squat but you may want to be careful and add load slowly.
Now the set up Most people step in and squat, while this maybe fine for you there maybe a better option, you maybe placing undue strain on your body plus you maybe placing. First lets review the basics feet shoulder width apart with toes pointed slightly out (about 10 to 30 degrees) Toes forward can be fine in screening assessments but when it comes to performance and lifting a load i like a little toes pointing out, again go with a comfortable position. The next set up is the bar position, this one is one we place less focus on but it can be helpful for lower back pain. This is the bar placement on the shoulders. If you squat with your but out more place the bar lower on the shoulders if you are a more upright squatter then placing the bar higher on the shoulders/traps should place less stress on the back.
Ass to grass squatting. This is a common squat mantra. Personally i am not a big fan of deep squatting when under load, the strain on the knees can cause injury and usually you will not find out if you are the one who will get hurt until you are hurt so instead of testing your knees out I prefer to avoid finding out how invincible your knees actually are. Focus on bringing your thighs to parallel should be enough for you.
In short the squat is a versatile exercise that can add many benefits to your program, but there are many ways to improve it and make it work better for you. Assess your movement you and your limits. Each person will be a little different on how they can imporve the squat. With a little help you should see imprvements.