When it comes to strength training, the high bar squat is arguably the single most effective exercise, yet one of the most neglected. Squats are hard. If they weren’t we wouldn’t see people making every excuse in the book to avoid them.

Although the squat is considered a leg exercise, it’s actually much more than that. The squat is one of the most complete exercises out there. According to Bodybuilding.com the squat “is the king of all exercises. Squats hit most muscle groups in the body, with emphasis on the core and large lower body muscles.” They also add that “the more muscle mass and motor units recruited during an exercise, the better the exercise for burning body fat, and the squat is the best of them all.” Whether your goal is to gain strength or lose weight, squats are one of the fastest and most efficient ways to get there.

“Squatting heavy causes a growth hormone spike that you just can’t get from isolation exercises like bicep curls or tricep extensions,” writes Brandon Carter, a fitness trainer and personality. “Increased GH means more muscle, and more muscle means an elevated metabolism that keeps the fat off.”

If you are ready to squat, The Man Guide is here to show you how to do it properly.

(Special thanks to Sergio Alcantara, for sharing his terrific form with us.)

How to properly execute a High Bar Back Squat: 

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart 
  2. Start by stepping up to the bar, facing it. Step under the bar, and put your hands around it. We suggest a thumbless grip, so that our wrists are properly aligned with our forearms.
  3. The width of your grip will depend largely on your flexibility, but generally a narrower grip will help create a meaty shelf for you to place the bar on. If you lack sufficient flexibility for the narrower grip, start out wider, then slowly bring it in as your flexibility improves. 
  4. Place the bar on your upper back, between your traps and your rear deltoid muscles and bring your shoulder plates together, tightening the back.
  5. Now, once the bar is on your back, stand up, brace your core (tighten your glutes and flex your stomach), and take one or two small steps back. 
  6. Always keep your chest and chin up (Helpful tip: Find a spot on the wall 3 feet higher than your head and keep your eyes on it throughout the movement)
  7. Keeping your chest and chin up, butt back, squat down slowly, drop so the tops of your legs are parallel or lower, and stand back up. 
  8. Proper breathing is crucial. Inhale on your way down. Exhale on your way up. Breathing is very important for squatting in particular because it is a challenging exercise. Improper breathing can make you light headed, or nauseous, and in extreme cases, some people even black out. As you are lowering yourself, remember to take a deep breath in, then as you exert strength to stand, breathe out forcefully. Do not deviate from this breathing pattern. You may consider taking a few extra breaths at the top of the squat position as you are standing for some extra energy.
  9. Make sure all your weight is on your heels (not on your tiptoes) 
  10. As you come up, tighten your glutes and core.