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« Part 2. Squat | 2.1. Execution | 2.2. Factors affecting the style of the lift »

2.1. Execution

Gripping the bar

The bar should be gripped evenly. The width of the grip is determined individually based on several factors discussed section ‘2.2. Factors affecting the style of the lift’. The feet should be placed evenly under the bar, in principle the lifter should be in a quarter squat.


It's crucial the lifter gets tight already before unracking the bar. Shoulder blades should be pulled down and back, the upper back tight and the feet in a stable position. Before unracking the lifter take a breath of air (as explained in section '1.4. Power breathing'), keep it in their lungs, before standing up with the bar, all the while staying tight in the entire body.

Walking out

The preferred way to walk out with the bar is to take one step back with one foot, then a step with the other, followed by only a small step to align the feet evenly. Unnecessary "waltzing around" trying to find the correct foot position waste energy needed for the squat and often cause a loss in tightness. Try to ingrain this habit early and have the lifter practice a perfect walk out every session and every set even if it’s just a warm up with the bar. Practice makes habit. The lifter should pause briefly before squatting down to ensure correct balance. In competition the lifter waits for the signal from the head judge to squat.


Squatting down should be as fast as possible while keeping optimal tightness. In practice this might turn out to be quite slow because keeping tightness is more important than lowering with a fast speed. Never sacrifice tightness for speed! It will ruin the ascent. There are many cues that can help a struggling lifter at this point, they're covered in the trouble shooting section. Most people will find it better to actively pull themselves down to the bottom rather than just lowering. This is hard to describe in text but an efficient way to teach it is to have the lifter lie on their back. With a partner grabbing the ankles, the lifter then pull their knees to the chest. This is the feeling that needs to be recreated if it's determined the lifter should "pull themselves down".


There are two options as the lifter reach the bottom. Either they "bounce" in the bottom or they come controlled to a very brief stop (hardly noticeable) and then reverse the motion. Bouncing can have the positive effect of making it easier to get out of “the hole”, with the side effect that it's slightly harder to keep tightness. There might also be a higher risk of injury but the evidence of that is at best hearsay and shouldn't be considered an absolute truth until we have studies on the matter.

Regardless of the method used, it's imperative that there's no significant pausing at the bottom. Coming up, the lifter should focus on driving their back straight through the bar. Not to throw it back, but driving the upper back straight through it. This simple cue solves many problems, especially the notorious "squat morning".


As the lifter comes up, they pause briefly in the standing position. In competition they wait for the signal to rack from the head judge. Racking is done by walking in until the bar hits the stand, at which point it's safe to lower the bar to the rack without missing it.

Quick checklist:

  1. The bar is gripped evenly.
  2. Shoulder blades are pulled back and down.
  3. There’s no extra movement walking out.
  4. The knees are above the feet and track the toes.
  5. The lifter drives straight up through the bar.