How to Improve Your Barbell Squat

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Aug 11,2023 | 10 min read 155

Skyrocket gains by tweaking your lifts

The barbell squat is a staple exercise, one of the big 3 power lifts, with the other two being the barbell bench press and the deadlift. The squat has been around for a long time, being used by both bodybuilders and strength athletes alike, as you can find it in just about any powerlifting, bodybuilding, or other training program. But, what many people do not realize is that they may be doing a few things wrong when they complete the movement. So, how can you find what you are doing wrong, and improve your squat?

Let’s dive in.

What is the Barbell Squat?

The barbell squat is a compound movement that targets the legs as a whole, meaning it hits the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves, whereas other leg exercises such as hack squat will place more of an emphasis on certain parts of the legs, in the hack squat’s case it is that quads.


The barbell squat is when the bar is placed on the lifter’s shoulders, then the lifter will bend their knees and lower their glutes to 90 degrees or lower, and come back up to the starting position. From there, they will repeat that for the desired amount of repetitions.  

However, despite the simplicity of the movement, many people still will complete it the wrong way, which can be detrimental to your overall progress.

Where People Go Wrong With Squatting

By completing the squat wrong, we don’t mean that people are doing the complete wrong movement, but rather small errors within the lift that can have a large impact on the result. For example, performing the squat with errors has a direct impact on the size and strength of the lifter. So, what are these errors that we are talking about? 

Range of Motion

The range of motion is the biggest issue when it comes to squatting, people do not hit depth. Proper depth for a squat is 90 degrees or below, meaning the hamstrings and glutes are parallel to the floor, or lower. While some people say that depth is not important, this is not correct, as hitting proper depth is crucial to muscle and strength gains.

Going lower on your squat will activate more muscle fibers, stretching them and tearing them down much more than half reps or partials will. This in turn will help your muscles grow back bigger, with proper recovery of course. 

Not completing a full range of motion will also inhibit your strength gains, making you stronger on only some parts of the lifts. For example, if you are only squatting half reps, you will only make strength gains on the top half of the movements. Squatting as low as possible will help you gain strength throughout all parts of the movement.

Too Much Weight

The next biggest problem prominent with squats is going too heavy, sometimes too quick. Sure, hitting one rep maxes is great, but going too heavy to the point where you cannot control the weight for a decent number of reps is almost pointless. Going too heavy compromises form and risks injury as well, as the squat places a lot of pressure on the lower back and midsection, so things like pulled muscles, pinched nerves, hernias are not uncommon with going too heavy on the barbell squat. 

How to Improve Your Barbell Squat

Now, do not worry, as there are plenty of ways to improve the movement for yourself and really maximize your return on investment with this lift. Let’s break it down.

Full Range of Motion

Squatting with a full range of motion is key to getting the most out of your squat. You want to squat as low as your knees will allow you to, making sure to get a deep stretch and a good mind-muscle connection throughout the entirety of the movement. 

Lighter Weight

Squatting with a full range of motion in turn will probably mean that you need to utilize weight that is a little bit lighter. This does not mean use weight that you can hit 100 reps with, but instead find a weight that allows you to get a good pump and you can hit a few solid reps with, making sure to get the most out of your workout. 

Workout Programs

Finding a good workout program that includes the barbell squat is also a great way to improve your squat. A workout program allows you to track your progress, and also holds you accountable to improve yourself each week, utilizing things like progressive overload and deload weeks to allow you to grow.

Benefits of the Barbell Squat

You see a lot of people these days skipping out on the squats and instead using machines such as the leg press, hack squat, or other exercises. They are only shorting themselves on gains, because the barbell squat is one of the best leg day exercises that you can throw into your routine. It develops you overall in so many different areas. 

Benefits of the barbell squat include: 

  • Improved stability- Having a barbell on your back and maintaining good form while moving it will undoubtedly improve your stability and balance.

  • Core strengthening- The squat forces you to brace your midsection, and your core is used for a good portion of the lift. 

  • Leg development- The barbell squat is a leg movement that targets all areas of your legs, making it a great overall leg builder.

  • Improved hormone levels- Hitting heavy leg movements have shown to provide spikes in growth hormone as well as testosterone, which are both necessary muscle building hormones

  • Mental state- The squat forces you into a position of discomfort, you have a heavy barbell on your back that you know can severely injure you if you do not complete the movement properly. This makes you stronger mentally, as you are placed in a position of vulnerability, you have to get in the hole (squat to depth) and push yourself out of it even with something weighing you down.

Improving Your Squat Wrap Up

Overall, the barbell squat is a great movement that should not be ignored, the problem is that so many people perform it incorrectly and do not even realize it. However, there are plenty of ways to improve your squat, such as adjusting the amount of weight you use, improving your range of motion, and utilizing a workout program to name a few.

Will you be trying any of these methods that we have suggested to improve your squat? 

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