Barbell Back Squat Guide: Benefits, Muscles Targeted, & Tutorial

The barbell back squat is a foundational lower body exercise. It doesn’t matter your age, skill level, goal, etc., you need to have some version of squats in your programming.

barbell back squat

Barbell Back Squat Benefits

  • Builds leg muscles
  • Decreases injury risk
  • Increases athletic performance
  • Improves strength 
  • Can be easily modified for goal/ability

What Muscles do Barbell Back Squats Work?

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Adductors
  • Hamstrings
  • Hip Flexors

We also wanted to mention that squats, along with many other compound lifts, also target your engage your core. Will squatting give you a six-pack? Not necessarily. You are primarily using it to create intra-abdominal pressure to keep your torso rigid. You aren’t bringing it through a full contraction with a large range of motion. So, you will get a core workout in by doing squats, but it isn’t something we’d say directly is a core exercise such as hanging knee raises. 


muscles targeted during squat

How to Do a Barbell Back Squat

Place the bar on your traps or rear delts (create a shelf). Either option is fine. High bar placement is better for those with longer torsos and shorter femurs and allows you to stay more upright during the squat. People with long femurs and short torsos might need to use low bar in order to keep the bar path over their mid-foot.

 Wrap your hands around the bar. The narrower your grip, the more upper back tightness you’ll be able to create.

Start with your feet about shoulder-width apart and modify from there. Your anatomy will dictate what feels most comfortable. The wider your stance, the more you bring your adductors into play.

If you use a close stance, your feet will point mostly straight ahead. If you use a wider stance, your feet will angle out more. What’s most important is that your knees travel over your feet during the squat.

Don’t put your weight in your heels. Instead, think of creating a tri-pod with your foot that has three points of contact while maintaining a strong arch.

Before descending, brace your core by creating 360 degrees of intra-abdominal pressure around your spine. Do not breathe up into your chest, but into your belly to create a rigid torso.

Break at both the hips and knees while lowering yourself in the squat and focus on maintaining a bar path that is centered over your mid-foot throughout the lift.

Try and get as much range of motion as possible within your capabilities and comfort level. 

On the ascent, work on driving your hips under the bar and not letting your chest cave forward turning the squat into a good morning. This will throw off the bar path and become an inefficient lift.

Return to the starting position at neutral and repeat for as many reps as desired.

Barbell Back Squat Demonstration

Check Out Our Barbell Back Squat Alternatives

If you aren’t quite ready to add barbell back squats to your routine, but want to find some solid substitutions, check out our guide below!