The squat is the king of all leg exercises and using it regularly can transform chicken legs into tree trunks. However, knowing how to squat is important for the best results and safety over the long haul.


Researchers from Louisiana Tech University (Ruston, Louisiana) analyzed squat techniques in experienced competitive powerlifters, in comparison to less-experienced competitive powerlifters and novices.


The scientists reported in a 2009 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that, compared to the other two groups, the competitive powerlifters with the most experience employed techniques that allowed them to use significantly more weight and prevent injuries. They descended more slowly, but accelerated out of the bottom position much faster. They also prevented their knees from moving as far forward toward their toes to lessen stress on the knees.


Descending slowly into the bottom, driving up with more power and keeping the knees in proper position all translate into a heavier but safer squat.


Slowing your descent will provide you more control, which not only helps to prevent injury, but also can lead to a better bar path on the way up — and that translates into handling greater weight. And the faster you can come up, the more weight you can use. To increase your squat speed, do jump squats and use bands or chains (see Chain Reaction elsewhere in Gym Bag). Keep your knees from tracking over your toes and your butt back as you descend. Practicing with box squats will help perfect your form.