If you can’t unrack the bar and set up correctly, you’re halting your progress before you have a chance to get stronger. Take a look at the “amateurs” in gym when they squat. As they unrack the bar and walk it out, you’ll see no thing but wasted motion and the kind of awkwardness that leads to injury.

The following tips assume that you’re squatting from a safe, sturdy power rack, squat rack, or set of squat stands. Here’s how to get the bar from Point A (in the Jhooks) to Point B (on your back and ready to descend) with style and grace.

Workout Tips:

1. Grip the bar and retract your shoulder blades hard. Push your head back into the bar and pull your elbows down without letting them flare up behind you. Your upper back should be very tight.

2. Breathe in, brace your abs, and push up against the weight. Keep a slight arch in your spine and keep your hips under or slightly behind the bar.

. When you’re ready to unrack the bar, don’t snap it out quickly. Rather, “flex” it out in a controlled fashion.

4. When walking out a squat, you don’t need to take the barbell halfway across the gym. All you need to do is get it clear of the J-hooks during the lift, so a good rule of thumb here is to step back approximately 1.5 times the length of your foot.

5. Step back with one foot, make sure it’s set, then step back with the other—maintaining a tight arch in your back throughout the entire walkout.