There's More than One Right Way to Squat
People often claim their way of squatting is the best. I want to let you in on something: there is more than one correct way to squat, and there is no one “best” way. The four most common ways are the tow bar back squat in lifters, high bar squat in lifters, high bar squat in flats, and front squats in lifters. Each of these squats has a strength and a weakness, but they are all useful in developing strength and power.
In all squats, the bar must be resting over the midfoot area to be balanced during movements. The bar placement will determine knee and hip angles for each of the following squats. The knees will always be in line with the toes and the majority of the force should be driven through the heals and mid-foot, never the toes.
Low Bar Back Squat in Lifters:
In the low bar squat, the bar rests on the rear deltoids. The elbows are pointed back. The hips and knees break at the same time - the hips travel back and the knees forward in line with the toes. In this squat, the torso comes forward to allow the bar to rest over the mid-foot. The low bar squat shortens the lever of the back, allowing people to lift slightly more on average than a high bar version. The low bar squat utilizes more hips and glutes than the high bar squat.
High Bar Back Squat in Flats:
To quote Louie Simmons, “Don't have a 10 cent Squat with $100 shoes.” The Westside method of squatting uses a wide stance. The bar is placed high on the traps and the hips are sent back before the knees bend. On the way up, the goal is to “spread the floor”, pushing both out and down, to specifically engage hips, glutes, and hamstrings. The Westside method keeps a vertical tibia angle with minimal dorsiflexion.
Front Squat in Lifters:
This lift is used mostly by Olympic lifters. The front squat targets the quads more than the low bar squat and the Westside method. Feet are shoulder width apart, the bar rests on the front of the shoulders, and fingers hold the bar in place. Elbows are high and keep the bar on the "shelf" formed by the anterior deltoids. Because the bar is in front of the spine, the torso remains mostly vertical and the lifter sends the hips back first to begin the squat.
High Bar Back Squat in Lifters
Using this method, the feet are again shoulder width apart. Toes are pointed about 20 degrees out with the bar resting on the traps. The hips and knees break at the same time, and your goal is to keep your torso as upright as possible throughout the squat. This is a quad dominant squat. The hips descend down and back and the torso angle is more vertical with the bar over the mid-foot, but the tibias still come forward.