How To PR Your Back Squat Safely

Getting a new all time best back squat squat takes more than simply getting stronger. Sure, getting stronger is going to help you move more weight, but using better technique, bracing properly, and achieving more efficient positions in your squat can get you a PR without even getting stronger!


Bracing is the most important piece of lifting technique. If you can’t properly brace, you are not only setting yourself up for inefficiency and failure, but more importantly injury. You want your spine to be like a stack of bricks under the bar, not a wet noodle! When we squat, we produce force through our legs. However your core bracing determines if that energy can travel through your core and up into the weight or not. If you have poor bracing, we leak energy and can’t move the weight as well.

So four simple steps to brace your core properly for a back squat.

  1. Set up under the bar the rack with both feet under you.
  2. While the bar is still in the rack, take a deep breath into your belly. Aim to fill your belly with as much air as possible.
  3. Stand up, take a step back. (you may need to take an extra breath here, still into your belly!) Then pull down on the bar as if you’re at the top of a pull up.
  4. Push out 360 degrees around your spine.

This should be how you approach a squat every time!


Now you’re set up to attempt our squat. But can you achieve optimal positions? Are you super far leaned forward? Does the bar travel over your toes? Do your knees cave in? Do your hips hurt as you force yourself down? These are all things that are going to prevent you from moving the most amount of weight you can safely.

Mobility for squatting starts at the ankles. We need plenty of ankle dorsiflexion (think how your knee tracks forward as you sink down) and hip flexion (think knee moving toward your chest). If we can clear up these two things, squatting is going to be a whole lot more comfortable and it will allow you to move the weight more efficiently. 

If you want to make sure you have enough mobility to squat well, set up an assessment with one of our coaches!


The knitty gritty. Now, let’s pretend like you have plenty of mobility to achieve perfect squat positions. Technique is how we actually get into those positions. So the bar is on your back, your core is braced, and you have plenty of mobility. What’s next?

  1. Your foot is like a tripod. The ball of your big toe, your pinky toe, and your heel and all connected the ground. Here you’re thinking about spreading the floor with your feet.
  2. Now you go to start our squat. You must initiate the squat with your hip. NOT your knee.
  3. As you sink down, you are letting your knees track forward and staying as upright as you can. The bar must stay over the middle of your foot (don’t let it tip you forward!)
  4. When you get the bottom of your squat, catch the bounce a little (this is called a stretch reflex and gets you going in the other direction).
  5. Push hard through the ground to stand up, trying not to tip forward on the way up. Think about leading with your chest.

*Note that these are things you are thinking about during your warm up sets, and during training leading up to 1 RM attempt. As the weight gets to a near maximal load, you can’t be thinking about a million things. At this point, your technique is dialed in and you go for it!

Hopefully this was helpful and you guys get some nice squat PRs when we retest in a few short weeks! If you have any questions email yankeecrossfit@gmail.com