The bench squat is a highly effective exercise for developing lower body strength and improving squat form. It is particularly beneficial for beginners who may find the barbell back squat intimidating. By using a bench or elevated surface, lifters can practice the squat movement with proper form and gradually progress to a full range of motion squat.
The bench squat primarily targets the quadriceps, but also engages the glutes and hamstrings. It is a versatile exercise that can be used by both beginners and advanced lifters. Beginners can use it as a stepping stone to the barbell back squat, while advanced lifters can incorporate it as an accessory lift to build strength and work towards heavier weights.
To perform the bench squat, you will need a barbell, weight plates, and a sturdy elevated surface such as a flat bench or plyo box. It is important to choose a bench that does not have protruding foot platforms or wheel legs, as this can affect your foot placement. Alternatively, you can use a square object like a hard plyo box and position it between your feet.
To begin the exercise, set up the flat bench in the center of a squat rack and rack the barbell at shoulder height with an appropriate weight. Position the barbell across your shoulders, grab it with a slightly wider-than-shoulder-width overhand grip, and step back. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with the edge of the bench under your hips. Turn your toes out slightly.
As you descend into the squat, lean forward slightly by hinging at your hips and maintain a slight knee bend. Keep your back, neck, and head in a neutral and straight line. Take a deep breath and brace your core. Bend your knees and push them out slightly, focusing on lowering your hips back and down between your feet. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor, and your bum should touch the bench at the bottom of the range of motion.
It is important to avoid sitting on the bench and transferring your weight from your legs to the bench. Instead, as soon as your glutes touch the bench, drive your feet into the floor and extend your knees and hips to return to the standing position. Breathe out sharply during this concentric phase to generate power and overcome any sticking points.
Throughout the exercise, it is crucial to maintain good form and avoid common mistakes. Remain as upright as possible to engage the quads and reinforce proper mechanics for the barbell back squat. Avoid crashing onto the bench during the eccentric phase, as this can increase the risk of groin strains and injury. Do not reset while seated on the bench by transferring the weight from your legs to your glutes and lower back.
To optimize force generation, focus on driving through your whole foot and spreading your toes for a better grip. It is also recommended to use a weightlifting belt to lower the risk of injury and generate thoracic pressure for more stability during the lift.
The bench squat is a valuable exercise for anyone looking to improve their squatting performance and develop a strong lower body. By mastering the correct form and incorporating variations and alternatives, lifters can maximize their gains and minimize the risk of injury. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced lifter, the bench squat is a worthwhile addition to your training routine.