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How to Brace and Setup for the Squat

Most people think they know how to squat, but you can always get better at it. Learn how to brace and setup for the squat with some of the tips below.


While it’s refreshing for men and women alike to use the barbell as their main tool of destruction on their health & fitness journey, with the day and age we live in now it’s extremely easy to be misled as to how a lift should be done properly.

For the most part people are far better off than they were 10 years ago, if you ask someone to squat they’ll probably try and keep the weight back in the heels and not let their chest touch their knees – this is good news!

But when we start throwing some serious weight on the bar, the form deficiencies stick out like a sore thumb, and it’s clear that the base knowledge of the lift is still incomplete.

2015 CrossFit Games Champ Ben Smith with a 227 kg PR (and friends Adam and Ryan)

There are some fine points and positioning that a lot of people are missing out on, and it can lead to bad form, missed lifts, or even injury. So, we’re gathered here today around this glorious round table of fitness to talk about one of the mother lifts – the squat. She can be a great asset in your strength game, but if you don’t pay attention to her finer details – she could bite back.


Achieve Better Positioning and Movement

Over the years I’ve heard many cues in order to help people achieve better positioning in the squat, one of which being the classic ‘Chest Up’ cue. This is an excellent cue to give someone when they struggle to keep their chest up and prevent the weight from moving towards the toes and therefore putting an excess amount of pressure on the knees.

how to brace and setup for the squat
Mikko Salo Squat: 7×3 at 180kg

But what happens when the chest is torqued too high and we lose stability in our mid line (abs)? Our hips and pelvis can’t stay in line correctly with the angle we’ve put our body in, leaving our lower backs horrifically over extended, which then causes the gruesome ‘Butt Wink’ at the bottom of the squat. Whenever I see someone squat to full depth and see their pelvis tilt and their ‘Butt Wink’ it usually tells me a few things.

  1. They’re not warmed up enough and they need to stretch a little more
  2. They’re losing tightness in their glutes and hamstrings in the bottom of the squat
  3. The lower back is over extended and the core is no longer engaged

With the pelvis tilting in the bottom of the squat it’s accounting for a lot of lost power and could make or break the lift. Lucky for you guys – this can be fixed!

Most technique issues can be solved with some mobility work to help the muscles achieve the right amount of range of motion to complete the lift, but we’ll go over some of that stuff another day. Today we’re going to focus on something that you should do not only before you squat, but before you lift ANYTHING.


This sequence will help you properly engage your mid line and keep the tightness throughout so you can stay tight during the lift and not fold like a lawn chair in the bottom of your squat – or any lift for that matter. A lot of the times lifts are missed not only because the athlete didn’t have the strength to complete it, but they lost the stability in their core to stay tight which then cuts off power to the extremities whilst trying to complete the lift. Core to extremity ring a bell? So here’s our BRACING SEQUENCE to help with that stabilization:

  1. Squeeze your glutes together. This is going to set your pelvis in the correct position we need it to support the weight.
  2. Pull the rib cage down by flexing your core while still squeezing the glutes. This ensures our backs are not over extended and mid line is engaged.
  3. Take a big breath in from that tightness you’ve created by flexing the core and pulling the rib cage down.
Crossfit Front Squat PRSource: Crossfit 204
Front or Back Squat, this is the KING of strength exercises!


  • Keep the mid line as tight as possible and don’t let go
  • Squeeze the glutes on the way down to ensure they are activated and you’re using them to carry the weight. (Assuming that you’re squatting).

‘This bracing sequence is a fantastic way to keep everything tight and in line not only in the squat, but in every lift as well. Especially anything overhead when our lower back is a little more vulnerable to over extension.’

All in all, we still want our chests up, but be careful to not over extend. Go through the bracing sequence with all the lifts you do – and watch your weights skyrocket further than you ever thought.

Featured Image © West Haven Crossfit

Ben Smith and Friends Squating at CrossFit Krypton © cbsmit1234

Mikko Salo Instagram © Mikko Salo

Squat Bracing Tutorial © Brendon Kozack @ CFV Villians

Front Squat © Crossfit 204

Image Sources

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