Power squats are a type of powerlifting exercise designed to increase strength in the lower body. As opposed to Olympic squats, which train speed and overall athletic ability, power squats are intended to increase a person's one-rep max, or the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted in a single repetition. They involve placing a barbell across the upper back and lowering the hips slowly down and back into a squat before pushing back up into starting position. Not just for bodybuilders, this exercise can be incorporated into a variety of fitness routines where an increase in lower body strength is desired.
There are several benefits to performing power squats. First, they strengthen the entire posterior chain, which include the muscles on the back side of the body, from the upper and lower back, to the glutes, and hamstrings. Second, they are easier on the knee joint than other squatting techniques, as they place so much emphasis on the hips. Third, they enable the lifter to achieve heavier weights, a boon to those looking to increase their size, though this technique can be implemented with lighter weights for anyone looking to improve general fitness.
Power squats may not be the preferred technique for improving speed, athletic skill, or explosiveness. These squats require the lifter to slow down. It is recommended that they be included in the strength-building phase of many training regimens.
To perform the power squat maneuver, a person should place a 45-pound (42.79-kg) bar on a squat rack just below shoulder height and put the desired amount of weight on the bar, securing on either side with a weight collar. He should then position himself under the bar so that it is placed across the tops of the shoulder blades on the meaty part of the upper trapezius muscle. A padded neck roll can be placed around the center of the bar for added cushioning.
Bracing the core and pushing through the heels and hips, the weightlifter should stand upright in the middle of the rack with the bar on the shoulders and feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Keeping the chest lifted and looking straight ahead, the lifter should lower into a squat by pushing the hips back and weight into the heels, so that the knees bend but do not slide forward past the toes, taking about three seconds to perform the negative phase of the exercise.
Once in the bottom position, with the hips at roughly the same height as the knees and thighs parallel to the floor, the lifter should push through the heels and drive the hips forward, returning to standing position within one to two seconds. Throughout the range of motion, the abdominals should remain engaged; the use of a weight belt may be recommended when lifting large amounts of weight, but it is advised to skip the belt when learning to perform power squats to strengthen the core musculature. Additionally, the heels should remain on the floor at all times, and the glutes should be squeezed at the top of the range of motion to fully extend the front of the hips and finish the move. For recommendations on repetitions, sets, rest periods, and training phases that are specific to one’s goals, an exercise professional should be consulted.