What Is a Bench Squat Exercise?

Woman preparing to lift barbells at in a gym
A woman is getting ready to squat in the gym. (Image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images)

A bench squat is simply a squat to a bench. You tap the bench with your buttocks at the bottom of your descent. This helps identify when you should start lifting back to standing, making it a helpful form reminder. You're likely to achieve more depth than a novice might doing a regular squat without a bench.

Lower Body Focus

This weightlifting exercise focuses primarily on the lower body. It uses more equipment than a standard squat, but is one of the variations of a standard squat. Use bench squats to sharpen your form, especially if you've recently increased your lifting weight or need a reminder of how far you should descend.

Check the Mirror

While looking in a mirror helps identify when you've descended far enough, it's not always possible to find a mirror at the right angle. For example, if you use a Smith machine, it may be stationed awkwardly for mirror viewing or a squat rack with a view that's obscured by other people at the gym.

It’s Not Always Easier

Don't be deceived into thinking that the bench squat is easier. You do not sit on the bench. The bench is a physical reminder of your range of motion. Don't rest or pause at the bench. Don't let the bench hold any of your weight. Instead, control your descent and slow your movement to ensure that you tap the bench and then slowly rise to standing. If anything, the control required to avoid slapping the bench on your descent makes a bench squat more of a challenge than a regular squat that offers a potentially wider range of motion.

Form

Form is a crucial part of any squat, and the bench squat helps maintain good form if you use it correctly. Brace your core by pulling in your abdominal muscles and rolling your shoulder blades back and down. The bracing supports your back and the movement of your shoulder blades ensures you don't hunch forward. Place any additional weight on the meaty party of your shoulder, not your neck. Descend by pushing your bottom out and supporting the weight with your thighs. Don't bow forward as this overly involves your back and leads to injury.

Descend until your thigh is parallel to the floor -- place the bench at this point to remind you of the lowest part of the descent. Check that your knees are behind your toes to avoid overextending your knee joint. Do a quick check when you tap the bench. Return to starting and don't lock your knees before descending again.

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