I’m a weightlifter and here are my 4 basic squats

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I’ve come a long way since I first started weightlifting in 2018. But progress isn’t always easy. In my first year of regular training, I only lifted 65 pounds maximum on the squat rack. I knew I had to aim further, so I set an arbitrary goal of 135 pounds. (Mostly because my sister, who started weightlifting before me and got me into the sport, hit 135 pounds.) I’m not sure if I’ll ever reach that weight. no, but I still pursue it.

Then last month, I finally did: two 45-pound weight plates and barbell, 45 pounds extra, which means I’ve hit my goal and set the new individual best total weight to be 135 pounds. When I finished this weight, I felt relieved. That’s because for the past five years, I’ve been battling constant obstacles like knee pain, injuries, and back spasms that keep me from making progress. Ice and rest definitely work — as do consistent workouts, core exercises, and stretches. But I’d be lying if I said that’s all I needed.

Since squatting places a heavy burden on my neck and back, I rely on four key pieces of equipment to get me through each rep. Not only do they keep me safe—and the other weightlifters who use them—, these squat essentials also stabilize my back and give me strength from the bottom up.

lifting belt

When I’m squatting with heavier weights, my belt is a must. “The lifting belt helps stabilize and protect your back,” says personal trainer Sharon Gam, PhD, CSCS, owner of Sharon Gam Fitness in Orlando, Florida. To wear it, I tighten the belt with the bottom hanging just above the navel. Then, I take a deep breath and engage my core muscles to push my core muscles into my waist. “That core stretch is what creates a powerfully activated muscle mass around your spine to keep it from being overstretched,” says Dr.

omen foam core belt

Foreshadowing, Foam Core Belt — $28.00

Available sizes: S-XL

Made of a blend of nylon and polyester, the Harbinger Foam Core Belt features a long velcro strap and a low buckle, steel fastener, allowing me to tighten, tie and untie the belt in seconds. Plus, it has a back cushion that’s comfortable to wear and doesn’t dig into my skin.

Color: 8


While a squat isn’t required, a weight pad—a protective layer of foam placed in the center of the weight—can reduce unwanted pressure and strain on your neck. This pad can also be used for crunches and hip thrusts to relieve pressure on the hips.

reehut . squat exercise pad

Reehut, Squat Barbell Pad — $15.00

Made of thick and durable high-intensity foam, Reehut’s Squat Pad absorbed all the shock and took the pressure off my neck, shoulders, and hips during squats, hip thrusts, and crunches. Still to love? The non-slip interior ensures that the pad stays in place.

weight clamps

After adjusting the squat rack to my height, I loaded the 45-pound plates onto the bar and secured them with locking safety clips to keep the weights in place. “If you lose your balance and flip the bar and the weights slide off, it can be very dangerous to you and anyone standing nearby,” says Dr. Gam.

Dmoose dumbbell clip

DMoose, Olympic Weight Clamp — $18.00

These olympic weights from DMoose are non-slip to keep everyone around me safe. Light weight, they’re easy to put on and take off so you can swap weights with no fuss.

Color: 15

Flat shoes

While cushioned shoes may be a better footwear choice on running days, they’re not ideal for weightlifting. Dr Gam says that when you’re trying to lift something heavy, your feet should be on the floor. That’s because you need a stable support base. Wearing flats allows you to simultaneously push your weight through your big toe, heel, and outside of your foot. “The padding in many sneakers makes it hard for you to do that and can actually make you a little wobbly,” says Dr.

Also, when you’re pushing yourself up out of a squat, your weight bounces off the floor to push you up. So you want as much force moving between your body and the floor as possible, says Dr. Gam, and cushioned shoes will absorb some of that force.

classic unisex vans old skool shoes

Vans, Old Skool Classic Roller Skating — $70.00

Available sizes: 3.5–17.5, with half the size

I’m never without my Vans Old Skool shoes during my walking days. With a durable outsole and canvas outerwear, these shoes are comfortable and flat—ideal for lifting and pushing heavy loads.

Color: 24

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