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Barbell Squats – Perfect Technique (Powerlifting Style) With Mike Westerdal

Written by Ryan Murdock

Yes, we’re mostly about bodyweight exercise. But we know many of you also like the gym, so we decided to take our squat technique series one step further. This time we’ll look at the barbell squat with our friend and iron expert Mike Westerdal.

Think powerlifters have nothing to teach you about lifting for fitness? You’d better think again!

Powerlifters may be limited in the movements they focus on in their training, but they’ve pulled those exercises to pieces to come up with the safest and most reliable ways to move heavy weight. When it comes to safe lifting form, they have a lot to say.

And when Mike Westerdal speaks, we sit up and listen. We sorta have to, because he’s awfully soft spoken… He’s also got a gift for dry, monotone one-liners that get Ryan laughing so hard he coughs up a kidney. (Mike at a recent dinner: “That guy’s really great at making food sound good. He does this thing where he says mmmmm.”) He really should stop sitting next to Mike because he doesn’t have that many internal organs to cough up, and as a matter of fact, some are kind of important…

That soft spoken approach carries over to Mike’s coaching as well. You won’t get any fluff from him. Nor will you get hype, shouting, or in your face ego trips. Mike offers clear, direct advise based on decades of experience. Whenever we’re lucky enough to cross paths, we drag him into the nearest gym for some advice.

Check out Mike’s video on proper technique in the barbell squat:

Let’s review the key performance cues Mike covered:

  • Get those feet shoulder-width apart or even a bit wider
  • Allow your feet to turn out slightly – but make sure your knees track over your toes
  • Squeeze your glutes and thighs hard for stability
  • Break at the waist first, keep your gaze forward or slightly up, and push your knees out as you lower into the squat
  • Your weight stays on your heels and on the outsides of your feet
  • Flat-footed shoes or barefoot are best
  • Keep your elbows under the bar to keep your posture vertical
  • Don’t be afraid to squat for depth as long as you have correct form

Keep in mind that Mike is sharing a specific technique used by powerlifters. But no matter what your background or focus, we all have something to learn from his excellent advice. In fact, we also suggest you read an excellent article he wrote about why including a bit of “heavy lifting” in your training program can have profound effects on your recovery, fat burning, and even make you feel and look younger.

Please post any questions in the comment section and we’ll ask Mike to pop by and reply.

About the author

Ryan Murdock


  • WOW! guys I’m really wondering where you get the incredibly sexy models to film these videos for you… I’m torn between the attractive display above and the brown gentleman with large glutes that graced your blog a few week a go. Anyway… keep these hunks on your speed dial boys!

    • Lee,

      We love bodyweight exercise and use it for most of our training. But we are NOT dogmatic and we strive to expose our readers to the best information from ALL fields of effective training.

      And don’t jump to conclusions about whether people are “in shape”. Mike is the perfect shape for his sport. He’s a powerlifter. And let me tell you there is some serious muscle packed onto that frame.


  • Another terrific technique video. Regardless of what our goals are (power/strength, bodybuilding, fat loss), the exercises and techniques are the same. I learn a lot from guys like Mike even though our goals are different.

  • The guy’s good. How’s that for understatement?
    NOTHING reshaped my legs into long and lean like heavy lifting. My lifting has suffered because I’m currently taking dance lessons 5 days a week. Those great legs I’ve worked sooo hard for aren’t looking as lean. Any thoughts on how to get ’em back?

    Thanks for your consistent excellence!

  • I love the body weight tips as I use superset body weight combo’s to burn fat, however as my main goal is strength I mainly use powerlifting for my workouts. I can tell you that ANY heavy lifting I do, not only builds srength, but the fat burning effect goes on for days after! Not only that I also feel much more energized after a weight workout, so I find combining weights and bodyweight training has the most effect in acheiving my goals. Great work Adam!

    • Thanks Steve. I love that you’re open minded about mixing modalities. We’ve always said, pick the best tool for the job at hand… 🙂

  • Great video. I would love to see a video with a description of the proper technique for the deadlift, standard and sumo styles. Also, what are Mike’s thoughts on using a manta ray cushion for squats. I saw one in a video with Arnel Ricafranka.

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