A Beginners Guide To Improving Your Squat

The barbell back squat is one of the most effective movements to increase strength and build mass. The squat is a staple exercise for many recreational and professional athletes, but seems to have a smaller following among the average gym goer.

This can make for a difficult task if you’re looking to learn the basics of how to improve your existing squat. If there are so few people in the gym doing them, where can you turn for guidance? Well, just follow this simple 3-step beginner’s guide and watch your squats skyrocket.

1. Shorten Your Hand Placement
This will be determined by the overall health of your shoulders. If you have very tight shoulders due to muscle imbalances or previous injuries, your grip will be pretty wide. If you have a little more mobility, then you will want to get your grip width as narrow as possible.

This will force your shoulder blade closer together and become tighter. This will give the barbell a more stable surface to rest on. After adjusting your grip, it’s important to squeeze the barbell as tight as possible. Again, tightness equals less movement.

2. Focus On Breathing
If you have been under the bar and performed a set of back squats, then you have surely noticed that breathing becomes difficult. In order to get the most out of your squat, it’s important to control your breathing patterns.

This is where performing the Valsalva maneuver becomes important. This technique refers to the process of trapping air in your windpipe and creating enough abdominal pressure to take the load off of your spine. This not only makes the weight move easier, but can reduce injury.

To perform the Valsalva maneuver, take a deep breath before you begin the eccentric (lowering) phase of the exercise. Forcefully create pressure in your glottis (thoracic area) so you can feel the pressure on your abdominals. Once you have made it past your sticking point, exhale.

3. Keep Your Knees Aligned
If you take a minute to look at individuals who happen to be squatting near the maximal weight or until failure, you may notice that their knees will turn inward when they are transitioning from the lowering phase to the standing phase (eccentric to concentric phases).

In fact, this may be happening to you as well. You, like most people, are just unaware of it. Unfortunately, no matter how proficient at squatting you become, your knees will keep trying to angle inward.

You must make a conscious effort to keep this from happening. Many times, this will be the difference between a good squat and a failed attempt.

Whether you are trying to increase sports performance, get stronger, or improve your body mechanics, the barbell back squat deserves to be in your fitness program. As someone who may be new to squatting, you are actually at an advantage since you have yet to learn any bad habits.

Applying these 3 simple squatting tips can make a world of difference in your exercise proficiency. If you feel like you need even more guidance, don’t hesitate to contact a fitness professional. They would be happy to help.


Claire and I had THE best time training our first group in Marbella last weekend. Helped not only by having an awesome, friendly and focused bunch of people to share it with, but the sun shone, the resort was unbelievable and we did most of our sessions on the beach! Seriously – Puente Romano is one hell of a resort!

BUT….it wasn’t the best start: a tyre blow out pre-dawn on the way to catch our early flight to Marbella. Cue almost two hours in minus four by the side of the road while we waited for recovery. A new tire, new flights and nine hours later, we reached Puente Romano. And we’re not gonna lie – we enjoyed a glass of red when we settled in!

Clients arrived the following day, so after the morning rushing around making sure everything was ready, we were straight into it. Oh, did we mention that it was sheeting with rain when we arrived, and that when we woke the mountain tops fringing the coast were covered in snow?! Something people who’ve lived there all their lives have never seen… Not quite the winter sun we were expecting.

Anyway, unperturbed and under a grey sky – we welcomed in a full group, full of assurances the sun would come out – and lo and behold, by the end of the fitness benchmark session, the sun popped its head out!

To summarise – we had three blissful (but tough training) days of life affirming pre-dawn workouts or runs, watching the sun rise over the still sea. Breakfast was had in the early morning sunlight, followed by challenging but fun HIIT training on the deserted beach, a nutrition workshop, goal setting, spinning, Insanity, yoga, boxing….

It was a real privilege to watch people transform and grow in confidence, even in such a short time. Everyone gave it their all, and by the time we rolled into Joe’s Bar for a final evening’s celebratory drink, each and every person had earned it.

Life’s about balance. Above all we want whoever comes on our retreats to have fun, and feel SOOOO good when they leave. We achieved that. Now we can’t wait for the next one…just three weeks to go!

Why not join us? We’d love to see you…

Here’s what a few clients said…..

“Brilliant people, brilliant hotel, brilliant food and a generally cracking time all-round!”

“An inspirational few days with some GORGEOUS people!”

“What a fantastic weekend. We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and are already working out when we can do another one!

A Little Personal Word On Motivation by James

January’s in full swing and I know a lot of you will be starting the year with health conscious resolutions, which obviously I love! HOWEVER…I also know some of you may be struggling with them already. And there’s certainly no shame in that.

I decided to hit 2017 with a spanking new lifting programme, I’ve got 12 (well 11 and a half now) weeks of 6x a week workouts planned – totalling hours in the gym. I’m committed and can’t wait for the end result….BUT….

This morning I could barely get out of bed. Tuesday: smashed upper body. Wednesday: smashed legs. Today – aching all over, even in places that shouldn’t have been aching and I’m shattered. Even the first mug of super strength coffee (prepared with eyes half open) couldn’t rouse me, and you know what, I admit it, I thought “F**k it. I’ll stay in bed.”

Only I didn’t. Because experience tells me that I always feel better after a workout. That if I do stay in bed I’ll feel bad about it later. That if I skip that workout I’m prone to skipping another, and then my goals start to drift away. So I got up, I put on my gym kit, and I hit up the gym. It also helped that Claire gave me a kick up the arse as well 🙂

You know what? I loved my workout (my back was killing me – but in a good way) and I felt way, way better afterwards. I always do. Later in the day, I’m less sore, more relaxed, and still on track for my goals instead of anxious about having to do more tomorrow.

The reason I wanted to share this is because sometimes as a coach people look at you and think, “It’s alright for you. You have no problem staying motivated. No problem getting up and exercising, of sticking to that diet.”

ACTUALLY I DO. But I also take responsibility. If I want those goals bad enough then I get out of bed even when I don’t want to, lift those weights when I’m not feeling it, stride through that run when my legs are thinking about the sofa. And I’m not special, or unique, in fact, I can actually be quite lazy! So if I can do it, you can do it!

Don’t give up. Keep your eyes on the prize and push through. Like me this morning, thinking about training and about getting up and doing it was far worse than actually doing it. So get to the gym, do that home workout, go for that cycle. Once you start you’ll keep going and starting is the hardest part. Overcome that and you’ve overcome 90% of the battle.

I hope that helps. Wishing you all the best for your 2017 training and healthy lifestyle.

New NHS Health Survey – The Shocking Truth

80% of women and 87% of men in England aged 40-60 are OVERWEIGHT, DRINK TOO MUCH and get TOO LITTLE EXERCISE. Key findings of a survey carried out by the NHS – released earlier this week, called One You.

Pretty sobering right?! AND….we have the highest levels of obesity in Western Europe – trebling in the last 30 years. Half the population could be obese by 2050 given current estimations……

If you’re one of the 2 in 10 that the NHS considers healthy – congratulations! It’s an amazing achievement.

If you’re one of the 8 in 10 struggling with diet, exercise and alcohol…clearly you’re not alone.

But knowing you’re not alone can often lead to apathy. Are you someone that knows you should exercise more, get your diet cleaned up, stop the bottle of wine a night? But you don’t. And are we right in thinking it leads to a level of self-loathing?

So – we want you to take this question seriously.

What are you going to do differently so that you’re not out of breath walking up the stairs, so you can get in that wedding dress this summer? So you don’t feel embarrassed walking into a party?

No…it’s not a crash diet or liposuction?! It’s about changing what you DO and THINK. This time of year is PERFECT FOR TRANSFORMATION. You do have time, you do have the energy, you do have the willpower.

Not honouring and respecting your body leads to depression, illness and a short life. That’s the hard truth right there. So get yourself into that small percentage of people – kick out the excuses, clean up your life and feel PROUD.

Here’s THREE STEPS to getting started:

1. Accept where you are. Go check out the excellent NHS One You website where you can not only take a fun quiz assessing your current health levels, but find loads of useful information on managing your diet, smoking, drinking, sleep, stress and exercise.

2. Make ONE key fitness and health goal. Write it down. Get detailed – a goal without a plan is pointless!

3. Commit. When, where and how are you going to make this happen? Tell a buddy who can keep you accountable.

Our long weekend fitness retreats (UK and Marbella) are designed to give you the ultimate kickstart you need. We not only train you, but talk you through habits, goal setting, motivation and nutrition. You get access to TWO experienced coaches who’ve helped hundreds of people transform their body and mind. We not only get you leaner and lighter, but educate you so you’re confident and full of energy to sustain a new way of living.

If you think this is something you could do with – drop us an email at

Oh and we’d love to hear your thoughts on the survey ☺

Have a happy, healthy day.


Pic: @captain_potter

Spring Update!

It’s been a while since we updated you on things at 38ºN towers and the reason is we’ve been so busy with a whole load of exciting projects. First up we have our UK Easter Retreat happening at the Spread Eagle – a fantastic and cosy coaching inn nestled in the South Downs. It’s not only steeped in history (Elizabeth the 1st!) but is home to a luxurious spa space and has over 50 gins in the bar… We’ve got the Polo Room for indoor training but we’ll also be outdoors, hiking over the stunning local countryside, powering through circuits in the grounds, kickboxing under the trees and more. For this one James and Faye will be hosting and training, with support from a yoga teacher and some surprises in the mix too…