Over on a recent Reddit thread, several users shared advice on how they cope with their fear of death by squats. According to one Redditor — who said they broke a rib while squatting—using a spotter can help. But the easiest thing to do is to practice failing and to do so in a squat rack, as other users echoed in the comments.
First, find your squat depth and set the safety bars low enough so that you can still reach that depth (without hitting the safeties with every rep), but high enough so you can dump the barbell (without your back rounding in the process). “If the rack has small enough increments, you can put them in a position so that they are just a little (like one inch) below the bar when you are at the lowest point of your squat,” u/uvbob writes.
And practice a failed squat; descend slowly and let the weight fall onto the safeties. “You can and probably should practice this a few times with a sub-maximal weight so that you don’t have to figure it out while trapped under a heavy bar,” u/brightlinger writes. In other words, don’t practice a failed squat using the same weight you’d use to test your one-rep max. You could even try failing with the barbell by itself.
Avoid falling forward because you really don’t want the barbell to roll over your neck or head, though the safeties will protect you. Think of the correct motion like sitting in a chair; this video demonstrates how to do it best. (If you’re front squatting, the same rules apply, though you won’t have to worry about the barbell rolling over your neck or head unless you literally bend over backward.)
The next time you squat, you’ll fear failure a lot less now that you’re comfortable with the motion. If you still have lingering concerns, instead of using your running shoes, try a pair of lifting shoes. These shoes will provide extra support and make you feel a lot more stable at the bottom of your squat. And if you want to feel safe, always use a squat rack; the safeties will help you in a bind.