Squats 101 – How To Do Squats Properly Charushila Biswas Hyderabd040-395603080 December 19, 2019

Squats are the best functional exercise. The compound movements target major muscle groups in your body and help strengthen the calves, quads, adductors, hamstrings, lower back, core, and glutes. But if you are a beginner or are not squatting properly, you may run the risk of injuring your knees and back. In this article, you will learn, practice, and master squats in a few simple steps. You will also learn how to do modified versions of squats to lose weight and shape up. Let’s begin and see how to do squats properly!

Contents

The Beginner’s Guide To A Perfect Squat

Things You Need To Squat

  • Comfortable clothes
  • Training shoes
  • Headband and/or hair band

How To Squat Properly

Step 1: Starting Position

Stand tall, with your back straight, feet a little more than hip-width apart and in a straight line, toes pointing slightly out (about 5-20 degrees), shoulders relaxed, and chest lifted. Look straight, with the arms extended in front of you, and squeeze your glutes so that your pelvic region is in symmetry with the imaginary straight line drawn from your left foot to the right.

Step 2: Start Squatting

Look straight ahead, keep your back straight, and engage your core. Inhale, push your buttocks out, and start bending your knees. Your weight should be on your heels and NOT on your toes.

Step 3: Full Squat

Push your buttocks out and look straight ahead. Sit down with your body weight on your heels. Your knees should not overshoot your toes. Go down until your hip joints are lower than your knees. Yes, this is the correct full squat. If your hip joints are not below the level of your knees, it’s a partial squat.

Step 4: Hold

Keep your arms in front of you or grasp your right wrist with your left hand, and look straight. Make sure your pelvic region is in alignment with the toes, and your knees are not overshooting the toes. Your hips need to be pushed back, core tight, and glutes squeezed. Hold this pose for 3 seconds.

Step 5: Getting Back Up

Exhale and start getting back up. Keep the body weight on your heels, shoulders pinched backward, and chest up. Push your hips forward and squeeze your glutes. Keep your legs straight.

Step 6: Repeat

Again, inhale and go down to the squat position. Hold for 3 seconds, and come back up.

Tip: Be slow when you are learning how to squat. There’s no hurry. Squatting correctly is more important than doing 3 sets of 30 squats.

So, you see, squatting is not rocket science. You just need to be patient, observant, and open to unlearn the wrong squatting technique that you were following. Now, before we move on, I would like to introduce you to the advanced level of squats. You can do these exercises as part of your full body exercise routine, but make sure you do them correctly.

8 Squats For Full Body To Burn Calories

1. Pulse Squat

Shutter stock

Target

Quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, calves, adductors, and core.

Duration – 7 mins

Steps

  1. Stand straight with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, toes slightly pointing out, shoulders pinched back, chest forward, and hands in front of you.
  2. Inhale and push your hips out and squat down and keep your body weight on your heels. Make sure your hip joints are a little lower than your knees, and your knees do not overshoot your toes.
  3. Now, instead of coming back up, pulse in the squatting pose – go up and down at frequent intervals.
  4. Pulse and count to 10.
  5. Exhale and slowly get back up to the starting position.
  6. Do 2 sets of 5 reps. Increase the reps and sets as you advance.

2. Explosive Squat

Shutter stock

Target

Quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, calves, adductors, core, lats, biceps, and neck muscles.

Duration – 7 mins

Steps

  1. Stand straight with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, toes slightly pointing out, shoulders pinched back, chest forward, and hands in front of you.
  2. Inhale and push your hips out and squat down. Keep your body weight on your heels. Make sure your hip joints are a little lower than your knees, and your knees do not overshoot your toes.
  3. Now, get back up from the squatting position and before you fully stand up, propel your body into a jump. Simultaneously, lower your hands to the sides to help propel your body up.
  4. Land softly on your feet, move your hands from the side to the front, bend your knees a little, and go down to a squat pose again.
  5. Do 2 sets of 10 reps. Increase the reps and sets as you advance.

3. Squat Jump Forward And Back

Shutter stock

Target

Quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, calves, adductors, chest, and core.

Duration – 10 mins

Steps

  1. Stand straight with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, toes slightly pointing out, shoulders pinched back, and chest forward. Clasp both the hands together, and keep the elbows slightly bent.
  2. Inhale and push your hips out and squat down, keeping your body weight on your heels. Make sure your hip joints are a little lower than your knees, and your knees do not overshoot your toes.
  3. Get back up from the squat pose and squeeze your glutes.
  4. Jump forward and back, keeping your legs in the same stance and toes pointing out. Make sure to land smoothly on your feet.
  5. Once you have jumped forward and back, inhale and squat again.
  6. Do 2 sets of 10 reps. Increase the reps and sets as you advance.

4. Plie/Sumo Squats

Shutter stock

Target

Adductors, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, calves, core, and back.

Duration – 5 mins

Steps

  1. Stand straight with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointing out (45 degrees), shoulders pinched back, and chest forward. Clasp both the hands together, and keep the elbows slightly bent.
  2. Inhale, push your hips out and squat down, and keep your body weight on your heels. Make sure your hip joints are a little lower than your knees, and your knees do not overshoot your toes.
  3. Hold this pose for 2 seconds.
  4. Exhale and get back up to the starting position.
  5. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
  6. As you advance, you can also do explosive plie/sumo squats or use a kettlebell to make it little more challenging.

5. Squat With Bicep Curls

Target

Duration – 7 mins

Steps

  1. Stand straight with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, toes slightly pointing out, shoulders pinched back, chest forward, and elbows slightly bent.
  2. Hold 5.5-pound dumbbells in your hands. Bring your elbows close to the torso. Your palms must face forward, and hands must lie by the sides of your body.
  3. Inhale and push your hips out and squat down. Keep your body weight on your heels. Make sure your hip joints are a little lower than your knees, and your knees do not overshoot your toes. As you continue to do squats with weights, lift your forearm until the dumbbells almost touch your shoulders. Remember to keep your upper arms stationary.
  4. Hold this pose for 1 second.
  5. Exhale, get back up, lower your forearm and come back to the starting position.
  6. Do 3 sets of 10 reps. Increase the reps, sets, and weight as you advance.

6. Squat With Overhead Press

Target

Quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, calves, adductors, chest, core, back, biceps, shoulders, and lats.

Duration – 10 mins

Steps

  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly pointing out, shoulders pinched back, chest forward, and hold 5.5- pound dumbbells with your arms lifted and leveled with your shoulders. Your forearms should be at a right angle with the upper arms.
  2. Inhale and push your hips out and squat down, keeping your body weight on your heels. Make sure your hip joints are a little lower than your knees, and your knees do not overshoot your toes. As you squat, extend your arms up and directly above your head.
  3. Now, exhale and slowly get up from the squat pose, flex your elbows, and bring your arms back to the starting position.
  4. Do 2 sets of 10 reps. Increase the reps, sets, and weight as you advance.

7. Barbell Sumo Squat

Shutter stock

Target

Duration – 10 mins

Steps

  1. Position yourself inside a squat rack. Load the bar with weights on either side while it is still on the rack. Now, step under it and place it across the back of the shoulders, slightly below the rear deltoids. Hold the bar with your hands, palms facing forward and elbows close to your torso.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades and rotate your elbows forward. Position your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and squeeze your glutes. Your chest must be out, spine neutral, knees slightly bent, and toes pointing out.
  3. Remove the barbell from the rack. Push your hips backward and squat down. Continue going down until your hip joints are slightly lower than knees. Your knees should not overshoot your toes, and the entire weight should be on your heels. Inhale as you go down.
  4. Exhale and get back up to the starting position.
  5. Do 2 sets of 5 reps. Increase the reps, sets, and weight as you advance.

8. Goblet Squat

Target

Glutes, core, quads, hamstrings, lower back, and shoulders.

Duration – 7 mins

Steps

  1. Stand straight with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, toes slightly pointing out, shoulders pinched back, chest forward, and the elbows slightly bent.
  2. Hold a 5.5-pound dumbbell with both your hands in front, close to your chest. Keep your elbows close to the torso and body weight on your heels.
  3. Inhale and push your hips out and squat down. Make sure your hip joints are a little lower than your knees, and your knees should not overshoot your toes.
  4. Hold this pose for a second.
  5. Exhale and come back up to the starting position.
  6. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

These are the 8 different variations of squats that you can do to tone your body and shed the fat. As you practice more, you will get better, and squatting will become easier. Here’s a list of benefits that you get by squatting regularly.

Benefits Of Squats

  • Help burn the fat.
  • Tone the muscles.
  • Build muscle strength.
  • Make real-life activities much easier.
  • Improve stamina.
  • Prevent injuries.
  • Help flush out the toxins.
  • Improve blood circulation.
  • Help to get rid of cellulite.
  • Increase flexibility.
  • Help build core strength.
  • Improve posture.
  • Strengthen the bones and joints.

To conclude, anyone can squat, but doing it properly is what you should aim for. Follow the instructions to know how to squat and master this simple yet high impact exercise. So, get up and squat down to get a fabulous and fit body. Cheers!

FAQs

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How many calories will I burn by squatting?

Use this simple formula: number of squats * your body weight (plus dumbbells’ weight if you are using them)* 0.096. This will give you how many calories you can burn by squatting.

Is doing squats bad for your knees?

Yes, if you do it incorrectly. Squats should be done properly to prevent knee or back injuries. Follow the instructions given in the article to find out how to squat correctly.

How do squats help with lower back pain?

If you are suffering from lower back pain, talk to a doctor to find out if you are allowed to squat or do any other exercise. Lower back pain should be treated with regular physiotherapy, yoga, medical treatment.

How do squats help in weight loss?

Squats burn a considerable amount of calories, which helps shed the fat and build muscle. As you build muscle, your metabolic rate improves, which, in turn, helps burn the stored fat.

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Charushila Biswas

Charushila Biswas is a Senior Content Writer and an ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist. She is an alumni of VIT University, Vellore and has worked on transgenic wheat as a part of her Masters dissertation from NRCPB (IARI), New Delhi. After completing her Masters, she developed a passion for nutrition and fitness, which are closely related to human psychology. And that prompted her to author a review article in 2015. She has written over 200 articles on Fitness and Nutrition. In her leisure time, Charushila loves to cook and enjoys mobile photography.

Squats are like the LBD of your butt and leg workouts. They’re a total staple, and they make your bod look amazing.

But squats aren’t just great for your booty: They strengthen pretty much every muscle in your lower body, including your thighs, core, calves, glutes, hamstrings, and abs—assuming you do them right, of course.

Here’s how to do a classic squat

First, stand tall with your feet spread shoulder-width apart. Bend your legs and lower your hips toward the floor, making sure to not let your knees collapse inward while you’re doing so. Return to stand while squeezing your glutes. That’s one rep.

Now that you know how to do a standard squat, consider adding some squat variations to the mix; each type of squat below works your muscles in different ways for max lower-body benefits.

Time: 15 minutes

Equipment: None

Good for: Lower body

Instructions: Choose three moves below. For each move, do the indicated number of reps, then continue to the next move. Repeat the entire three-move circuit two to three times.

These moves are demo’d by trainers Lauren Kanski, Tatiana Lampa, Anna Victoria, Lacey Stone, Judine St. Gerard, Bree Branker, and Roxie Jones.

1. Goblet Squat

How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a kettlebell in front of your chest, elbows pointing toward the floor. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat. Return to start. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps.

2. Bulgarian Split Squat

How to: Stand about two feet in front of a step; extend your right leg back and place the top of your foot on the step. (Optional: Hold a dumbbell in each hand.) That’s your starting position. Bend your knees to lower your body as far as you can (or until your knee gently taps the ground), keeping your shoulders back, chest up, and hips facing forward. Pause, then press through your left heel to return to start. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps on each side.

3. Cossak Squat With Overhead Press

How to: Begin by standing up straight, with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and a kettlebell in each hand. Rack the kettlebells in front of your chest, and then raise your right arm straight into the air. Lift your left foot and take a large step to the left, then sit your hips back and lower down until your thighs are nearly parallel to the floor. Straighten your left leg and rise back up. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps on each side.

4. Kang Squat

How to: Stand up straight with your feet wider than hip-distance apart, toes pointed slightly outward. Place your hands behind your head. Hinge at your hips and lower your torso down until it is nearly parallel with the ground. Then, sit your hips back and bend at the knees until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Push through your heels and reverse the movement, returning to stand. That’s one rep. Complete 12 to 15 reps.

5. Modified Pistol Squat

How to: Sit on a chair with a dumbbell held in both hands in front of your chest. Lift your right foot so it’s hovering above the floor. Push through your left heel and rise up to standing on one leg, while bringing your right leg up to a 90-degree angle at hip height. Reverse the movement and lower back to start. That’s one rep. Complete 12 to 15 reps on each side.

6. Pistol Squat With Medicine Ball

How to: Stand on your left leg. The other should be bent with your right foot in line with your opposite knee. Hold a medicine ball in front of your chest. Extend your right leg and press the ball in front of you as you lower your body down as far as you can go. Driving through your left heel, stand up and bring the ball back to your chest. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps on each side.

7. Lateral Step Out Squat

How to: Stand up straight with a resistance band wrapped just below your knees. Clasp your hands in front of your chest. Take a big step to the right, then bend your knees, sit back, and lower until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Engage your glutes and press back up through your heels to your starting position. Repeat on the other side. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps.

8. Squat To Press And Twist

How to: Hold dumbbells at shoulder height, elbows bent, and palms facing each other. Sit your hips back and lower down into a squat position. As you rise up, press the weights overhead and rotate your torso to one side. Lower back into a squat, then repeat the twist on the opposite side. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps.

9. Isometric Squat

How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands clasped in front of your chest. Push your hips back and bend your knees until your thighs are nearly parallel to the ground. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

10. Curl To Squat And Press

How to: Get into a low squat position, with a kettlebell in each hand. Curl the weights up until they’re racked on your shoulders. Then, press through your heels and drive your body up to a standing position, using the momentum to lift the kettlebells overhead in the same motion. Lower back to your starting position. That’s one rep. Complete 15 reps.

11. Squat To Overhead Press

How to: Start in a standing position with feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Hold a kettlebell in each hand racked on your shoulders. Lower your body down in to a squat. Then, keeping your core tight and torso upright, straighten your legs and press the weight overhead until your arms are straight, rotating your palms to face forward. That’s one rep. Complete 15 reps.

12. Plié Squat

How to: Stand with your legs about two feet apart, legs turned out so your inner thighs are pointed forward, hands clasped in front of your chest. Bend your knees and sink your tailbone toward the floor (keeping your pelvis tucked and trying not to stick your butt out). Continue lowering yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Return back to start. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps.

13. Squat and Lunge

How to: Start in a standing position with your hands clasped in front of your chest. Lower down into a squat, making sure to keep your knees over your ankles not your toes. Come back to start. Take a large step forward with your left foot and lower down toward the ground allowing both legs to bend to approximately 90 degrees. Return to start. That’s one rep. Do 15 on each side.

14. Side-To-Side Squat Jump

How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms by your sides. Lower into a squat, then, swing your arms behind you and use the momentum to hop to the right, landing in a squat. Jump back to start. That’s one rep. Do 15 on each side.

15. Lateral Squat Walk

How to: Start in a squat position. Maintaining a tight core, step your left foot out to the side, followed by your right. Then reverse the movement, trying to stay low and keep your head level the whole time. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps. (Place a mini band around your thighs for a greater challenge.)

16. Squat Pulse

How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands clasped in front of your chest. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat. Lift your body up a couple of inches, then lower back down. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps.

17. Squat Jump

How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes slightly turned out, with your knees tracking over your second and third toes, and your hands clasped in front of your chest. Bend your knees, then explosively jump as high as you can. Land softly on the balls of your feet and immediately lower into your next squat. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps.

18. Wide-Leg Sumo Squat

How to: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart, then turn your toes open. Bend your knees, push your hips back, and lower down into a squat until your hips are slightly below the level of your knees. Pause at the bottom, then drive into your heels to stand up. That’s one rep. Do 20 reps.

19. Sumo Squat With Pulse On Toes

How to: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out. Lift your heels, so your weight is in the balls of your feet. Bend your knees, push your hips back, and lower down into a squat until your hips are slightly below the level of your knees. Pause at the bottom, then drive into your heels to lift two inches higher. Lower back down. That’s one rep. Do 20 reps.

20. Sumo Squat Jack

How to: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart, toes slightly turned out. Bend your knees and sit your hips back to lower your body until your knees are bent nearly 90 degrees, with your arms crossed in front of your chest. From that position, jump your legs in to meet each other, lifting your arms straight up overhead. Immediately jump back to your squat position. That’s one rep. Do 20 reps.

21. Spiderman Lunge And Squat

How to: Get into a high plank position with your hands placed directly under your shoulders. Bend your right leg and bring your foot outside your right hand. Then repeat on the left side. Lift your torso to until your upright in a low squat with your hands clasped in front of your chest. Hold this position for two seconds. Then, place your hands down in front of you, and jump your feet back to high plank. That’s one rep. Do 20 reps.

You may not realize it, but you squat almost every day. You might squat when you grab something from the bottom drawer of your dresser or when you go to pick up your kid. But doing a squat for the purpose of building muscle and controlling your body is something that requires a little more thought. For starters, make sure that you’re not doing these 7 exercises that actually work against you, including squats on a Bosu Ball.

Maurice Williams, owner and head personal trainer of Move Well Fitness in Washington, D.C., says that doing a squat correctly depends on the makeup of your body. “Things such as limb length, flexibility, and past or current injuries can dictate how you squat,” says Williams.

The two muscles to keep in mind when doing a squat are your calves and hips. Making sure that they are stretched and warmed up before you start doing squats is essential. “They are responsible for helping your butt muscles move in and out of the squat. If they are not flexible, your form could be on shaky ground, which could lead to injuries,” says Williams.

To learn how to perfect your form, the National Academy of Sports Medicine outlines these steps to performing the ideal squat:

Tatiana Ayazo/Rd.com

  1. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward, your back straight, and your head up with your eyes forward
  2. Squeeze your glutes and push your shoulder blades towards your spine
  3. Descend as though you are sitting in a chair, keeping the knees aligned over the second and/or third toes
  4. Stand back up keeping your glutes engaged and your eyes forward; repeat for as many reps as you want

“You should be able to lower your body down with your feet flat on the floor until the crease of your hips is in line with your knees,” says Doug Sklar, owner and personal trainer at PhilanthroFit in New York, New York. “It’s ok if you can’t go that far when you start–work with your range of motion until you develop the strength and mobility to lower even more.” The reason you need to focus on form so much is to prevent injury, says Sklar. “Leaning too far forwards places excessive strain on your lower back. And your knees falling inwards can cause problems as well,” he says.

If you are having trouble maintaining this body position as you squat, there are a few things you can do. Most importantly, get some external support, says Sklar. Do a squat while holding onto TRX (or suspension system) straps, so you’re supported as you sink down and pull yourself back up. You can also do a squat to a bench or chair. Place the box/bench/chair behind you at a height that allows you to lower your hips, tap your butt, and stand up. This should challenge you, but still allow you to stand back up.

It’s important to know how to do a squat properly so that you not only get the most out of it. So now that you know how your body should look and what muscles you should be working, try incorporating this technique into the squats you do in your everyday life. When you’re ready to switch it up, try this line-up of squat exercises to tone your body. Just remember the proper form as you work through each variation.

UYP: Stop Turning Your Squat into a Good Morning

Technique is tough. Yeah, I know the squat, bench press, and deadlift are “basics,” but the truth is, performing those lifts optimally can be really complicated! By optimal, I mean not only safe and effective, but also efficient. Someone who uses optimal technique will be able to lift more weight, more easily, than someone who’s equally strong but maybe has some minor flaws in their technique. This series of articles is about finding and fixing those flaws.

The first thing that you need to understand is simple: everything about technique is individual. Optimal technique is based on a combination of muscular strengths and weaknesses, leverages, goals, and much more. So it’s difficult or maybe even impossible to offer recommendations about fixing a specific issue without working with someone in person. Even watching videos can only give you so much information about what’s really going on.

However, just approaching from a more nuanced view can be really useful, so in this series of articles, I’m going to break down some common problems and explain how you might go about changing your technique or habits. Note that you’re going to get mostly starting points out of these pieces, not exact answers, for the reason I explained above.

Hips Shooting Up

I can’t think of a better place to start than what’s probably the most common frustration in the squat: when your hips shoot up before your chest. You nail your descent, start to come out of the hole, and it feels like the bar’s moving — but it’s not. You’re actually turning the lift into a bastardized good morning, by allowing your butt to rise, but not your shoulders. All that energy from your hips is lost because it’s not used to move the bar. Maybe worse: it’s used instead to put your body in a comprised position.

The answer most people (especially internet gurus will give you) is straightforward: the glutes aren’t firing, so you need to do box squats, or hip thrusts, or any other amount of posterior chain work. And to be fair, that’s often the right approach. But not always. Greg Nuckols gives a great example of how something else might be the culprit, and I totally agree with him in this case — but I think you need to go a step further. Here’s how to do it.

Starting from Square One

Just like all your muscle groups need to work together, all elements of technique need to feed into each other. For that reason, so you can’t just look at your problems out of the hole and expect to find a solution that results in the perfect squat. You need to start from square one and address your technique as a whole, so that you can understand how one change might affect the rest of the movement.

We’ve already established the glutes may be the culprit, but ultimately, the goal is to extend the hip and knee evenly as you initiate the ascent. Let’s look at a few of the other reasons why you might be failing to do that:

  • Muscular imbalance. You’re naturally going to try to put your body in a position where it feels the strongest. This is where the glutes come in: if your lower back is overpowering, you’re going to try to change the squat into a good morning so that you can use your lower back to lever the bar up, even if that’s not efficient from a mechanical standpoint. But there are other possible weaknesses, too: for example, like Greg explained, if your quads are weak, you still might shoot your hips up because you’re not strong enough to extend your knee in the hole. Balance is the key, and we can’t point to one single weak muscle group.
  • An unfavorable bar path. This really gets at your literal ability to balance the load during the descent to set yourself up for a successful ascent. If you shift your bodyweight all the way forward onto your toes during the descent, you’ll already be leaning forward when you get in the hole, and there’s no way you’ll be able to stand up without some type of technique breakdown. In fact, if you review your own training videos, you’ll see this breakdown as a curve in your bar path as you come up. This is why we cue to feel your weight over your midfoot.
    (Incidentally, this is also part of the reason I think too many people use weightlifting shoes to squat. The raised heel encourages shifting your bodyweight slightly forward of the midfoot. I often suggest that lifters who have problems with hips shooting on the squat use flat-soled shoes.)
  • Habit. Even if you’re a very balanced athlete, you might not always have been that way. Maybe you learned some bad habits when you were just starting out because of muscular weaknesses you had as a beginner, and you’ve stuck to those ways even as an advanced athlete. This is often the hardest underlying issue to correct, because you’ll usually be able to keep perfect form at even a moderately high percentage of your one-rep max, and things don’t fall apart until you’re pushing to your absolute limit. And, because you can’t train productively by pushing to your absolute max all the time, it’s hard to get the practice you need to change those habits.

Now, keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of the reasons you might be struggling in your squat. But I do believe these three issues are among the most common, and the ones that you consider first when you’re analyzing your own technique.

So How Do You Fix It?

This is where the “starting point” thing comes in, and this section might seem a little vague. Don’t get frustrated by that: one of the biggest challenges in getting stronger involves learning about your own body, but that makes it so much more rewarding when you do figure things out.

First, and as always, you must start with small changes. This goes back to the logic behind starting from square one: there’s simply no way to know in advance how one small change is going to affect your squat, perhaps in unintended ways. For example, if you were to try to widen your stance to recruit more glute out of the hole, you might end up exacerbating the problem because with your heeled squat shoes, you’re not able to “sit back” onto the posterior chain while keeping your weight over your midfoot. And, if you switch to a wider stance in flat shoes all at once, you might struggle because of weak glutes, or you might struggle because of poor ankle mobility — but you won’t necessarily know which is the case.

While I can’t give perfect solutions, I can recommend a few specific small changes to address the issues above.

  • If you’re dealing with a muscular imbalance, don’t change your technique at all. Instead, start with adding in isolation exercises to address those weaknesses. I like this approach because strengthening an individual weak muscle is fairly straightforward, while adjusting technique is complicated.

  • For similar reasons, if you’re struggling with an unfavorable bar path, I’d suggest starting with a simple mobility routine before attempting to change technique. Oftentimes, issues with finding the proper positions stem from an inability to get into those positions in the first place, and once you resolve the underlying issue, your technique will naturally evolve into something more efficient. On the other hand, if you try to adjust your technique without fixing the underlying issues, you might never be able to find something truly optimal.
  • For fixing poor habits, I strongly recommend taking the high-rep approach, because it will allow you to both get in more work with perfect technique and push yourself to the max without using very high intensities, which tend to beat the body up. The key is to make sure that you actually use perfect technique on every rep, and not sacrifice technique for the sake of cranking out a couple of extra reps. This takes an extraordinary amount of discipline, and the truth is, you’ll probably never get it perfect — but the more you strive towards that, the quicker you’ll correct the underlying issue.

Finally, remember that we’re taking a long-term approach here. Our ultimate goal requires understanding how one change is going to affect your technique as a whole — at both light weights and with true one-rep maxes. That simply can’t be accomplished in one session. And, for that reason, keep an open mind. Reach out to everyone, because there is no one right answer, so you never know where you’ll find your solution.

One Last Note: Is It Even a Problem?

While it’s true that shooting the hips up is rarely optimal from a technique standpoint, that’s not a universal truth. If you’re a very advanced athlete, there’s a good chance that you’ve built up some strengths that are so overpowering that it’s not practical to try to truly balance them. By the time you made that much progress, your competitive career might be over. Or maybe you’re so genetically predisposed to a particular muscle group or motion that you’ll never be able to change those through training.

This is very rarely the case, but it is a possibility, and it’s important to consider because it highlights how everything is individual.

Finally, if you’re struggling with a problem in your technique, I really recommend that you give the advice in this article a shot, but recognize also that a lot of technique issues resolve themselves if you simply get stronger. And the best way to get stronger – at least in my opinion – is by unfucking your programming. So if you’re really looking to start at square one, or if this approach really appeals to you, make sure to join the course!

If you’re the type of person who squats with an excessive forward lean then you may be limiting the amount of weight you can ultimately lift. In addition, an excessive forward lean can increase the sheer force of your low and mid-back, which may increase your risk of injury.

So how do you fix leaning forward when squatting? There are five solutions to fixing a forward lean when squatting: (1) getting your upper back tighter before unracking the barbell, (2) activating your feet to find your balance, (3) building up your quad strength, (4) building up your upper back strength, and (5) stretching your hips.

I’ve worked with over 120 National-level powerlifters to optimize their squat form, including helping lifters correct an excessive forward lean. I’m going to explain whether leaning forward in the squat is a bad thing or not, some of the potential reasons why you lean forward, and the five fail-proof solutions to stop leaning forward while squatting.

Should You Be Leaning Forward When Squatting? (Is it Good or Bad)

What you need to understand about your torso while squatting is that there isn’t an exact angle that is going to work for everyone.

Rather than an exact angle, it’s more of a range that is considered optimal. For example, it’s not realistic to say that a 45-degree torso angle is ideal for everyone. Each person is going to be built slightly different, which is going to warrant a slightly different position when squatting.

Based on your leverages, the proportions between your torso and leg lengths, you will have either more or less forward torso lean. Neither the ‘more forward’ or ‘less forward’ torso position is better. It simply depends on how you’re built. Therefore, instead of thinking that you need to squat ‘more upright’, you need to determine, first, whether or not your leverages will allow you to do so.

This is the best video explanation to understand how a person’s leverages impact how far forward they lean in the squat:

How someone’s proportions impact their ability to squat

When is it okay to lean forward in the squat?

There are two scenarios where no matter how much you try to squat upright, you won’t be able to based on your proportions.

  • If you have a really long femur (upper thigh bone) compared with a short tibia (lower leg bone)
  • If you generally have long legs combined with a short torso

If you fit these proportions, then it’s okay to lean forward in the squat.

No matter what recommendations I make in this article on fixing your forward lean, you won’t make any progress. You are simply not built to squat upright.

Therefore, this means you need to have a stronger low and mid-back compared with someone with different proportions when squatting. When planning your exercises, make sure to include a lot of low and mid-back accessory movements.

When is it NOT okay to lean forward in the squat?

There are two scenarios where you should be squatting upright based on your proportions:

  • If you have a really short femur (upper thigh bone) compared with a long tibia (lower leg bone)
  • If you generally have short legs combined with a long torso

If you fit these proportions, then it’s NOT okay to lean forward in the squat, and you should work to correct it.

If you do find yourself leaning too far forward in the squat with these proportions, then you have one of the four issues that I’m going to outline below.

Why Do You Lean Forward While Squatting (4 Reasons)

I’m going to explain 4 reasons why you lean forward while squatting, and then in the next section, I’ll describe the solutions to each of these problems.

Leaning forward when you squat

Reason #1: You lose your balance

When you lose your balance you might feel like you’re falling forward. If this is the case, your torso will begin to lean forward and you will struggle to keep an upright posture.

Losing your balance can be caused by several reasons, including moving your gaze around when squatting (i.e. your eyes), having poor ankle mobility, or having a lack of squatting experience generally.

However, the number one reason why you lose balance and feel like you’re falling forward in the squat is that you haven’t activated your feet. Your feet are the connection to the floor, and without ‘active feet’, you may begin to lean forward when squatting.

Reason #2: You have weak quads

When you have weak quads, you will struggle to maintain an upright posture as you drive out of the bottom of the squat.

At the bottom of the squat, the majority of the loading demand is placed on your knee extensors, so your quads have to work a lot harder to drive the barbell upward. If you have weak quads, your body is going to search for leverage to help assist with this range of motion. In this scenario, you begin to lean forward, which places more loading demand on your hip extensors. As a result, your glutes begin to work a lot harder to compensate for the weak quads.

Therefore, if you find that you can maintain an upright posture squatting on the way down, but out of the bottom position, your hips shoot up and your torso becomes more parallel to the floor, then this is a sign that your quads aren’t’ doing their job properly and there is a lack of strength.

If you’re interested to learn about how specific muscle groups impact your squat technique, read our full guide to the Muscles Used in The Squat. This is not just an article outlining the muscles used, but how your muscles work together to complete the movement.

Reason #3: You have a weak upper back

When you have weak upper back muscles, you will find that your upper back tends to round while squatting, which may also cause you to lean more forward.

When I’m referring to your upper back muscles, I’m specifically talking about the muscles underneath where the bar sits on your back (traps, rhomboids, rear delt, and to some extent, lats).

Image courtesy of Geeky Medics

To understand whether this is the reason why you lean forward when squatting, you need to know what it looks like when you get close to your fatigue limit. For example, if you find that you can maintain an upright position throughout most of your squat reps, but when you get to the end of a set, or you’re attempting a max weight, you notice your posture begin to change.

If this is the case and you find your upper back rounding at the same time as leaning forward more, then this is a reason to believe that you have a weak upper back.

Reason #4: You have tight hips

When you have tight hips, you will struggle to get deeper into the bottom of the squat, which will cause you to lean forward more.

If you keep pushing yourself into a range of motion that your current mobility doesn’t allow, then your body will need to compensate in some way. The most common way that your body will compensate will be to lean forward. You will know if you have this issue because you’ll feel very restricted at your hips and no matter how much you try to get deeper in the squat, you are unable to do so.

If you want to know how to properly warm up your hips, read my Full Guide To Squat Warm-Ups.

5 Fixes To Stop Leaning Forward While Squatting?

Now that I’ve discussed the main reasons why you are leaning forward in the squat, let’s talk about the solutions that you need to implement to start squatting more upright.

The key part of implementing these solutions is not to do every single one.

You need to identify the reason why you are leaning forward based on the previous section, and then only implement the fix that is associated with the given problem.

Fix #1: Cue Your Feet To Find Your Balance

If you can’t stay upright in the squat because you always feel like you’re falling forward/losing balance, then you need to ‘activate your feet’ before squatting.

To ensure you’re balanced while you squat, you need to find the 3-point contact with your feet:

  • Feel your pinky toe
  • Feel your big toe
  • Feel your heel

Feeling the floor with your feet will help you stay more upright in the squat

You want to specifically draw your attention to these parts of your foot, and actively press them into the floor. I like to go one step further and “claw the ground” with my feet where I’m curling my toes into the floor.

By doing this, you will feel more balanced throughout the squat and should be able to maintain a more upright torso.

Fix #2: Build Quad Strength

If your hips are shooting up too quickly out of the bottom of the squat, causing you to lean too far forward, then you need to build your quad strength.

Building your quad strength all comes down to the exercises you choose to implement into your training program. The best exercise I can recommend for building quad strength is the front squat.

Front squatting will help build quad strength

Other quad-dominant exercises that can build quad strength are:

  • Pause Squats
  • Safety Bar Squats
  • Narrow Stance Leg Press
  • Goblet Squat (Heels Elevated)
  • Walking Dumbbell Lunge (Bending Into Front Knee)

Building strength in your quads won’t happen quickly. You’ll need to invest in these exercises for 8-12 weeks before you notice that your torso angle in the barbell back squat is improving.

Read our Front Squat Guide and Pause Squat Guide, which includes step-by-step instructions, tips, benefits, and common mistakes.

Fix #3: Cue Your Upper Back Before Taking The Bar Off The Rack

If the muscles underneath where the barbell sits are not tight enough before you take the bar off the rack, then you’ll be more prone to leaning forward when performing the squat.

Before taking the bar off the rack, actively pull the bar down almost like you’re ‘rowing the bar’ into your upper back. At the same time, you should be squeezing your hands strong and making sure that the connection between your upper back and the bar is as tight as possible. Once you’re set, take the bar up and out of the rack, and walk back into your starting stance.

If you’re interested in learning the most optimal position for the bar to sit on your back, read our full guide HERE.

Fix #4: Build Upper Back Strength

Regardless of whether you cue your upper back muscles or not, if those muscles are weak, then you’ll still have a problem leaning too far forward in the squat.

Developing your upper back strength will require you to choose the right exercises to implement into your training program. The best exercises I can recommend for building upper back strength are:

  • Wide Grip Pull-Ups (Assisted or Weighted)
  • Wide Grip Pendlay Rows (Reset on the floor each rep to avoid heaving the weight)
  • Wide Grip Seated Rows (Pulling high on your chest and keeping your elbows ‘out’)
  • Snatch Grip Barbell Shrugs
  • Incline Dumbell Reverse Fly

Like any muscular weakness, you need to stick with targetted exercises for 8-12 weeks before you notice any meaningful improvement.

Fix # 5: Stretch Your Hip Flexor Muscles

If your hips are too tight and you notice that you have problems getting deep into your squat, then you’re more than likely going to compensate by leaning too far forward.

The best approach to increasing your hip flexibility is to implement a static stretching routine post-exercise. Static stretching is when you hold a stretch anywhere from 30-seconds to 2-minutes in a passive nature.

The best hip flexor stretch is the rear foot elevated hip flexor stretch.

Rear foot elevated hip flexor stretch

Feel free to incorporate any series of hip and groin stretches; however, the important part is to be consistent with them and only perform post-exercise (not before).

If you struggle with squat depth, read my 9 Tips To Squat Deeper.

Final Thoughts

If you are leaning too far forward in the squat, you need to identify the underlying reason why it’s happening and then select the appropriate intervention to correct your form. None of the fixes are quick, and you’ll need to stick with it over the course of 8-12 weeks to see any meaningful changes. Remember, some people just simply don’t have the leverages to squat upright. If that’s the case, implement some additional low and mid back strengthening work so that you’re stronger in a ‘bent over’ position.

1. Crossover Lunge

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand or a medicine ball. Extend your arms down at your sides if you are holding dumbbells or hold the medicine ball in front of you with arms extended.
  • Take a large step diagonally forward with your right foot, planting your foot at the 11 o’clock position. Sink down until your thighs form right angles. As you bend your knees, curl the dumbbells toward your upper arms or the medicine ball toward your chest.
  • Extend your legs, lift your right knee and bring it in toward your chest, and lower your arms. Step back with your right leg, this time lunging behind your torso and stepping back to the 8 o’clock position. As you sink down into the reverse lunge, complete another bicep curl. This completes one rep.

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2. Dumbbell Walking Lunges

  • Stand upright, feet together, with 10-pound dumbbells at your side. Take a controlled step forward with your left leg, lowering your hips toward the floor by bending both knees to 90-degree angles. Your back knee should point toward but not touch the ground, and your front knee should be directly over your ankle.
  • Press your left heel into the ground, and push off with your right foot to bring your right leg forward, stepping with control into a lunge on the other side. This completes one repetition.

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3. Single-Leg Bridges

  • Lie on your back and place your hands on the floor for stability as you bend one leg and lift the other leg off the ground.
  • Pressing your heel into the floor, lift your pelvis up, keeping your body in a stiff bridge position.
  • Slowly lower your body to the floor. This completes one rep.

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4. Romanian Dead Lifts

  • Stand holding a pair of medium-weight dumbbells in each hand, arms at your sides, with your knees slightly bent.
  • Keeping your arms straight and knees slightly bent, slowly bend at your hip joint (not your waist) and lower the weights as far as possible without rounding your back, which should remain straight.
  • Now squeeze your glutes to slowly pull yourself up (don’t use your back). This counts as one rep.

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5. Deadlift With a Knee Drive

  • If you’re a beginner, you can do this exercise without weight. For more advanced levels, grab a set of dumbbells. Ten pounds is a good starting point.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and stand tall.
  • Engage your core and keep your spine neutral as you begin to hinge at your hips, pushing your hips backward. At the same time, lift your left leg off the ground. Be sure to keep your left foot dorsiflexed (don’t point your toes). Continue to hinge at your hips until your back is parallel to the ground; your leg should be in line with your back. Your back should be flat, and your head/neck should be in a neutral position.
  • Return to your standing position without placing your left foot on the ground. Once you’re upright, drive your left knee up, creating a 90-degree angle at your knee joint. Your left foot should still be dorsiflexed. Be sure to stay tall and keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement. This counts as one rep.
  • Complete three sets of 10 reps on each leg.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Tamara Pridgett

6. Single-Leg Squats

  • Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and raise your right leg, flexing your right ankle and pushing your hips back.
  • Lower your body while keeping your right leg raised (a squat with one leg). Keep your knees behind your toes and your heels firmly on the floor.
  • Hold and then return to standing. This completes one rep.
  • You can use a bench to squat/sit on to work your way toward doing the single-leg squat if needed.

Image Source: Unsplash / Jakob Owens

7. Bulgarian Split Squat

  • Grab a pair of 10-pound dumbbells. Begin by placing the toes of your left foot on a bench, box, stair, or chair, with your right leg straight.
  • Make sure your right foot is out far enough so that when you lower your hips, your knee stays directly over your ankle.
  • Bend your right knee, squeeze your left glute, and lower your pelvis toward the ground.
  • Press your right heel into the ground to straighten your right knee. This completes one repetition.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Tamara Pridgett

8. Glute Kickback

  • Adjust the carriage so that it’s at the bottom of the cable machine. Place the ankle strap attachment around your left ankle, and then attach it to the machine. You should be facing the pulley.
  • Next, select a weight that will challenge you — 10 to 20 pounds is a great starting point. As you begin to become more comfortable with the movement, feel free to increase the weight.
  • Step one to two feet away from the pulley, and place your hands on the frame to maintain your balance.
  • With a slight bend in your knees and your core engaged, kick your left leg back as high as it can go. Hold for one second, then return it to the starting position with control. This counts as one rep.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Tamara Pridgett

9. Leg Press

  • Before getting started, add weight to the machine. 25-35 pound plates on each side is a good starting point. If this is too heavy or too light feel free to adjust the weight.
  • Sit on the seat and place your feet hips-width apart on the footplate.
  • Once your feet are in place, press the footplate with both feet as you simultaneously disengage the safety latches on the side of the seat with your hands.
  • With your feet still on the footplate, bend your knees letting the footplate come toward your body. Once your knees are at a 90-degree angle, press the footplate up and straighten your legs. Be sure not to lock your knees.
  • This counts as one rep.
  • Once you’ve completed a set, press the footplate and engage the safety latches.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Tamara Pridgett

10. Traditional Bridge Exercise

  • On your mat, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Be sure and keep your feet underneath your knees, not in front. Plant your palms by each side, face down.
  • Raise your hips up to the ceiling, tensing your abs and squeezing your butt as you do. You should be making a long diagonal line with your body, from shoulders to knees.
  • Hold for a few seconds, making sure your spine doesn’t round and your hips don’t sag. Keep your abs and butt muscles engaged.
  • Lower down to the ground; this is considered one rep.

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11. Hex Bar Dead Lift

  • Load the hex bar with the weight of your choice. If you’re new to the move, start by just using the bar without any additional weight.
  • Stand in the center of the hex bar with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Bend at your hips and knees as you grab the handles of the hex bar. Raise your hips up slightly, keeping your back flat, to create tension in the back of your legs (your hamstrings will feel tight).
  • Keeping your back flat and shoulders relaxed, drive your heels through the ground as you stand straight up.
  • Squeeze your glutes at the top of the lift to ensure you get full hip extension.
  • Continue to grasp the handles as you lower the weight to the ground with control. Be sure to keep your chest open and your back flat. This counts as one repetition.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Tamara Pridgett

12. Cable Machine Romanian Deadlift

  • Adjust the carriage so that it’s at the bottom of the cable machine. Attach a triceps rope handle to the pulley on the carriage of a cable station. You should be facing the pulley.
  • Next, select the amount of resistance you want — 20 to 30 pounds is a great starting point. As you begin to become more comfortable with the movement, feel free to increase the weight.
  • Facing the pulley, grab the rope, and step approximately three feet away from the machine.
  • With a slight bend in your knees, slowly bend at your hips (this is a hinge movement pattern) as you simultaneously extend your arms forward. Your core should be engaged, and your back should be flat.
  • Then squeeze your glutes to stand back up as you simultaneously pull your elbows back (like you’re performing a bent-over row). Pull with power, and continue to squeeze your glutes at the top to get full hip extension. Be sure to keep your core engaged.
  • This counts as one rep.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Tamara Pridgett

13. Weighted Glute Bridge

  • Grab a medium to heavy dumbbell; 20 pounds is a great starting point. You can also do this exercise using just your bodyweight.
  • On your mat, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Be sure to keep your feet underneath your knees, not in front. Place the dumbbell on top of your lower abdominals (below your belly button and above your hip bones). Hold the dumbbell in place with both hands to prevent it from moving.
  • Raise your hips up to the ceiling, tensing your abs and squeezing your butt as you do. You should be making a long diagonal line with your body, from shoulders to knees.
  • Hold for three seconds, making sure your spine doesn’t round and your hips don’t sag. Keep your abs and butt muscles engaged.
  • Lower down to the ground; this is considered one rep.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Tamara Pridgett

14. Forward Backward Lunge

  • Stand with the feet together.
  • Put weight on the left foot, lift your right knee up, and step into a forward lunge. The front knee should be at a 90-degree angle with the left knee just barely hovering above the ground.
  • Push into your right heel, come to stand, and immediately step the right foot behind you into a reverse lunge with the left knee at a 90-degree angle.
  • This counts as one rep.

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15. Barbell Hip Thrusts

  • Sitting on the floor with your legs extended, rest your back against a stable bench.
  • Place a towel or shoulder cushion on the bar for comfort (optional). Roll the barbell over your thighs until the bar is directly above your hip joints.
  • Brace your core. As you drive your heels into the ground, squeeze your glutes, lifting your hips up to full extension, meaning your hips are even with your knees.
  • With control, lower back down to the ground.
  • This is one repetition.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Tamara Pridgett

16. Reverse Lunge With a Knee Drive

  • Stand with feet together. Take a controlled lunge (or large step) backward with your left foot.
  • As you lunge back with your left foot, drive your left arm forward to maintain your balance.
  • Lower your hips so that your right thigh (front leg) becomes parallel to the floor and your right knee is positioned directly over your ankle. Keep your left knee bent at a 90-degree angle and pointing toward the floor. Your left heel should be lifted.
  • From the ground, drive your left knee up coming into a standing position with your left leg lifted at a 90-degree angle. Simultaneously drive your right arm up to maintain your balance.
  • If it’s too hard to come into to perform the knee drive from the lunge, step your left foot in to meet your right, then raise your left knee up.
  • This completes one rep.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Tamara Pridgett

17. Lying Hamstring Curl

  • Start by lying flat on your back with an exercise ball under your heels. Bridge your hips up, and hold that position through the entire exercise.
  • Flex your feet and dig your heels into the ball. Place your arms straight out to your side for support — don’t use them, though; they are just for support.
  • Slowly roll the ball toward your body as you curl your heels. Keep your hips in the bridge position; don’t thrust them toward the ceiling as you do the move.
  • Then slowly return to the start position (straight legs, hips bridged) to complete one rep.

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18. Goblet Squat

  • Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width with your toes pointed slightly out. Hold your dumbbell at chest level with both hands. Keeping your back flat, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor and your elbows touch your knees.
  • With your weight focused on your heels, push yourself up to the starting position to complete one rep.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Kathryna Hancock

19. Clamshells

  • Lie on your left side with your head resting in your hand and your knees bent in toward your chest in a 90-degree angle.
  • Stack your right leg on top of your left leg.
  • Keep your feet together as you lift your top knee up toward the ceiling.
  • Lower your leg back down.
  • This completes one rep.
  • Don’t forget to repeat on the other side.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Studios

20. Side Steps With a Booty Band

  • Place a resistance band around your ankles. Start with a lighter band and work your way up to a heavier band.
  • Begin standing with feet directly underneath your hips and your hands on your hips.
  • Squat halfway down and sidestep to the right, leading with your heel to make the glute muscles engage as far as you can manage without allowing your knees to rotate toward each other. Bring the left leg toward the right with enough space to keep some resistance in the band. Concentrate on keeping your pelvis level as you move sideways.

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Do Squats Really Work? 10 Reasons You Need to Squat

The squat. Some swear by it while others avoid it like the latest international disease outbreak.
In one camp you have the squat experts touting its worldly benefits and effectiveness claiming it the granddaddy of any and all exercises. The other side intensely defends its stance on the dangers to knees, lumbar and spinal column among other potentially chronic ailments.
Related: 4 Reasons You Should Never Barbell Squat
This is where we get a bit biased – okay, maybe a lot biased on the benefits of the squat. My take? When done correctly the squat has no equal. For the average healthy lifter, its benefits far outweigh the risks. You see, since so many gym bros are performing half reps, horrible hip, back, and knee alignment and loading too much freaking weight on the bar it’s no wonder that the squat has been vilified.
Below are 10 solid reasons you should squat. I know the list could be twice this length but we’ll stick to the basics for now.

10 Reasons You Need to Squat

#1 – It works the whole body

Much like its close cousin the deadlift, the traditional barbell back squat works a lot of stuff. Yes, it hits your quads but you are looking over so much more. Your hamstrings, glutes and lumbar are all directly stimulated from squatting. Additionally, calves, upper back, traps, shoulder yoke, abs and all supporting muscles in between getting involved as well.
Think of the squat as a full-body stimulation exercise. When you practice perfect form, proper depth, and a tight, stabilized posture, only then will you reap the real rewards the squat can deliver. You can’t get that same effect from leg presses or leg extensions.

#2 – It stimulates muscle-building hormones

In relation to the point above regarding the massive amount of muscle, the squat stimulates it also releases a truckload of muscle-building hormones namely human growth hormone naturally. Because of the heavy load and whole bodywork that is needed, the body will increase natural levels of hormones in response. This is good for aspiring young lifters wanting bigger, stronger legs.
This surge in hormone levels will also affect other areas of the body giving you ample opportunity to grow all over. Single-joint leg exercises, such as leg extensions, do little in regard to increasing hormones. You need big, multi-joint, weight-moving exercises to do just that and the squat is the obvious choice.

#3 – Nothing is more functional

Functional movement followers normally shy away from the tried and true traditional lifts and conversely praise the latest banded, unilateral balancing exercise and shout the word functional at the top of their lungs. The truth is, when you break it down to simplicity, there is nothing more functional than the squat. Harnessing a huge amount of muscle mass in the lower body, stabilizing the back, abs, and hips and keeping all necessary joints in alignment without the help from a machine track or lever takes serious functional strength, focus, and mobility.
Much like the deadlift, the squat serves a very real-world role. Correctly hinging at your hips with a stabilized core and lumbar beats out bending at the waist any day. Squatting is natural and you’ve been doing it since you were a baby.

#4 – it’s worth learning correct form

Many naysayers will swear by the damage a squat can do. Everything from wrecking your knees and straining your back and neck to giving you a big butt and boasting that it does little for building the legs. But looking closer at these cases, most have used a horrid form from the get-go. They practice less than ideal technique such as knees not aligning with their toes, a rounded back, half reps, descending too quickly stressing the knee joint and not hinging at the hips properly.
The truth is, you can potentially make any exercise hurt. Just perform it in the worst possible way and you are guaranteed to get injured.

#5 – It frees your hips

The hidden problem for so many lifters when training legs are the lack of hip mobility during many leg exercises. Movements like the leg press, standing squat machine and hack squat all prohibit your hips from moving back. Instead, they are locked in a fixed position without room to move. Now, this isn’t the worst thing in the world as they are fine when used as assistance exercises to complement a squat workout, but far too many load up the weight and use said machines as their main lifts for legs.
Always include a squat variation every leg workout. One that allows your hips to move freely. Since everyone one is built a bit differently, we all can’t quite fit into every machine the same. Give your hips the freedom to move in their own, unique range of motion.

#6 – It aids other lifts

Since it stimulates so many muscles it also can potentially shore-up weak points regarding other lifts. The squat relies a lot on hip hinge strength. This can easily translate to more stability and strength during a bent-over row, T-bar row and Romanian deadlift just to name a few. Other standing overhead exercises will benefit as well such as the standing military press and push press.
It will also aid in other lifts regarding the aforementioned hormone surge. Expect bigger arms, shoulders and back from the after-effects of squats.

#7 – It jacks up your metabolism

I like to tell people that a well thought-out and executed squat session will burn more fat than sloshing away on the treadmill for an hour. Now, I don’t have the numbers to prove it but I know personally that I am spent after a great squat workout. This can be compounded if you dare venture into the realm of moderate to high rep squats. Since we are working so many muscles in addition to stimulating hormone release we get the end result of a revved-up metabolism which may stay elevated for a significant period of time after your workout.
If you truly put everything you have into performing a squat session you will subsequently turn up your metabolism, burn more calories and get leaner.

#8 – It trains your abs

As mentioned before abs are stimulated to a large degree during a correctly performed squat. If you brace your midsection in order to help with the lift, you are virtually holding a crunch while squatting. This exercise places an enormous amount of pressure on the abdominal wall so practicing bracing of the midsection is critical for increased stability and control. Almost all movements derive power and strength from this area so it behooves you to prevent “leaking” that power and strength and use it for lifting rather than expending it haphazardly.
During the lift (especially on the ascent) keep your abs in tight. Not so much that it starts detracting your attention away from the mechanics of the exercise but enough to keep the pressure in so it can be used to assist with the lift.

#9 – You have many options

For the sake of keeping things simple, I’ve been mostly referencing the traditional barbell back squat when breaking down these advantages. However, there are many versions to choose from if the back squat isn’t your cup of tea. Front squats, barbell hack squats, Bulgarian split squats, goblet squats, dumbbell squats, and even overhead squats are all viable options to fit your specific structure, abilities and preferences.
The key with all of the variations is the fact that you are able to freely move your hips into your own specific and personal position. Since everyone is built a bit differently you have many options to choose from.

#10 – You will need little else

So many gym-goers who painfully yearn for bigger, stronger legs seem to perform every machine, angle, and technique known to man. Workouts full of leg extensions, leg presses, hack squats and other contraptions fill agendas on leg day. The ironic thing is the fact that no matter how many fancy mechanics they utilize progress always seems to be just outside of their grasp.
Utilize, practice and perfect the squat. If you focus in on technique and progression you will be surprised at how little else you will need. If you still decide to use other machine work do so minimally and only to support your program which should be built around the squat.

6 Ways You’re Doing Squats Wrong

Squats are one of the best exercises for a stronger, fitter you—but only if you do them right. So before you crank out another rep, make sure your squats aren’t falling victim to these all-too-common mistakes:

Oh, and avoid these 15 Most Annoying Gym Habits.

Letting Your Knees Fall In

A combination of wide hips and weak inner and outer thighs makes this mistake pretty much ubiquitous among women. Unfortunately, when your knees move in toward each other during a squat, it can put undue pressure on your knee ligaments, resulting in injury, says exercise physiologist Marta Montenegro, C.S.C.S. But correcting this mistake isn’t as simple as willing your knees into place. You need to strengthen your inner and (especially) outer thighs, she says. Lateral band walks are a great way to do just that. (Here’s how to do them right: Lateral Band Walks.)

Not Lowering to 90 Degrees

If you don’t complete the exercise through its full range of motion—all the way down until your thighbone is parallel with the floor—you won’t fully engage your glutes and the upper part of your hamstrings, says Montenegro. Basically, you won’t get a better butt. To train your body to complete the entire move, try practicing some squats in front of a knee-high box or step. Lower your body until your butt just barely touches the box, and then push back up.

PLUS: 6 Exercises You Can Do During Commercial Breaks

Arching Your Back

Your back naturally has a slight “S” to it. If you don’t have enough lower back strength—and many women don’t—it’s easy to add some extra arch while squatting. The problem: That dumps the weight into your lower back and means you risk injury, says Montenegro. To shore up your lower-back strength, try performing this dumbbell straight-leg deadlift.

MORE: 10 Worst Exercise Machines to Avoid

Doing the Same Squat Over and Over

If you aren’t regularly switching up your foot positions, you aren’t taking advantage of what a versatile exercise the squat really is, says Montenegro. For instance, if you stand with your feet closer than shoulder-width apart, you’ll target your glutes. Take a wide stance, and you’ll work those hard-to-tone inner thighs. Move one leg forward a bit, and your booty will burn. Interested? Here are seven squat variations you NEED to try.

More: How to Prevent Injuries With Overhead Squats

Lifting Too Little

If you complete your squats with lighter-weight dumbbells in-hand, you might want to consider reaching for something heavier. “Women tend to think that because we want to slim our legs, we should do a lot of reps with a low weight,” says Montenegro. “But if you don’t lift more weight, you aren’t going to tone anything.” Plus, when you lift heavier, you burn more calories. Her advice: Try upping the poundage of your hand weights so that you can only eek out six reps at a time (with proper form, of course!).

RELATED: 10 Abs Exercises Better Than Crunches

Going to Too-Great Pains to Keep Your Knees Behind Your Toes

“For so many years, it has been ingrained in our brains that the knees should never go past the toes when squatting,” says American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer Jessica Matthews, assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College. While letting your knees move past your toes increases the stress placed on them by 28 percent, trying to restrict any forward movement of the knees ups the stress placed on your hips by a whopping 1,000 percent, according to a 2003 University of Memphis study.

More from Women’s Health: The Best Workout for Your Body Type

So instead of dwelling on your knees and toes, focus on starting the squat by pushing your hips back before lowering your body toward the floor, says Matthews. That will automatically reduce how far forward your knees travel, but without pre-registering you for a hip replacement.

More: 30-Day Lower-Body Challenge

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Ways to do squats

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