How to Do a Squat

Опубликовал Admin
26-09-2016, 18:35
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This article is for both beginners and weightlifters. The squat is an excellent upper and lower body workout that primarily targets your thighs and butt, but also works the hamstrings and lower back. There are many variations of the squat, and this article will show you how to do them!

Performing a Classic Squat (Rear-Loaded)

  1. Plant your feet flat on the ground, toes slightly outward. Feet should be about shoulder-width apart. Getting below the bar, bending your knees slightly. The height of the bar must be adjusted for your personal body height. It is important to keep the weight on your heels but keeping your full feet on the ground. Refrain from distributing the weight to your toes or ball of the foot, as this is bad for your knees.
    • Feet too straight ahead tends to cave knees inward, so angling them out toward about 10 and 2-o'clock is useful (with "pigeon toed" or "toeing-out" feet, do your best to be stable, and do not use much weight). But, do not toe out more than that angle.
    • Do not stand with your feet further than shoulder width apart (too wide stance). That would bring your abductors (inner thighs) into the movement, which would cause stress to the medial collateral ligament (MCL), abnormal loading of stress on knee cartilage, and improper patellar tracking. Likewise, do not keep your feet in a close stance (too close together), as that can cause you to distribute the weight through your toes, which is bad for your feet and knees.
  2. Position the bar behind your head, with the weight on your back shoulders. Place your shoulders below the bar for it to be across the back of your shoulders. You will want the bar to be positioned over your trapezius muscles, not on your neck. Grasp the bar with your hands at a spot that you find comfortable, usually about six inches (15cm) outward from your shoulders. If this is your first time squatting, do this with no weight on the bar to learn the movement first.
    • Raise and dismount the barbell from the rack. Then take a step forward or backward, or the rack would interfere in the motion.
    • You should always have a spotter when squatting! This is especially important when "racking" (taking weights on and off the rack).
  3. Bend your knees and slowly lower your hips as if to "sit" on an invisible chair. Look straight ahead, keeping your back straight and chin up throughout the movement. Keeping your spine aligned, bend at your knees as if you were lowering toward sitting down in a chair. Keep your heels on the floor.
    • Do not rock your knees forward at the ankles.
    • Do not curve or bow your back either forward or backward.
    • Keep your head up and your shoulders solid.
    • Only go as far as you can comfortably go toward chair seat level. You'll get nearer there as you get stronger.
  4. Keep your hips slightly forward (do not stick your bottom out), as you lower them toward being even with your knees. Pull in your abs, and keep your lower back in a nearly neutral position. A slightly arched back might be unavoidable, but minimize that by keeping your head and chest up. Make sure that you get your quads no lower than parallel to the ground (hips to knee level), for the full range of motion.
    • Really focus on tightening your abs throughout the movement -- it helps unlock power throughout your body. Let your body assist you in managing the weight.
    • Keep the weight distributed on your upper thighs and on your full feet, not on your toes nor maligning your ankles and knees.
  5. Push straight back up, lifting your hips up and forward to lift toward starting position. From lower position, push up off your heels and lift the weight while maintaining good, proper and safe form. Use almost every part of your body while straightening your legs, and slowly, evenly move up.
    • Your back should stay straight. Do not let your spine curve throughout any part of the exercise.
    • Focus on using your explosive glutes (butt muscles) to get power on your way up without using your back.
    • Try to make this movement smooth, moving in one fluid motion to prevent injury and unlock the majority of your power.

Perfecting Your Form

  1. Never bend your back -- keep your chest up and out throughout. Your spine should be in alignment (i.e.: with your slight natural curve, as if you were standing straight up). Keeping your hips back and chest up prevents a rounded spine. Most people start to get lazy as they get tired, and their back starts to curve. This is dangerous and ineffective. No matter how tired you are, you must focus on your spinal alignment.
    • A rounded spine can lead to very serious injury.
    • If you can't do a rep right, don't do it at all -- bad form is much worse than none at all.
  2. Keep your weight on your heels, never your toes. You should be able to lift and wiggle your toes if you wanted. Resting on your toes puts stress on your knees, whereas you have a much more solid base for power through your heels.
  3. Keep knees in position. Do not let your knees pull or "cave in" while squatting. This is bad for your knees. Actively push your knees toward proper position throughout the entire squat to ensure against bad alignment. You need to keep your knees mostly quiet, bending but otherwise leaving them in roughly the same place throughout the exercise. If you feel extra muscle exertion through your glutes (hips), you are doing it right.
    • Focus on keeping your knees outward, pushing through the heel, not the toes.
    • Never let your knees extend beyond your toes, as this will increase the likelihood of damage to the patellar tendon and ligament in the knee.
    • Your knees might move slightly forward as you squat, but this is okay -- just keep them over your foot, behind the toes.
  4. Do not place the bar on the base of your neck. You want the bar to rest on your traps, (upper shoulder muscles). You'll know if it's on your neck if you can feel the bar digging into your neck-bone, as one of your hard vertebrae will be right in the way. Lower the bar a bit and distribute/balance the weight evenly across your upper body.
    • A slightly wider grip may help.
  5. Inhale as you drop down, and exhale as you come back up. This most effectively utilizes your body's natural rhythm, allowing you to access the most air and move through the squat fluidly.
    • In general, inhale as you "enter" an exercise, like a stretch. Then exhale through more explosive movements.
  6. Warm up to prevent injury and unlock your greatest power. As with any athletic endeavor, warming up and stretching is necessary to prevent strain or injury. Warm up first by getting your heart rate up and then following the directions below for a warm up squat, but with a very small amount of weight.
    • Static versus dynamic stretch: Static stretching is typically an exercise where you hold a position for a certain amount of time (usually 15-30 seconds). Dynamic (active) stretching involves controlled movements through various ranges of motion. Dynamic stretching is sometimes recommended because warming up by moving may offer less risk of injury. Shoulder rolls, light kicks, sumo squats, twists are all good examples of dynamic stretching exercises.
    • Start with no weights at all—or an unloaded barbell, if you're new to squats and weight training.
    • If you're more experienced, or you find an unloaded barbell too light, select weights that are appropriate for your strength and set them up on the barbell. If you have the option of adjusting the height of the rack, bring it to a level below your shoulders, to about your armpits. Do not use too much weight because you can hurt yourself.
  7. Do not wear a lifting belt when learning this lift. A lifting belt keeps your back supported and aligned with the rest of your body which you need to train yourself to do on your own. However, when you are at a level where your back strength (lower and upper) is sufficient, a belt may be desirable in order to brace the back and core for heavy lifts.

Trying Squat Variations

  1. Squat with no weights to warm up or build muscle with safer, low-impact exercises. Body-weight can be for beginners, or for warming up. When combined with push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-up, bodyweight squats can help form a great low-impact workout. Aim for 15-30 reps each set. Looking to get real big -- try this with one leg!
    • Plant your feet flat on the ground, about shoulder-width apart.
    • Angle your feet slightly outward toward 10 and 2 o'clock, not straight ahead.
    • Look straight ahead. Bend at your knees as if you were going to sit back in a chair, keeping your heels on the floor.
    • Pull in your abs, and keep your lower back in a nearly neutral position (a slightly arched back might be unavoidable).
    • Lower yourself in a controlled manner, so that your thighs are nearly parallel with the floor. Extend your arms for balance.
    • Rise back up slowly and in control. From the lower position, push up off your heels and slowly rise up, balancing by leaning forward as necessary.
  2. Try dumbbell squats to start building muscle if you can't accomplish traditional squats yet. Stand in front of a sturdy armless chair or heavy-duty equipment box, as if to sit. This is a great exercise for beginners. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, dangling at your sides. If you're new to squats, 5-pound dumbbells are good. As you get stronger, you can increase the weight accordingly.
    • Place your feet about shoulder width apart, feet angled out slightly.
    • Bend your knees. Shift your hips back and slowly lower yourself down until your butt's just about touching the chair, then stand back up.
    • Don't lock your knees. Keep them loose at all times. Also, keep them from going past your toes. You will feel it more in your thighs than in your knees.
  3. Assume the plie ("PLEE-ay") form. Holding one dumbbell or kettlebell, use both hands to hold one end of the dumbbell, so it hangs vertically towards the floor. Keep your abs tight throughout the squat; involving your abs will help you maintain balance.
    • Place your feet. They should be a little more than shoulder width apart, and spread your knees/legs, so feet are turned out about 45°. This is based on a ballet form called "plie."
    • Lift your heels off the floor. Balance on the balls of your feet, and bend your knees.
    • Slowly lower your body down. Keep your hips under your shoulders and your back straight.
    • Keep your knees behind your toes. Do not let them extend beyond this point!
    • Slowly raise back up. Lower your heels as you rise.
  4. Try a front squat to work new muscles heads and grips. This is a variation on the basic squat, holding the bar in front of you rather than behind you. Place the bar below your neck and across your chest, parallel with your clavicle (collar bone). Grasp the bar from underneath, with your hands at a spot that is comfortable, usually about six inches (15cm) from your shoulders.
    • Plant your feet flat on the ground, about shoulder-width apart. Get below the bar and bend your knees slightly. You'll want equal weight distribution throughout each foot during the exercise. Point your feet slightly outward, not straight ahead.
    • Looking straight ahead, keep your back straight and bend at your knees, keeping your heels on the floor. Make sure that you get your quads parallel to the ground, for the full range of motion.
    • Lower yourself in a controlled manner down and back so that your upper legs are about parallel with the floor. Do not extend below parallel. Keep the weight distributed on your upper thighs and the heels or balls of your feet, not on your toes nor your knees.
    • Lift back up, pushing up off your heels. Keep the upper body tight at all times.
  5. Try overhead squats to really start building muscle. If you're ready for a real challenge, overhead squats fit the bill. If you're not up to heavy weights yet, stick with an unloaded bar or very light weights. Remember to keep your body as vertical as possible -- neither leaning forward nor backward -- for the best results.
    • Using a wide snatch grip, lift the bar overhead with your elbows locked.
    • Push your shoulder blades together, and keep your core tight.
    • Looking straight ahead, keep your back straight and bend at your knees, keeping your heels on the floor.
    • Pull in your abs, and keep your lower back in a nearly neutral position (a slightly arched back might be unavoidable).
    • Lower yourself in a controlled manner down and back so that your upper legs are nearly parallel with the floor. Keep your shoulder back, and the weight over your heels at all times.
    • Lift back up, pushing up off your heels. Keep the upper body tight at all times.
  6. Keeping your upper body with the same form, stagger your legs. Get into lunge form with your lower body, with one leg a foot in front, knee bent, and the other leg extended behind you. Then...
    • Keep your spine straight.
    • Lower your hips down to the ground so your back knee touches.
    • Keep your front knee bent at 90-degrees.
    • Push back up off your front heel, keeping your back straight up.
    • Repeat with the opposite leg.
  7. Slightly lower the bar down on your shoulders with normal squats for new muscle groups. Lower the bar an extra inch or so, then keep your normal squat form. This activates your quads more than your hamstrings. These are often known as "low-grip" squats.
    • You can also extend your arms much lower behind you, grip the bar around your knees. From there, you keep your form the exact same -- however your arms stay low and the weight touches the floor between each rep.


  • Keep your back in an upright position when you squat. When you get to parallel, squeeze your butt and thighs to get back up.
  • The up and down movements of a squat should be slow and controlled movements (unless you are coached by a trainer or are training for a specific purpose and absolutely sure what you're doing). On your way down, don't just "drop" and let gravity do all the work. Similarly, the upward movement is just like standing up; never try to spring up or bounce.
  • To get a feel for the correct motion, practice squatting without weight facing a wall with your toes a couple of inches from the base of the wall. This will help correct your form if you tend to lean forward.
  • Keep the weight on your heels, stick your butt back and look forward.
  • Knee straps are a bad idea. They put pressure on the fluids inside the knee where the meniscus pad resides, which may result in too much stress for the cruciate ligaments.
  • If possible, set up supporting bars underneath the rack to catch the weight in case you are unable to bring the weight back up to the rack. This way, instead of falling over with the weight, you will simply sit down on the floor and the weight will be caught by the supporting bars.
  • It is a myth that doing squats will give you a broad butt. The rate and shape of gluteal development is determined by genetics.


  • Never arch your back. If your back is straight (flat), the weights are supported by your legs. But if your back is arched, all the weight comes down on your upper body and lower neck, which are not in a position to support it!
  • Don't "bounce" out of the squat position. This happens when one tries to use the momentum of coming down to assist him/her in the initial portion of the lifting stage. This puts extreme stress on the knee joint overall and can lead to injuries in the long run. If done in the extreme, it might cause the knee to literally pop out of place. It is really more of a sit back then a sit down.
  • Squats can be extremely dangerous when done incorrectly. Never, EVER bend your back awkwardly or let your knees fall forwards.

Things You'll Need

  • Free weights (option)
  • A lifting bar, or dumbbell (option)
  • A weight rack (option)
  • A spotter
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