The squat is an extremely effective functional bodyweight exercise that primarily targets the glutes, quads and hamstrings. Squats are one of the best exercises for building lower body strength and power, as well as for developing functional strength. Squats can also help to improve your core strength and joint range of motion.
Follow these six steps to ensure you’re using proper form while performing squats. Good form is essential to your workout routine not only because it makes the exercise more effective, but because it will help you to avoid injury, too.
-How to Do a Squat-
1. Start standing tall with your feet about hip-width distance apart. Make sure that your feet are planted firmly on the ground, that your core is tight (draw your bellybutton into your spine) and that your spine is straight (keep your shoulders relaxed and draw your shoulder blades back and down). Look straight ahead to keep your neck in line with the rest of your spine.
2. You can keep your hands at your side, put them on your hips or hold them straight out in front of you. Ultimately, you’ll want to choose the position that feels most comfortable for you, but placing them straight out in front will provide some extra balance.
3.When you’re ready, slowly start to squat down, as if you were about to sit down in a chair behind you. In fact, when practicing this exercise for the first time, it’s a good idea to place a small bench or step behind you that you can use as a guide. You may not be able to achieve the full range of motion right away, but the goal is to eventually squat down low enough so that your knees form 90-degree angles and your thighs are parallel to the floor.
4. Focus on pushing your hips back and keeping your torso upright. As you squat down you want to make sure that your chest stays lifted and that you do not fold forward at the hips. Also make sure that your knees stay in line with your ankles and to sit back into your heels. Your entire foot should stay firmly planted on the ground; make sure that your heels do not lift up off the floor.
5. Pause for a moment in the squat position before you push through your feet and glutes to slowly stand back up to the starting position.
6. Repeat the motion for as many reps as you can without compromising your form. (Just like with any other exercise, five perfect squats are much better and way more effective than 10 performed poorly.)
Add this exercise to your regular workout routine to build functional lower-body and core strength. If you were able to do five the first time, aim for six or more during your next workout and continue progressing from there.
Related: Strength Training 101
Once you’ve mastered the basic squat, try adding a new level of difficulty by adding weights or creating a compound movement like a squat + dumbbell curl.
To make the exercise less difficult, first try performing it with an exercise ball up against the wall.
Thanks to Body Space Fitness in New York City for sharing their exercise space with us.