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How To Do Squats: Step By Step Guide

Published April 29, 2019 (Revised: August 13, 2019)
<article> <section> <p align="justify">You might think of squats as ‘only’ a lower body exercise. But they are so, so much more. In fact, they are the king of all <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>functional exercises</b></a>. From head to toe, they work almost every major muscle group in your body—the legs, hips, <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>core</b></a>, <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>lower back</b></a>, even your arms (a little bit).</p> <p align="justify">Squats offer a ton of benefits for your health and fitness. But do them wrong and there will be consequences. You might hurt your knees, hips, or even ankles by doing squats wrong. You could even hurt your <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>lower back</b></a> if you don’t use your spine properly.</p> <p align="justify">This guide will break down everything you need to know about squats. Whether you’re a beginner or want to make sure you’re doing perfect squats, we’ve got you covered.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What Muscles Do Squats Work?</header> <p align="justify">Many fitness professionals call squats the ‘king’ of all exercises. That’s because squats work pretty much <i>everything</i>. A proper squat strengthens the muscles in your quads, hips, <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>glutes</b></a>, abs, and lower back. You might only feel the burn in your legs, but your core works hard to stabilize your spine throughout the movement.</p> <p align="justify">There’s an argument to be made that all muscles work together during a squat. You might not build lean, toned triceps doing squats, but your arm muscles help you balance, too. </p> <p align="justify">Finally, strong calves and good ankle mobility allow you to do a proper squat. Everything from your toes to your head are worked during this exercise.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What Are the Benefits of Squats?</header> <p align="justify">Squats strengthen major muscle groups all over the body, especially in the legs, hips, <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>core</b></a>, and <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>lower back</b></a>. Perhaps no other exercise deserves the title of being a ‘<a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>functional exercise</b></a>’ than the squat. If you don’t believe us, think about that next time you get up off a toilet seat.</p> <p align="justify">So yeah, squats are important. And doing them in your workouts will strengthen the muscles and joints necessary to work up to more challenging exercises.</p> <p align="justify">Squats are also quite versatile as an exercise. You can build muscle or increase cardiovascular fitness by adding them to a <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>circuit workout</b></a> or other <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>high-intensity interval</b></a> (HIIT) workout.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>How to Do Squats Perfectly—From Head to Toe</header> <p align="justify">From the feet and toes to your head, here’s how to do squats perfectly.</p> <p align="justify">Don’t fret if this seems like a lot of information. Instead of trying to do it all perfectly the first time, figure out which areas you struggle with and work on them slowly.</p> <p align="justify">In this video, Coach Tyler also breaks down <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>perfect squat and push-ups</b></a>.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=" "> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt=" squat-ankles"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Feet and Toes</div> <p align="justify"><b>Key</b>: Keep the weight in the heel and your feet firm on the ground.</p> <p align="justify">Sit back on your heels and grip the floor with your toes during squats to create a solid base for yourself. When your weight is in the heels, your glutes are activated and able to work during the exercise.</p> <p align="justify">Gripping the floor with your toes (especially if there is carpet) will flex your calves and help you keep your balance.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=" "> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt=" squat-knees-cave"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Knees and Hips</div> <p align="justify"><b>Keys</b>: Break at the hips first, <i>then</i> bend your knees. Don’t let your knees track out over the toes. </p> <p align="justify">The hips and knees work in sync with one another during squats. If you get this part right, most of the squat will fall into place.</p> <p align="justify">When you do squats, your hips must bend <i>before</i> your knees. If your knees bend first, you’ll lean forward, putting tons of unnecessary pressure on your knee joint. </p> <p align="justify">In this position, your knees may ‘track out’ over your toes. You’ll know you’re doing this if your knees hurt and you feel your thighs working but nowhere else.</p> <p align="justify">Bend your hips first and kick your butt back <i>first</i>, like you’re aiming for a chair or stool (and if you’re doing sit to stands, you will be). Your knees will naturally follow as you go down, but they won’t be tracking forward over the toes, and your upper body will stay upright.</p> <p align="justify">Also, it’s very important to keep your knees from caving in. See Coach Tyler’s example above.</p> <p align="justify">The difference is your weight is evenly distributed through your <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>glutes</b></a>, <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>hamstrings</b></a>, and quads. This protects your knees and lets your upper body and core support the exercise.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=" "> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt=" perfect-squat-form"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Core and Lower Back</div> <p align="justify"><b>Key</b>: Keep a ‘proud’ chest.</p> <p align="justify">Here’s an easy cue for your upper body to think about if you want to do squats perfectly: a ‘proud’ chest. Stick your chest out like you’re Superman displaying the S on his costume. </p> <p align="justify">In this position, your spine will naturally straighten, and your <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>lower back</b></a> and core muscles will activate.</p> <p align="justify">Fight to hold this position during the whole squat. One way to do this is to imagine a brick wall in front of you. If you lean too far forward, you’ll touch the wall, which is wrong.</p> <p align="justify">You’ll know you’ve lost the position if you start slouching or leaning over your knees, like this:</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=" "> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt=" squat-upper-body"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Arms</div> <p align="justify"><b>Key</b>: Use your arms for balance.</p> <p align="justify">Use your arms to balance during squats. They may be in front of you or moving in sync with the exercise. Just practice this and find what’s comfortable for you. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Are Squats with Bad Form Dangerous?</header> <p align="justify">We don’t want to scare you, but bad squat form is dangerous and can lead to injuries to your knees, hips, and ankles. Your knees are especially vulnerable if you lean too far forward and fail to use your <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>glutes</b></a> to complete the exercise.</p> <p align="justify">Slouching or losing the ‘proud chest’ position will also put your spine in a compromised position and lead to <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>lower back</b></a> pain.</p> <p align="justify">If you are just starting to exercise again, start slow and build up the number of squats you do in a workout. Focus on form. Once you can do fifteen to twenty <i>perfect</i> squats in a workout, you’re ready to add them to an <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>high-intensity interval training</b></a> (HIIT) workout.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What If I <i>Already</i> Have Bad Knees?</header> <p align="justify">If your <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>knees are already painful</b></a> or hurt during squats, modify the exercise. Start with sit to stands (check out the beginner variation in the next section) and work your way up.</p> <p align="justify">Believe it or not, doing perfect squats (or squat variations) over time can <i>alleviate</i> your knee pain. Strong quads but weak <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>hamstrings</b></a> and <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>glutes</b></a> are a common muscle imbalance that cause knee pain. </p> <p align="justify">Strengthening the muscles on your back side takes pressure off your knees. There’s probably a Sir Mix-A-Lot joke in there somewhere, but we encourage you to check out <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>this article</b></a> on glute activation instead.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Best Squat Variations (For Any Level)</header> <p align="justify">Try these three variations—depending on your fitness level— next time you do squats. </p> <div style="text-align:center;"> <video autoplay loop muted> <source src="" type="video/webm"> <source src="" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> <ol> <b><li><div class="sub-head">Sumo Squats</div></li></b> <p align="justify">Sumo squats are great if you’re new to exercising or have tight hips. From the starting position, the big lateral step between reps will help stretch out your hips, and the squat will help open up your other major leg muscles.</p> <p align="justify">Grip the floor with your feet and toes between reps to keep your balance. You should be able to do these in the same small space and not move around.</p> <div style="text-align:center;"> <video autoplay loop muted> <source src="" type="video/webm"> <source src="" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> <b><li><div class="sub-head">Sit to Stands (Beginner)</div></li></b> <p align="justify">Sit to stands give you a target to aim for behind you. Even if you are at a good fitness level, sit to stands are a great way to practice breaking at the hips first to protect your knees.</p> <p align="justify">In the starting position, keep your bodyweight in your heels and kick your butt back. Don’t disengage your core once you touch the chair—keep a proud chest and straight spine.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=" "> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt=" perfect-squat-form"> </picture> <b><li><div class="sub-head">Squats (Intermediate)</div></li></b> <p align="justify">A full squat with good depth is one where the crease of your hip (head of the arrow in the picture above) is even with your knee. In this position, weight is distributed equally through your <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>hamstrings</b></a>, <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>glutes</b></a>, and quads, protecting your knees of any unnecessary forces.</p> <p align="justify">Notice how Coach Tyler uses his hands to balance, has his weight in his heels, and his knees are out, not caved in. Make sure you’re checking <i>all</i> these boxes if you’re doing squats like this during workouts.</p> </ol> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Common Mistakes When Doing Squats</header> <p align="justify">We’ve talked about most of the common mistakes people make when they do squats. Here they are as a reference from head to toe:</p> <ul> <li> Weight in the toes, not the heels</li> <li> Knees caving in instead of in line with your toes</li> <li> Leaning forward or slouching your upper body when you descend into or out of a squat</li> <li> Bending the knees first, not kicking the hips and butt back.</li> </ul> <p align="justify">Your form is most likely to dip when you get tired during workouts. Remember that bad squats can injure your knees, hips, or even ankles if you do too many of them. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>How to Do Squats—Wrapping Up</header> <p align="justify">Few other exercises can claim to be as functional. Even fewer can say they work as many muscle groups. For these reasons, squats are probably the king of all exercises you can do right at home to improve your health and fitness.</p> <p align="justify">It’s important to learn how to do squats correctly. Use this guide to make sure your squat form looks good. Check each box off from your toes to your head and build up slowly. Otherwise, your knees might hurt, or you could get injured.</p> <p align="justify">Coach Tyler breaks down how to do perfect squats in <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>this video</b></a>. For more at-home workouts and fitness advice, check out the <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>exercise section</b></a> of our blog.</p> <p align="justify">And if you’re ready to use squats (and other <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>functional exercises</b></a>) to change your life and transform your body, see what the <a target="_blank" href=""rel="noreferrer"><b>Warrior Made</b></a> community can do for you.</p> </section> </article>

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