How to Do Squats Properly – With or Without Weights (At Home or In the Gym)
Squats are one of the most popular lower body exercises around.
And yet, it’s one that creates a lot of anxiety for many people.
Many years ago, a published study written by Dr. Karl Klein said squats were bad for your knee joints, and some exercisers still hold that opinion.¹
However, that study consisted of professional football players who already had knee pain because of the demands of pro ball.
Squats were not the cause of their joint problems!
Whether you are a gym or home exerciser, you really should include squats in your workouts.
You could go so far as to say that a training session without squats is not a good workout.
In this guide, you’ll learn why you should squat, and how to do squats correctly, plus their best variations.
Squats for Beginners
Squats offer many benefits and very few drawbacks, which is why they could be the best exercise you ever do.
Not just for your legs but your entire body!
The benefits of squats include:
Increased leg strength
Strong legs make almost all everyday activities more comfortable, from walking to going up and down the stairs to getting out of your chair,
which means that squats are one of the most functional exercises around.
Increased muscle mass
If you want to build muscle, squats are all but compulsory.
No bodybuilder has ever built big legs without them.
Besides, squats are anabolic, which means they trigger growth in many muscle groups, including your upper body and not in just your legs.²
Squats Load your legs, hips, and spine, and don’t just affect your muscles; they affect your bones too, making them stronger and denser.
Dense bones are more resistant to fractures, which is especially important for older people.
Better mobility and flexibility
Squats involve an extensive range of motion, which can help improve and preserve mobility and flexibility.
The deeper you squat, the better your hip, knee, ankle mobility, and flexibility will become.
Improved sports performance
Squats can improve your athletic performance.
The Perfect Body Weight Squat
Squats are an undeniably useful and beneficial exercise, but they can also be dangerous if you don’t do them correctly.
Proper form is vital to prevent injury and make sure you get the most from this fantastic exercise.
Use this step by step guide to learn how to do squats properly.
How to Do Bodyweight Squats At Home
Note: This guide is for informational purposes only, not for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always fill out a PAR-Q form and consult your doctor before starting an exercise program.
How to Do Squats Properly
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart; toes turned slightly outward.
2. Lift your chest, look straight ahead, and brace your abs.
3. With your weight on your heels, bend your knees and push your hips to the rear.
4. Descend until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor.
5. Your hips should be slightly below the top of your knee.
6. Try not to round your lower back, or allow your knees to cave in.
7. Keep your knees in line with and behind your toes.
8. Stand back up, extending your knees and hips at the same time.
9. Do not let your hips shoot up faster than your shoulders or butt.
10. Reset your starting position and repeat.
Squatting with proper technique takes time and practice, and you should master the basic bodyweight squat before you add weight.
Work up to doing three sets of 20 reps in perfect form.
Once you can do that, you’re ready to progress to one of the following, more demanding variations.
Once you have mastered the basic bodyweight squat, it’s time to start making your workouts harder by adding weight.
Weights allow you to make your workouts progressive, so you continue to gain strength and fitness.
If you don’t find ways to make squats harder, your progress will stall.
There are lots of weighted variations to choose from, so you should never get bored doing the same one repeatedly.
For this variation, hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down by your sides.
While your grip will prevent you from using heavier weights, this is an excellent way to make squats harder if you train at home and don’t have a squat rack.
Make sure you keep your weight on your heels; using weight tends to throw your weight forward and onto your toes.
How to Do Dumbbell Squats
Kettlebell Goblet Squats
To do this exercise, hold a kettlebell by its vertical handles in front of your chest.
Step out, so your feet are slightly wider than hip-width apart and then squat down while keeping the weight close to your body.
Kettlebell squats are a great way to perfect your squat form.
How to Do Squats With a Kettlebell
Barbell Back Squats
For this squat variation, you rest and hold a barbell across the back of your shoulders.
If you are using light weights, you should be able to lift the bar over your head and onto your back into position.
But, for heavier weights, you’ll need a squat rack.
With the weight on your shoulders, you’ll have to work extra hard to keep your torso upright and stop your knees caving in.
Brace your abs hard to stabilize your lower back.
How to Do Back Squats With a Barbell
Barbell Front Squats
The front squat involves holding a barbell on the front of your shoulders.
This variation is especially popular with athletes as it has an excellent crossover to running and jumping.
Front squats require a decent amount of upper body flexibility as you have to keep your upper arms straight out in front and parallel to the floor.
But, once mastered, this is a rewarding squat variation.
How to Do Front Squats Right
This odd-sounding exercise involves holding a barbell in the crooks of your arms.
You don’t need a squat rack for this exercise, which makes it ideal for home exercisers.
But, on the downside, using heavy weights is painful unless you find a way to pad the weight.
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The Zercher and box are both highly effective spine friendly variations. When used together, they maximize trainability while reducing spinal stress. Here’s what makes the Zercher box so good to save your spine 🔗 LINK IN BIO
A post shared by Dr. John Rusin (@drjohnrusin) on Oct 30, 2019, at 6:38 am PDT
Overhead squats are probably the hardest squat variation to master.
To do this exercise, lift and hold a barbell above your head with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
Without bending your arms, bend your legs and descend into a deep squat position.
Do not round your lower back.
Stand back up and repeat, keeping the weight above your head throughout.
This variation requires and develops excellent mobility and flexibility.
Most squat variations involve slow and deliberate descent and ascent, and only a little momentum.
That’s good for building fitness, muscle, and strength, but not so good for power.
Power is your ability to generate force quickly and is a vital component of most sports.
Squat jumps are a beneficial lower body power exercise.
To do squat jumps, descend as usual but then stand up so fast that your feet leave the ground, and you leap into the air.
Land on slightly bent knees and repeat.
You can do squat jumps with dumbbells in your hands or a barbell on your back, but standard bodyweight squat jumps should be challenging enough for most exercisers.
Recommended Gear to Use at Home
Gyms have all the equipment you need to do squats in safety and comfort.
But what if you work out at home?
If you want to do weighted squats in your home gym, you’ll need some equipment.
The right gear is essential for learning how to do squats properly and without getting hurt!
Your typical gym shoes are very shock-absorbent, which is ideal for general gym activities and walking but also means they compress and distort under heavy loads.
Squishy shoes that wobble are the last thing you want if you have hefty weight on your shoulders or in your hands.
I made the switch to squat shoes only after I twisted my knee doing squats with running shoes.
Don’t make that mistake.
Many serious strength trainers wear specially designed shoes for squats and deadlifts.
Squat shoes provide a stable base for lifting heavier weights.
Good squats start with the right barbell.
If you want to progress to lifting heavy weights, an Olympic-style bar is your best choice.
How to Do Squats Properly: Layne Norton’s Squat Tutorial
While an empty barbell may be heavy enough at first, you’ll soon need some weight plates to make your workouts harder.
There is no need to buy a full set of weights straight away.
Instead, just buy a few plates and then add to your collection as you get stronger.
Resting and holding a heavy bar on your back can be painful.
A thick foam bar pad will make back, and front squats more comfortable and is useful for Zercher squats as well.
An excellent squat rack will save you from having to lift the bar off the floor and press it overhead whenever you want to do squats.
Unlike a power rack, most squat racks are light, portable, and don’t require a high ceiling.
You can also do bench presses on most squat racks.
A power rack is a squat rack on steroids!
Big and very strong, a power rack will make squats easier and safer, especially if you want to lift heavier weights.
Most power racks are also quite tall, so make sure you have enough space to accommodate one before buying.
You don’t have to wear a weightlifting belt, but a lot of people find that it makes them feel more stable and secure, especially when lifting heavier weights.
Weightlifting belts don’t support your spine passively.
Instead, a weightlifting belt gives you something to brace your abs against during strenuous exercise, which increases intra-abdominal pressure, and that internal bracing helps support your back.
How To Do Squats Properly – Final Thoughts
Squats are arguably the most important exercise you can do.
It doesn’t matter if you are training for strength, muscle size, athletic performance, fitness, or fat loss, squats will help you achieve your goals faster than almost any other exercise.
Squats aren’t just an exercise either; they are also a fundamental movement pattern.
Most people do dozens of squats per day.
Sitting down and standing up again?
That’s a squat!
Squatting will enhance many aspects of your daily life, and preserving squat strength will help you live a more productive life as you age.
If you lose your ability to squat, you’ll find that many of life’s activities become much harder, if not impossible.
So, whatever you are exercising for, make sure you include plenty of squats in your workouts.
Your body will thank you!
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