The squat is a compound and foundational fitness movement. It recruits muscles from your lower back down through to your ankles and is a tremendous strength and conditioning tool. There are more variations to a squat than there are zodiac signs, and everyone's squat is going to look a little different due to their skeletal system, their mobility and flexibility, and their muscular development. Whether you are a fitness novice or an elite athlete, you must begin and end your squats with the proper form. A poorly executed squat will lead to muscle imbalances, limited strength increases, and potential injury. Even if you think your squat is perfect, it is worth it to check your form every now and then.
Use these instructor-approved tips to make sure you are getting the most from this very important exercise.
- Begin with your feet between hip and shoulder width apart, something comfortable for you.
- Allow toes to slightly rotate out, keeping your knees above your ankles, hips above the knees.
- Stand at attention! Shoulders back and down, abdominals engaged.
- Lead with your glutes — with a straight back, push your booty back and away, keeping the bulk of your center of gravity over the mid to rear of your foot. You should be able to curl your toes up off the floor.
- As you begin to descend, keep the shoulders back and flat, head and chest up (do not look down at your feet). Try to avoid leaning the chest too far forward (you are squatting, not bowing).
- Watch your knees! Keep the front part of your knee tracking with the top of your shoe, preventing the knees from collapsing in toward each other. You may need to actively press your knees away from each other or use a band to keep them at a proper distance.
- Descend as close to parallel as possible without letting your knees pass your toes. It may take time and practice to get to the bottom — do not force it!
- Pause at the bottom and proactively fire up your glutes by clenching them before you start your ascent. Purposely tightening your booty on the trip up will engage the outer thighs, as well as the quads and hamstrings, and lead to a stronger squat.
- Finish the squat by standing back at attention with a final squeeze to the glutes at the top.
- Repeat for three sets of 10-12 squats.
When you feel confident with this form, you can start adding weight or trying variations. As soon as you start fatiguing and your form starts slipping, stop. You will build up to more reps and more weight as long as you keep your foundation strong. If you're going to do something, you might as well do it right. Now get out there and squat it out with confidence!