How To Do a Squat - Learn How to Do the Perfect Squat

Woman doing a bodyweight squat
Woman doing a bodyweight squat. Kevin Kozicki/Getty Images

Squats can do amazing things for your thighs, hips, and butt, but there are so many rules out there, some of them actually myths, it's hard to know the right way to do them. If you don't feel your butt working, you might feel like you're doing squats wrong.

You've probably heard things like, don't let your knees go beyond your toes or that you should always keep your knees and toes in alignment.

Both of these do have some truths, but it's less important to focus on these things than it is to focus on general good form when it comes to squat.

At its heart, a squat involves a hinge at the hips, knees, and ankles, all while keeping your spine straight and your chest up.

With that in mind, here's how to do the perfect bodyweight squat. 

The Right Way to Squat

  1. Stand with feet about hip-distance apart or wider, toes turned out just slightly. 
  2. Pull your belly button towards your spine and contract your abdominal muscles while pulling the shoulders down and away from your ears.
  3. Shift your weight into your heels and bend at the hips, starting to push the hips towards the wall directly behind you.
  4. As you bend at the hips, your knees and ankles will also bend.  As you lower the hips, your knees will start to go forward.  This is normal, but don't let them go too far.  Keep your abs engaged to hold your balance and focus more on sending the hips back than bending the knees forward.
  5. Continue to lower your hips as low as you can or until your thighs are parallel to the floor. 
  1. If you can, go down until your butt is in line with your knees. If you can't go down that low, go as low as you can.
  2. Take a moment and look down make sure your knees are in line with your toes and that your ankles haven't collapsed inward. 
  3. Try to keep your body weight balanced between the balls and heels of both feet.  If you look at yourself from the side, your shinbone will be parallel with your torso.
  1. Keeping the abs engaged, back flat and chest up, slowly push your body back to starting position.
  2. At the top of the movement, keep a slight bend in the knees rather than locking them, which isn't always great for the joints, depending on the exercise you're doing.
  3. Repeat the movement 10 to 15 times, performing 1 to 3 sets. For each repetition, count to 3 on the way up and on the way down to ensure you're not going too fast.
  4. Rest 30 to 60 seconds in between sets.
  5. Stretch your quadriceps and hamstrings after each set or after your final set, spending at least 10 to 15 seconds on each stretch.

Tips:

  1. Warm up with at least 5 minutes of cardio before doing any strength training moves.  This will get your muscles warm and ready for what's to come.
  2. Stand sideways in front of a mirror to watch your form and keep everything in alignment. 
  3. To make it more difficult, hold a barbell across your shoulders or hold dumbbells at your sides.
  4. Breathe continuously and keep your neck in line with your spine.
  5. Practice by actually standing in front of a chair and sitting down on it briefly before standing back up.
  1. If your knees bother you, check your form or try an alternative exercise to avoid knee pain.

More About Squats

This just describes a body weight squat, but there are so many more options for breaking out and working your lower body with different types of squats.

You can use dumbbells, a barbell, or a resistance band. You can do them with one foot elevated or on one leg...the options are endless.

Here's more great info about squats and lower body exercise.

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