How to do a Perfect Squat

Aug 17, 2016

 

 

The Perfect Squat: How to Guide

Are you doing your squats correctly? Squats are one of the best exercises for a stronger, fitter you—but only if you do them right. Here is a simple guide that demonstrates the proper technique for doing this exercise staple.

How to do a proper squat

1. The setup for the squat is incredibly simple. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips.  Your toes should be pointed slightly outward – about 5 to 20 degrees outward.

2. Look straight ahead and pick a spot on the wall in front of you. You’ll want to look at this spot the entire time you squat, not looking down at the floor or up at the ceiling.

3. For a bodyweight squat, I put my arms straight out in front of me, parallel to the ground. Keep your spine in a neutral position. This means don’t round your back, but also don’t hyper extend and over accentuate the natural arch of your back.

4. Think about where your weight is on your feet – it should be on the heels and the balls of your feet, as if you were pasted to the ground.  You should be able to wiggle your toes the entire movement (though that’s not a part of squatting!).

5. Keep your entire body tight the entire time.

6. Now, breathe in, break at your hip and push your butt back.  Keep sending your hips backwards as your knees begin to bend.  It’s important that you start with your hips back, and not by bending your knees.

7. Keep your back straight, with your neutral spine, and your chest and shoulders up.  Keep looking straight ahead at that spot on the wall.

8. As you squat down, focus on keeping your knees in line with your feet. Many new lifters need to focus on pushing their knees out so they track with their feet. So, watch you knees! When they start to come inside the toes, push them out (but not wider than your feet). Think about it like this: if you were to attach a laser to the end of each of your knees, the laser would track between your second and fourth toes. Make sure your knees are out!

9. Squat down until your hip joint is lower than your knees (what we call parallel). We are looking at your hip joint here, not your thighs. Depending on the size of your thighs, your squat may appear to be less deep than it truly is.  You can go deeper than this, however, anything less than parallel is a partial squat.

10. Keeping everything tight, breathe out and drive through your heels (keep the balls of your feet on the ground as well).

11. Drive your knees out the same way you did on the way down, and squeeze your butt at the top to make sure you’re using your glutes.

*Remember: keep your body and core tight the entire time. This is important now, but will be especially important once we start adding weight to the equation.*

 

It is easy to do a squat incorrectly, but doing so exposes you to the risk of injury. So before you crank out another rep, make sure your squats aren't falling victim to these all-too-common mistakes:

Letting Your Knees Fall In
A combination of wide hips and weak inner and outer thighs makes this mistake pretty much ubiquitous among women. Unfortunately, when your knees move in toward each other during a squat, it can put undue pressure on your knee ligaments, resulting in injury

Not Lowering to 90 Degrees
If you don't complete the exercise through its full range of motion—all the way down until your thighbone is parallel with the floor—you won't fully engage your glutes and the upper part of your hamstrings

Arching Your Back
Your back naturally has a slight "S" to it. If you don't have enough lower back strength—and many women don't—it's easy to add some extra arch while squatting. The problem: That dumps the weight into your lower back and means you risk injury

Doing the Same Squat Over and Over
If you aren't regularly switching up your foot positions, you aren't taking advantage of what a versatile exercise the squat really is!

 

Every squat will look different depending on your body shape. Learning how to execute the perfect squat is a great first step on the journey to achieving healthy, active living. 

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