Do You Know How To Do A Proper Squat?

As I discussed in my last article, the squat is an essential movement of life. Our bodies are anatomically designed to squat and the ability to do it well can improve your athletic ability, flexibility, and the strength of your entire body, especially your knees, back, and hips.

Some have said that squatting is dangerous, or that you shouldn’t squat beyond 90 degrees. To them, I’d ask, “Then how do you get off the ground?” It’s not possible, or at least very difficult, to get up without bending your knees further than 90 degrees! To be, we’re primarily talking about bodyweight or “air squats,” but the same principles still apply to squats using weights.

The reason why people give these strange precautions is that they’ve witnessed what can happen when you squat poorly, with bad form or too much weight, or they’re just misinformed. In this article, I outline some basic principles that will make your squats safe, efficient, and beneficial for all parts of your body. I’ve included two descriptions below. The first is just the quick rundown of a squat and the second is an extensive description of how to achieve a perfect squat. I hope this is helpful.

A simple squat how-to:

  1. Start with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Tighten your core and prepare to keep your back in a solid, straight position.
  3. Push your butt back and then down.
  4. Keep your weight in your heels and do not allow them to leave the ground.
  5. Your core should be engaged the entire time with your shoulders back.
  6. Slowly descend until the crease of your hip is below your knee joint.
  7. Ascend straight up without moving forward. Continue to keep your weight in your heels.
  8. Stand as tall as possible while squeezing your glutes and thighs.
  9. Repeat with control. (Squats are not to be done rapidly or with weights until you master the basic body functions.)

For those really interested in the mechanics, here’s an even more detailed squat how-to:

  1. Start with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your toes slightly facing outward.
  2. Keep your head in a neutral position, looking slightly above parallel.
  3. Do not look down at all; the ground should only be in your peripherals.
  4. Seek to keep your spine in a neutral position. If anything, a slight curve in your lower spine is acceptable.
  5. Keep your abs and midsection very tight.
  6. Push your butt back and then down.
  7. Your bent knees should not go past your toes.
  8. Do not let your knees swing between your feet. Keep your heels on the ground for the entire movement.
  9. Stay off the balls of your feet; remember to keep your entire feet firmly planted to the ground.
  10. As you descend, lift your arms out and up.
  11. Keep your torso extended.
  12. From a side view, your head should not show that it’s either forward or backward. It should line up straight with your spine.
  13. Keep your back tight and straight at the bottom. There should be no rounding of the back. This will keep your back in the safest position possible.
  14. Stop descending when the fold of your hip is below the knee joint and parallel with your thigh.
  15. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings and rise without any leaning forward or shifting of balance.
  16. Return to the upright position with exactly the same movements you used to descend.
  17. Use every muscle you can think of as you do this movement; there should be no uninvolved part of the body.
  18. Upon rising, without moving your feet, exert pressure to the outside of your feet as though you were trying to separate from the ground beneath you.
  19. Finally, end the squat by standing as tall as you possibly can.

Ready to squat?

2 Comments
  1. Is #7 “Your bent knees SHOULD go past your toes,” in the more detailed squat instructions correct? I have always been told your knees should NOT go past your toes.

    1. Hi Dana, you’re correct – your knees should NOT go past the toes. We’ll make that correction immediately, thank you so much!

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