How to Squat
What is a squat?
Squats are a great exercise if you're looking to improve your general fitness, tone your lower body, or build strength. Performing the squat requires using multiple muscle groups at the same time, making it an effective muscle-building compound movement to include into your workout routine. The main muscles groups used when doing a squat are the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.
Although the squat is widely acknowledged as the ‘king of leg exercises’, other muscles groups are also involved, such as your back, abs and arms so it’s still beneficial to incorporate this exercise to help tone your whole body.
Whether you’re a complete beginner or a pro, this is a staple exercise to include into your gym routine. The squat can easily be adapted to suit your fitness level and abilities.
For beginners, the body weight squat, which is the most widely-known exercise would be a good one to start with. As you get more comfortable with the basic squat and your legs get stronger, you can make the squat more challenging by adding a variation that includes weights such as the barbell squat which used in Olympic weightlifting.
Check out different squat exercise variations below and our top tips when performing the exercise.
- Keep your core tight when you perform the movement to help keep your body in a stable braced position.
- Try to maintain a tall spine throughout the exercise to avoid rounding your back.
- When you perform the squat, imagine as if you are trying to rip the floor apart with your feet. This will help from your knees collapsing inwards.
- When performing the squat, try to keep your weight on your heels to avoid leaning too far forward.
Equipment: no equipment required
- Stand tall with feet slightly wider than hip-width distance apart, feet slightly turned out.
- Roll your shoulders and down away from the ears. This will help you to maintain a straight spine.
- Look straight ahead and take a deep breathe in and tighten your ab muscles. Then bend your knees and sink your hips back while lowering your hips towards the floor until it sinks just below the knees. Try to keep a straight spine and tight core throughout the whole movement.
- Stay in this position briefly, before straightening your legs and exploding back up to standing position, and then exhale.
- Repeat as many repetitions required.
For more bodyweight exercise like this, check out our blog on different bodyweight exercises.
Equipment required: A kettlebell, a dumbbell or weights plate.
You can use a kettlebell, dumbbell or medicine ball with this exercise. We suggest doing this exercise with lighter weight first to begin with, and then increase the weight once you are comfortable with performing the movement or if you are finding it too easy.
- First, grab a weight you are comfortable with. Hold the weight with both hands towards your chest, with elbows tucked in towards your stomach.
- Same as with a body weight squat, stand tall with feet slightly wider than hip-width distance apart, feet slightly turned out.
- Straighten your back and brace your abs. Sink your hips back and down towards the floor. As you do this movement, allow your elbows to drop between your legs, and inside your knees. Make sure that your knees don’t go over your toes while doing this movement by keeping the weight in your heels.
- When your hip sinks just below the knees, stay in this position for a brief pause, and then drive your hips back up towards the ceiling to return to standing position.
Equipment required: you can perform this exercise without any equipment or you can make it more challenging my holding a pair of dumbbells, a barbell or weighted plate.
- Stand with feet hip-width distance apart, feet slightly turned out.
- Perform a normal bodyweight squat, maintaining a tall spine and braced core.
- As soon as your hip sinks just below the knees, push your heels the floor by jumping as high as you can, and land softly on your feet.
No equipment required.
- Make sure there is plenty of space in front of you.
- Stand with feet hip-distance apart, feet slightly pointed out.
- Swing your arms back behind you to help you gain momentum as you perform the squat movement.
- As soon as your hips lower between a quarter to a half squat, swing both of your arms forward as you jump as far in front of you.
- Try landing lightly with both feet at shoulder-distance apart. If you put your weight towards the front your feet as you land this can help you maintain balance.
Barbell front squat
Equipment required: Barbell, with weighted plates.
- Set up the squat rack or Olympic lifting platform so the barbell is rested at the right level for you based on your height. If you need add more weight, add plates to each side of the barbell at which you are comfortable with. If you’re new to this exercise, we suggest getting comfortable with performing a squat first before adding extra weight.
- Once you are happy with your set up, bring your arms up to the bar with an underhand grip, whilst keeping the elbows high and pointing forwards. The bar should be able to rest on either sides of your shoulders in this position.
- Looking straight ahead of you, take a few steps away from the rack whilst keeping your arms locked in that same position.
- Position your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart, with toes slightly pointed out. Breathe in and lock your abs.
- Lower your body into a squat position whilst keeping your head up and chest proud at all times.
- Straighten your knees and extend your hips back up to starting position. Maintain a tall spine and tight core throughout the whole movement.
- Exhale out and repeat however many repetitions, then take a few steps forward to rest the bar on the rack.
If you’re not sure if any of the above exercises are suitable for you, please consult your doctor before you start it. Need guidance on how to perform the exercise? Ask a personal trainer at your gym.