Fitness

How to Do Squats Properly With Or Without Weights

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How To Do Squats – Introduction

Why should you learn how to do squats properly?

There is a very good reason:

Squats are one of the most beneficial and effective lower body exercises around!

In fact, squats and deadlifts vie for the title of “king of all exercises” as they both work an incredible number of major muscle groups simultaneously.

And yet, this incredibly functional movement creates a lot of anxiety for many people.

Many years ago, a published study written by Dr. Karl Klein said squats were bad for your knee joints, and some exercisers still hold that opinion.¹

However, that study consisted of professional football players who already had knee pain because of the demands of pro ball.

Squats were not the cause of their joint problems!

Whether you are a gym or home exerciser, you really should include squats in your workouts.

You could go so far as to say that a training session without squats is not a good workout.

In this guide, you’ll learn why you should do this popular exercise, how to do squats properly, plus their best variations. 

Squats for Beginners

Squats offer many benefits and very few drawbacks, which is why they could be one of the best exercises you will ever do.

Not just for your leg muscles but your entire body! 

The benefits of squats include: 

#1. Increased leg strength

Strong legs make almost all everyday activities more comfortable, from walking to going up and down the stairs to getting out of your chair, which is why squats are such a remarkably functional exercise. 

#2. Increased muscle mass

If you want to build muscle, squats are all but compulsory. 

No bodybuilder has ever built big legs without them. 

Besides, they are anabolic, which means they trigger growth in many muscle groups, including your upper body and not in just your legs.²

#3. Stronger bones

Squats Load your legs, hips, and spine, and don’t just affect your muscles; they affect your bones too, making them stronger and denser.

Dense bones are more resistant to fractures, which is especially important for older people.

#4. Better mobility and flexibility

Squats involve an extensive range of motion, which can help improve and preserve mobility and flexibility. 

The deeper you squat, the better your hip, knee, ankle mobility, and flexibility will become. 

#5. Improved sports performance

Squats can improve your athletic performance. 

Whatever sport you play, adding them to your workouts will help you run faster, jump, kick, and throw harder than ever.

The Perfect Body Weight Squat

While squats are an undeniably useful and beneficial compound exercise, they can also be dangerous if you don’t do them correctly. 

Therefore, proper form is vital to prevent injury and make sure you get the most from this fantastic exercise. 

Use this step-by-step guide to learn how to do air squats properly.

How to Do the Bodyweight Variation At Home

Note: This guide is for informational purposes only, not for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 
Always fill out a PAR-Q form and consult your doctor before starting an exercise program.

How to Do Squats Properly

Starting Position

1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart; toes turned slightly outward. 

2. Lift your chest, look straight ahead, and brace your abs. 

The Descent

3. With your weight on your heels, bend your knees and push your hips to the rear. 

4. Descend until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor.

5. Your hips should be slightly below the top of your knee.

6. Try not to round your lower back, or allow your knees to cave in. 

7. Keep your knees in line with and behind your toes.

The Ascent

8. Stand back up, extending your knees and hips at the same time. 

9. Do not let your hips shoot up faster than your shoulders or butt. 

10. Reset your starting position and repeat. 

Squatting with proper technique takes time and practice, and you should master the basic squat before you add weight.

Work up to doing three sets of 20 reps in perfect form. 

Once you can do that, you’re ready to progress to one of the following, more demanding variations. 

Increasing Weight 

Once you have mastered the basic bodyweight squat, it’s time to start making your workouts harder by adding weight. 

Weights allow you to make your workouts progressive, so you continue to gain strength and fitness. 

If you don’t find ways to make your workouts harder, your progress will stall. 

There are many different variations to choose from, so you should never get bored doing the same one repeatedly.

Dumbbell Squats

For this variation, hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down by your sides. 

While your grip will prevent you from using heavier weights, the dumbbell squat is an excellent way to make this exercise harder if you train at home and don’t have a power rack

Make sure you keep your weight on your heels; using added weight tends to throw your weight forward and onto your toes.

How to Do The Dumbbell Variation

Kettlebell Goblet Squat

To do this exercise, hold a kettlebell by its vertical handles in front of your chest. 

Step out, so your feet are slightly wider than hip-width apart, and then squat down while keeping the weight close to your body. 

Kettlebell squats are a great way to perfect your form.

How to Do The Kettlebell Variation

Barbell Back Squat

For this traditional squat variation, you rest and hold a barbell across the back of your shoulders. 

If you are using light weight, you should be able to lift the bar over your head and onto your back into position. 

But, for heavier weights, you’ll need a rack

With the weight on your shoulders, you’ll have to work extra hard to keep your torso upright and stop your knees from caving in. 

Brace your abs hard to stabilize your lower back.

How to Do Squats With a Barbell

Barbell Front Squats

The front squat involves holding a barbell in front of your body, on the front of your shoulders. 

This variation is especially popular with athletes as it has an excellent crossover to running and jumping

It requires a decent amount of upper body flexibility as you have to keep your upper arms straight out in front and parallel to the floor. 

But, once mastered, this is a rewarding variation.

How to Do Front Squats Right

Zercher

This odd-sounding exercise involves holding a barbell in the crooks of your arms. 

You don’t need a power rack for this exercise, which makes it ideal for home exercisers. 

But, on the downside, using heavy weights is painful unless you find a way to pad the weight.

Box Squats

Another excellent squat exercise is the box squat.

To do this exercise, you place a suitable height box or bench behind you.

The box should help you hit a position where your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.

Do a controlled descent, push your hips back, and lightly touch down on the box/bench behind you.

Maintain your core engagement and do not round your back!

Pause on the box/bench in this tight position and then explosively drive off the box to a standing position.

Box squats are favored by many athletes and powerlifters because they’re so useful for building maximal strength and power.

They are also helpful for fixing the typical sticking point when you are weak at the bottom of the squat.

See the Top 7 Box Squat Benefits, Muscles Worked + How-To Do It Right for a deeper dive into this effective squat accessory exercise.

Overhead Squats

Overhead squats are probably the hardest squat variation to master. 

To do this exercise, lift and hold a barbell above your head with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart. 

Without bending your arms, bend your legs and descend into a deep squat position. 

Do not round your lower back. 

Stand back up and repeat, keeping the weight above your head throughout. 

This variation requires and develops excellent mobility and flexibility.

Squat Jumps

Most squat variations involve slow and deliberate descent and ascent, and only a little momentum. 

That’s good for building fitness, muscle, and strength, but not so good for power. 

Power is your ability to generate force quickly and is a vital component of most sports. 

Squat jumps are a beneficial lower body power exercise. 

To do squat jumps, descend as usual but then stand up so fast that your feet leave the ground, and you leap into the air. 

Land on slightly bent knees and repeat. 

You can do squat jumps with dumbbells in your hands or a barbell on your back, but standard bodyweight squat jumps should be challenging enough for most exercisers.

Recommended Gear to Use at Home

Gyms have all the equipment you need to train in safety and comfort. 

But what if you work out at home? 

If you want to do weighted squats in your home gym, you’ll need some equipment.

The right gear is essential for learning how to do squats properly and without getting hurt!

Shoes

Your typical gym shoes are very shock-absorbent, which is ideal for general gym activities and walking but also means they compress and distort under heavy loads. 

Squishy shoes that wobble are the last thing you want if you have hefty weight on your shoulders or in your hands.

I made the switch to the right shoes only after I twisted my knee doing squats with running shoes.

Don’t make that mistake!

Many serious strength trainers wear specially designed shoes for squats and deadlifts

Proper footwear provides a stable base for lifting heavier weights.

Barbell

The best weightlifting gear starts with the right barbell

If you want to progress to lifting heavy weights, an Olympic-style bar is your best choice. 

See the 12 Types of Barbells Explained + How to Choose the Right One for you.

How to Do Squats Properly: Layne Norton’s Squat Tutorial

Weight plates

While an empty barbell may be heavy enough at first, you’ll soon need some weight plates to make your workouts harder. 

There is no need to buy a full set of weights straight away. 

Instead, just buy a few plates and then add more to your collection as you get stronger. 

Bar pad

Resting and holding a heavy bar on your back can be painful. 

thick foam bar pad will make back, and front squats more comfortable and is useful for the Zercher variation as well. 

Squat rack

A rack will save you from having to lift the bar off the floor and press it overhead whenever you want to do squats. 

Unlike a power rack, most squat racks are light, portable, and don’t require a high ceiling. 

You can also do bench presses on most racks.

Power Rack 

power rack is a squat rack on steroids! 

Big and very strong, a power rack will make squats easier and safer, especially if you want to lift heavier weights. 

Most power racks are also quite tall, so make sure you have enough space to accommodate one before buying. 

For the options today, see the 5 Best Power and Squat Racks for Sale in 2022.

Weightlifting belt:

You don’t have to wear a weightlifting belt, but a lot of people find that it makes them feel more stable and secure, especially when lifting heavier weights. 

Weightlifting belts don’t support your spine passively. 

Instead, a weightlifting belt gives you something to brace your abs against during strenuous exercise, which increases intra-abdominal pressure, and that internal bracing helps support your back. 

How To Do Squats Properly – Wrapping Up

Squats are arguably the most important exercise you can do. 

It doesn’t matter if you are training for strength, athletic performance, fitness, fat loss, or body-wide muscle building, this powerful compound exercise will help you achieve your goals faster than almost any other. 

They aren’t just an exercise either; they are also a fundamental movement pattern in everyday life. 

Most people do dozens of squats per day. 

Sitting down and standing up again? 

That’s a squat!

Squatting will enhance many aspects of your daily life, and preserving your lower body strength will help you live a more productive life as you age. 

However, if you lose your mobility, you’ll find that many of life’s activities become much harder, if not impossible. 

So, whatever your fitness goals are, make sure you learn how to do squats properly and include plenty of this fantastic functional exercise in your workouts. 

Your body will thank you!

What’s Next

Get a bigger picture of the 20 Most Significant Benefits of Squats, The King of Free Weight Strength Training.

Related Posts:

Footnote

¹ Karl Klein – National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal

² The effect of training volume and intensity on improvements in muscular strength and size in resistance-trained men – PubMed

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