Here’s How to Correctly Do a Squat

Proper form is the key to get the most out of your workout.

You may not realize it, but you squat almost every day. You might squat when you grab something from the bottom drawer of your dresser or when you go to pick up your kid. But doing a squat for the purpose of building muscle and controlling your body is something that requires a little more thought. For starters, make sure that you’re not doing these 7 exercises that actually work against you, including squats on a Bosu Ball.

Maurice Williams, owner and head personal trainer of Move Well Fitness in Washington, D.C., says that doing a squat correctly depends on the makeup of your body. “Things such as limb length, flexibility, and past or current injuries can dictate how you squat,” says Williams.

The two muscles to keep in mind when doing a squat are your calves and hips. Making sure that they are stretched and warmed up before you start doing squats is essential. “They are responsible for helping your butt muscles move in and out of the squat. If they are not flexible, your form could be on shaky ground, which could lead to injuries,” says Williams.

To learn how to perfect your form, the National Academy of Sports Medicine outlines these steps to performing the ideal squat:

INFOGRAPHIC-SQUATSTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com

  1. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward, your back straight, and your head up with your eyes forward
  2. Squeeze your glutes and push your shoulder blades towards your spine
  3. Descend as though you are sitting in a chair, keeping the knees aligned over the second and/or third toes
  4. Stand back up keeping your glutes engaged and your eyes forward; repeat for as many reps as you want
“You should be able to lower your body down with your feet flat on the floor until the crease of your hips is in line with your knees,” says Doug Sklar, owner and personal trainer at PhilanthroFit in New York, New York. “It’s ok if you can’t go that far when you start–work with your range of motion until you develop the strength and mobility to lower even more.”
 
The reason you need to focus on form so much is to prevent injury, says Sklar. “Leaning too far forwards places excessive strain on your lower back. And your knees falling inwards can cause problems as well,” he says.

If you are having trouble maintaining this body position as you squat, there are a few things you can do. Most importantly, get some external support, says Sklar. Do a squat while holding onto TRX (or suspension system) straps, so you’re supported as you sink down and pull yourself back up. You can also do a squat to a bench or chair. Place the box/bench/chair behind you at a height that allows you to lower your hips, tap your butt, and stand up. This should challenge you, but still allow you to stand back up.

It’s important to know how to do a squat properly so that you not only get the most out of it. So now that you know how your body should look and what muscles you should be working, try incorporating this technique into the squats you do in your everyday life. When you’re ready to switch it up, try this line-up of squat exercises to tone your body. Just remember the proper form as you work through each variation.

Sources

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Assistant Digital Managing Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 with a B.A. in Journalism. When she’s not writing for RD.com or keeping the 650+ pieces of content our team produces every month organized, she likes watching HGTV, going on Target runs, and searching through Instagram to find new corgi accounts to follow.