How to perform a proper squat

Performing a proper squat is fundamental for building lower body strength, enhancing athletic performance, and promoting overall fitness. Squats are a compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core. Learning the correct technique is essential to maximize benefits and minimize the risk of injury. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to perform a proper squat:

Understanding the Squat:

What is a Squat?

  • Definition: A squat is a bodyweight exercise that involves lowering the body from a standing position into a seated-like position and then returning to standing.
  • Muscles Worked: Primary muscles include the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and core. It also engages the calves and stabilizing muscles.

Benefits of Squats:

  • Strength Building: Develops lower body and core strength.
  • Functional Fitness: Enhances the ability to perform everyday activities like lifting, bending, and climbing stairs.
  • Injury Prevention: Strengthens muscles and joints, reducing the risk of injuries.
  • Increased Mobility: Improves flexibility and range of motion in the hips, knees, and ankles.
  • Calorie Burning: Engages multiple muscle groups, leading to higher calorie expenditure.
  • Hormonal Benefits: Stimulates the release of growth hormone and testosterone, aiding muscle growth and fat loss.

Steps to Perform a Proper Squat:

1. Starting Position:

  • Foot Placement: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Point your toes slightly outward, around 15-30 degrees, to allow for a more natural movement.
  • Weight Distribution: Distribute your weight evenly across your feet, focusing on the midfoot and heels, not the toes.
  • Body Alignment: Keep your chest up, shoulders back, and engage your core. Your spine should be in a neutral position.

2. The Descent (Lowering Phase):

  • Initiate the Movement: Begin the squat by pushing your hips back as if you are sitting in a chair. This helps activate the glutes and maintain proper form.
  • Knee Tracking: Allow your knees to bend and track over your toes. Ensure they do not cave inward. Aim to keep them aligned with your second and third toes.
  • Depth: Lower your body until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. If possible, go deeper without compromising form, but do not sacrifice your lower back’s neutrality.
  • Breathing: Inhale deeply as you lower your body, filling your lungs and bracing your core.

3. The Ascent (Rising Phase):

  • Driving Up: Push through your heels to rise back up to the starting position. Imagine driving your feet into the ground.
  • Hip Extension: Extend your hips fully at the top of the movement, squeezing your glutes. Do not hyperextend your back.
  • Breathing: Exhale forcefully as you rise, maintaining core engagement.

4. Key Technique Points:

  • Chest and Torso: Keep your chest up and avoid leaning too far forward. Your torso should remain as upright as possible throughout the movement.
  • Spine Alignment: Maintain a neutral spine, avoiding rounding or excessive arching of the lower back.
  • Head Position: Keep your head in line with your spine, looking slightly ahead. Avoid tilting your head up or down.

5. Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Knees Caving In: Ensure your knees track over your toes and do not collapse inward. Strengthen your hip abductors and practice proper form to correct this.
  • Rising on Toes: Keep your weight on your midfoot and heels, not the balls of your feet. This helps maintain balance and proper muscle engagement.
  • Shallow Squats: Aim to lower your thighs to at least parallel with the floor. Going deeper can be beneficial if done with proper form.
  • Forward Lean: Avoid leaning excessively forward. Focus on keeping your chest up and your back straight.

6. Variations of Squats:

Bodyweight Squat:

  • Description: A basic squat using only body weight for resistance.
  • Purpose: Ideal for beginners to learn the movement pattern and for warm-ups.

Goblet Squat:

  • Description: Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell close to your chest.
  • Purpose: Helps maintain an upright torso and is a great progression from bodyweight squats.

Back Squat:

  • Description: Perform the squat with a barbell resting on your upper back (traps).
  • Purpose: Allows for greater loading, building significant lower body strength.

Front Squat:

  • Description: Perform the squat with a barbell resting on your shoulders in front of your body.
  • Purpose: Emphasizes the quadriceps and core, promoting an upright torso.

Overhead Squat:

  • Description: Perform the squat with a barbell held overhead with fully extended arms.
  • Purpose: Challenges balance, flexibility, and overall strength.

Bulgarian Split Squat:

  • Description: Perform the squat with one foot elevated behind you on a bench or step.
  • Purpose: Focuses on single-leg strength, balance, and stability.

Sumo Squat:

  • Description: Perform the squat with a wider stance and toes pointed out more.
  • Purpose: Targets the inner thighs and glutes more effectively.

7. Incorporating Squats into Your Workout:

  • Frequency: Include squats in your workout routine 2-3 times per week, allowing for adequate recovery.
  • Sets and Repetitions: For beginners, start with 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions. Adjust the volume and intensity based on your goals and fitness level.
  • Progression: Gradually increase the weight and/or repetitions as you build strength and confidence in the movement.

8. Safety Considerations:

  • Warm-Up: Always warm up with dynamic stretches or light cardio to prepare your muscles and joints for the exercise.
  • Proper Footwear: Wear supportive shoes with a stable base to enhance balance and prevent ankle injuries.
  • Spotter: If lifting heavy weights, consider using a spotter or safety bars in a squat rack for added security.

9. Flexibility and Mobility:

  • Hip Flexibility: Perform hip flexor stretches to increase range of motion and ease of movement during squats.
  • Ankle Mobility: Work on ankle mobility exercises to ensure proper depth and knee tracking.
  • Hamstring Flexibility: Stretch your hamstrings regularly to avoid tightness that can affect squat form.

10. Recovery and Nutrition:

  • Rest Days: Allow your muscles time to recover by incorporating rest days or alternating muscle groups in your workout routine.
  • Hydration: Stay hydrated to support muscle function and recovery.
  • Nutrition: Consume a balanced diet with adequate protein to aid muscle repair and growth.

11. Tracking Progress:

  • Journaling: Keep a workout journal to track sets, repetitions, and weights used in your squat workouts.
  • Form Check: Regularly assess your squat form using mirrors, video recordings, or feedback from a trainer.
  • Goal Setting: Set specific, measurable goals to stay motivated and monitor your progress over time.


Mastering the squat is essential for building lower body strength, enhancing athletic performance, and promoting overall fitness. By focusing on proper technique, avoiding common mistakes, and incorporating variations and progressions, you can perform squats safely and effectively. Remember to listen to your body, prioritize form over weight, and enjoy the numerous benefits that come with incorporating squats into your fitness routine.