The squat is a primal movement that should be a part of every workout routine. It’s the base for many activities we do regularly, including sitting down and lifting objects. Squat also has many fitness benefits. It improves our overall exercise performance, strengthens our entire lower body, and can help us become better athletes.
But doing a proper squat can have a learning curve, especially if you’re using weights. Here are steps to perform a proper squat and maximize the benefits from this amazing exercise.
1. Stand with your feet around a shoulder-width apart
For the basic squat, your feet are around a shoulder-width apart, a bit wider than hip-width. The toes should face front and be in line with the knees. For the sumo squat, your feet are much wider apart and the feet are turned out. For the ski squat, the feet face front, and they are close together. If you’re not using weights, you can place your hands on your hips, or straight in front of you for balance.
2. Push your hips back, bending at the knees
Before you perform a squat, make sure your chest is up and your navel is slightly pulled inward. Engage your core to support the movement. Instead of going straight down, push your hips back as if you’re lowering to a chair. You can practice the movement by doing box squats, where you literally sit down on a bench or a box and get back up.
The torso will naturally tilt forward, but maintain a straight spine. Lower yourself as much as you can without leaning too much forward. Also, don’t allow your knees to stick out past your toes. If you have knee issues, the deepest you should go is when your thighs are parallel to the floor.
3. Press into your heels to push up
Press your heels to the floor to push yourself back to an upright position. Keep your heels glued to the floor, as they’ll help you to stay balanced when you’re pushing up. Practice toe lifts before you perform your squats to improve your balance and stability and to learn to keep most of your weight on your heels. Squeeze your glutes at the top to make sure they’re active during the movement. Repeat the movement for between 10 and 20 reps.
How to Perform a proper squat with weights?
Squats are often done with weights. IF you’re training with a barbell, adjust the height of a rack to approximately the height of your collarbone. Step under the barbell, so it sits on your upper back, and hold it with your hands on each side.
You can experiment with different types of grip to hold the barbell. Walk away from the rack and perform the squats just as described above. When you’re done with a set, return the barbell to the rack.
If you’re using two dumbbells for your squats, you could hold one in each hand and have your arms by your sides. Keep your hands active and glued to your legs when performing the squat. You can also hold them up on your shoulders to activate your arms more.
Finally, a kettlebell is also an amazing option for squats. Hold it with both hands between your legs. If the kettlebell reaches the floor before you’re able to perform a deep squat, elevate your legs, so you have a deeper range.
If your goal is to activate the glutes during a squat, try using mini bands with or without weights. Bands add resistance to your exercise, and they help to activate your glutes.