Everyone should be squatting. That’s a fact. Whether you’re bulking, cutting, toning, or just building functional strength, it should be the focal point of your lower body work. There are dozens of different variations, but with the exception of a few, if you can do one, you can do them all.
The problem is, not everyone actually knows how to do them. The concept seems pretty self-explanatory, but if you watch 100 different gym newbies try to squat, you’ll see 100 different ways to do them wrong. So before we get into any variations, let’s go over the mechanically correct way to squat.
(PS: Check out our mobility drills to do before squatting)
How To Squat
The variation you choose will determine how you set up the weight. So for simplicity, I’m going to approach this as a body-weight squat. Whether you do back squats, goblets, or even overheads, the basic form is going to stay the same.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width. Your knees should be just short of locking, and your toes can point out very slightly. Pick a focal point slightly above eye level. You’ll keep your gaze there the entire time, your chin slightly lifted.
- Shift your weight onto the middle of your foot and sit back. Your first motion should always be with your butt, not your knees.
While hinging at your hips, bend your knees and lower until they are parallel with the floor. Keep your chest up and your shoulders back. If your back is rounded, you’re not doing that, and you can seriously hurt yourself once you add weight.
- Push down through your heels and drive your hips forward and up until your knees are just short of locking.
- Finish by driving your hips forward another inch or two. NOTE: This drive should come from your glutes, not from back extension. A rule of thumb, “When your glutes stop grooving, your hips stop moving.”
NOTE: Common consensus is to not let your knees pass your toes. That’s not true, having your toes go past your knees is completely fine.
Now that you know the basic technique, you can add resistance in a bunch different ways. I’ll briefly go over some of the most common ones.
How To Back Squat
The king of squats is the back variation. This allows you to add the most weight, so you can really attack your legs.
- Set up a barbell a few inches below shoulder height on a squat rack.
- Get under the bar, resting it on your upper back (not your neck).
- Get your feet set for the squat and grab onto the bar a little wider than shoulder width.
- Drive through your heels to unrack the weight.
- Take a step back, reset your feet, and perform the squat as described above.
How To Goblet Squat
The goblet squat is perfect for mastering the form, as the weight being in front allows you to sit back a little more.
- Pick up a dumbbell by one end.
- With your hands on either side of the weight, forming a U-shape, hold it to your chest, letting the other end hand down.
- Perform the squat as normal.
How To Overhead Squat
This is probably the hardest variation to master, and you should do it with a broom stick for a few weeks before adding weight.
- Overhead press a barbell (or broom), and stop at the top of the motion.
- Squat down as normal, without letting the bar fall forward or backwards.
Not only does this work your legs and shoulders, but it also uses a lot of core activation.
This is an advanced move, but try it weightless and see how you do.
It can’t be said enough: Everyone should be squatting. The group exercise world has always used them for sculpted butts and a great calorie burner, but heavy squats need to become a norm across the board. If you could only to one exercise for the rest of your life, this is it.