How To Squat

Walking into the gym can sometimes feel intimidating – especially if you’re new to fitness.

However, even though at first glance it appears everyone knows what they’re doing, the gym can be littered with poor technique, lack of focus and bad form – not to mention some terrible hats.

Squats are definitely one of those exercises that can be tricky to master. But once you have the technique down, they are brilliant, functional exercises to incorporate regularly into your routine that will really help strengthen your lower body.

What’s the best squat stance?

If you’re learning how to squat, it’s best to start without a weight to make sure you get the correct stance and motion.

Feet – squat stance is usually a little wider than many people think it should be. Take your feet to shoulder width distance and start from there, you can always go wider to fully engage the glutes as long as you can maintain the correct posture.

Back – keep your back straight. A lot of people end up looking down, bending over or over-arching their back when squatting. Check in the mirror and if you’re back’s looking like an upturned boulder, straighten up and start again.

Man squatting using correct form and no weight

Weight path – push your weight down through your heels while keeping your feet flat on the floor – finding it hard? Pop a weight bench behind you so you get used to pushing your butt out and opening your hips. Any topples will be quickly caught by the bench so you can simply get up and try again. Many people advise to keep your knees behind your toes but this is to encourage a correct weight path more than anything. Just make sure you are opening your hips and not pushing your knees inwards as you go down.

Tense all your muscles – so much can be said for tensing your muscles while you strengthen them. It really is a vital part of training and you should be thinking about it every time you lift, squat, pull, row, crunch, push, press, raise and curl. Remember to keep everything tight but don’t let that allow you to adjust your hips – you’re still aiming to push your butt out while keeping your spine straight.

Squat depth – many people learning how to squat will take their position down to where their thighs are parallel to the floor. Technically this isn’t a squat. Ultimately what you want to be doing is taking your butt right down to bring it close to your heels – this ensures it’s fully-engaged.

Woman showing full squat without squat rack

Neck straight – there are lots of positioning points to think about when squatting, so don’t let this distract you by getting your neck in an awkward position. Remember your spine needs to stay straight so keep your chin away from your chest, but don’t strain by looking upwards – your neck needs to be in line with your spine.

Arms – at the moment you’re concentrating on not using any weights. To help you with your balance, bring your arms up in front of you as you squat, keep them straight and then lower back down. With your spine straight, it’ll look a little bit like you’re about to dive into a pool so your arms will be near your face.

Chest – keep your chest raised with your spine straight so no curving, buckling or puffing out.

Ready to take your squats to the next level?

Woman squatting with barbell weight

Once you’ve mastered the bodyweight squat, use a kettlebell, medicine ball or slam ball to help you build up your strength.

Position your chosen weight near the upper half of your chest with your arms bent and your elbows tucked in. Repeat as above to get a full, deep squat.

The next step is to prepare yourself for using a squat rack. Practise getting the position right with just a barbell, keeping the bar central, on the back of your shoulders with your back tight and your elbows tucked down near your sides.

You can move on to more advanced squatting techniques by using a squat rack.