Squats are the foundation of weightlifting. At its core, proper squats are one of the few movements can benefit both the stay-at-home mom and the Olympic weightlifter.
Benefits of Squatting
Squats are a compound exercise which means they work multiple muscle groups at once. That saves you time, and allows you to put your full attention into one exercise.
They are one of the safest movements if done properly. You can gain a huge benefit by just doing squats with your own body weight. Air squats require no equipment and can be done anywhere. Not only do they work your muscles, but they help with balance and coordination.
A squat with perfect form will work your thighs, hips, butt, hamstrings and core.
What muscles to squats work?
- Erector Spinae
- Gluteus Maximus
How To Perform A Squat Properly
When doing squats for the first time, start with your bodyweight. You can move on to adding dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells over time.
- Stand with your feet spread apart – slightly wider than your hips. Toes should be facing forward.
- Keep your chest and head up as you sit back into position.
- As you sit back, push the knees outward to stay in line with your toes. Keep your heels down and center the weight on your feet.
- After lowing to position, drive your body straight upward.
- Stay tight. Don’t let your chest fall or your knees knock inward. Make sure not to lean too far back on your heels or too far forward on your toes.
- Feet wider than hips
- Toes facing forward
- Chest and head up
- Heals down
- Knees in line with toes
- Knees outward
- Sit into the position
- Butt back
- Weight on heels and balls/center of feet
How Far To Go Down
Start with smaller movements going just partway down as a warmup. The ultimate goal is to get your butt all the way down to your heels.
Don’t get discouraged if you lose balance or can’t go down very far. Many people have mobility issues in their ankles or lack the muscle strength to go further. Aim to hit parallel for a solid home-based workout.
If you don’t feel comfortable sitting back into your squat, place a bench or chair directly behind you. Practice squatting with proper form to the bench, then moving back up.
Squat Mistakes To Avoid
Oftentimes beginners will make basic mistakes like moving too fast. Keep your squats slow so that you can focus on the movement and get the most out of your workout.
Leaning forward as you hit the bottom of the squat is another common mistake. If you can’t keep your chest and head upright you may be squatting too low.
Knee position is something you always need to be aware of. If you start day dreaming while you’re doing squats, the knees might start to drift inward which may lead to a higher risk of injury.
Don’t add any weight until you have proper form. You can get a great workout in just by doing body weight squats. Adding weights is not necessary and it’s highly recommended that you focus on form first for the best results.
Different Types of Squat Exercises
Bodyweight (Air Squats)
These squats can be done in the comfort of your own home with no equipment required. Work up to doing multiple sets or incorporate them into your regular home workout routine.
Goblet squats can be done by holding a kettlebell, single dumbbell or weight plate in front of your chest. This is another exercise that you can do at home and focus on your form. When doing a goblet squat – lean back, push your butt out, and be sure not to let your chest fall forward.
Front squats can be done with a barbell or two dumbbells held by your shoulders. They are similar to the goblet squat but really allow you to pack on the weight. Front squats are good movements for getting familiar with a barbell because they allow you to dump the weight forward if it starts to get too heavy.
Back squats are one of the most advanced squat movements. They are done with a barbell resting on your back so you really want to have proper form before attempting these. With back squats, work your weight up carefully and have a spotter or squat cage to catch the weight if it gets to heavy.
Drills for the perfect squat
Nobody has the perfect squat. Even in the strongest athletes you can find room for improvement.
There are many exercises to improve your squat form but if you are serious of getting great looking squats, two of the most common exercises are the wall squat and the pole squat.
Start by standing about a foot away and facing a wall. You’re going to put your arms straight up above your head and slowly squat down into position.
The wall in front of you will force your knees to spread out and your chest to remain upright.
Squat down as far as you can go without losing balance. Make sure to keep your toes facing forward.
As you get better at the movement you can move closer and closer towards the wall and work on getting further down.
With the pole squat, you’ll need a doorway or vertical pole to hold on to. Standing about an arm’s length away, grip the pole and sit back into a squat.
This stretch will help you focus on pushing your knees out and keeping your body upright.
CrossFit Air Squat WODS
Fast air squats are going to give you a leg up in any CrossFit® workout that calls for squats. These are some of the most common WODS (workout of the day) that use squats are:
Practice Makes Perfect
Follow the tips above and over time you will get closer and closer to performing the perfect squat. With proper squat form you can get a great workout at home or move on to more advanced skills like Olympic weightlifting movements.