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How To Do A Squat Correctly: Top 5 Tips

How To Do A Squat Correctly: Top 5 Tips

Back in the day, I used to dread back squatting. When I was playing competitive rugby, squats was one of the first power lifts that I had to learn, along with bench press and powercleans. I had no problem with the latter exercises, but how to do a squat correctly was something I just could not wrap my head around.

Putting the barbell on my traps felt like a massive, uncomfortable weight. It was hard to stand with the weight, let alone properly squatting down while pushing my bum back and keeping my chest upright.

I avoided squatting for almost two years, before I finally had to face facts –  the squat is one of the most effective, powerful, and functional exercises that you can do. And I wanted to be able to master it.

If you’re also avoiding squatting because of similar reasons, then this article is perfect for you. Perhaps your form needs some correcting, or you just feel uncomfortable with that barbell on your back.

To help you get past these issues, here are my top 5 tips on how to do a squat correctly.

How To Do A Squat Correctly: Top 5 Tips

Check Your Ego at the Door – Don’t Start Heavy

Form is EVERYTHING. If you’ve been squatting for 1 week and are already throwing plates on each side – think again. Who cares that the chick beside you is pumping out 200 lb squats – she’s probably been doing it for ages. When I first started again, I put 10 lbs on each side, and slowly worked my way up from there. If you start too heavy too soon, you will fail to get low enough, you will not engage the correct muscles, and likely injure your back or knees eventually.

Isolate and Strengthen the Glutes and Hamstrings

To be able to build up strength in your squat, you will want to incorporate some isolation exercises on the muscles that help drive the squat. Specifically, your glutes and hamstrings. To really activate your glutes and start building muscle in your posterior chain, focus on simple body weight exercises. At the beginning of each leg workout, I would start with 3 sets of 15 reps of: glute bridges, single leg glute bridges, Swiss ball curls and reverse lunges. These exercises are the building blocks to squatting correctly.

Focus on Pushing Hips Back (Like Sitting Down on a Chair)

Another key point that I always think about is pushing my hips back as farrrr as possible. Almost as though i’m reaching for a chair that is lingering about half a foot back from my heels. Don’t just think about bending at your hips and knees, but also moving your hips back at the same time. If this is a difficult movement for you to learn, practice box squatting. Place a 12-24″ box behind you (depending on your height) and lift only the barbell with no weight. Squat down, leading with your hips and sit back onto the box rather than squatting straight down.  To stand back up, engage your glutes and hips, and keep your chest and head upright.

How to Do A Squat Correctly: Top 5 Tips

Drive Through the Heels and Not The Balls of Your Feet

When you squat, you always want the weight to be on the heels, not the balls of your feet. As I descend into the squat, I imagine myself at the point of almost falling backwards. Throughout the entire movement, my toes are barely even touching the ground. Again – this will focus on using the glutes to drive yourself through the extension (the upwards movement of the squat), rather than your quads. If your glute muscles are weak, this will force your torso forward and you will end up on the balls of your feet. This goes back to my first point: start with a low weight so that you correct any form issues early on.

Keep Knees in Line with Toes Always

One of the biggest indicators of weak glute muscles are the knees caving in as you squat down. Never allow your knees to buckle in on the way down, OR the way up. Your feet and knees should be pointing in the same direction the entire time. Failing to do this will result in knee and back injuries (especially as you start to lift heavier). One way to work on this to use a mini-resistance band just below your knees. Use light or no weight at all. Start with your feet wider than shoulder width apart, and squat down, watching that your knees and toes are pointing in the same direction. I take this band with me every single time I do a leg workout.

How to Squat Correctly

If you incorporate these into your workouts, you will notice a BIG difference in the way you squat AND in your confidence when approaching the rack. If you’re still not sure, and want to try some other leg workouts to build strength, check out my Three Super Effective Leg Exercises without a Barbell. Or if you prefer to stick with the HIIT workouts, this Powerful Lowerbody Workout will be sure to make you sweat.

How to Do a Squat Correctly: Top 5 Tips

What About You?!

  • Do you incorporate squats into your workout routine?
  • What is your top tip for squatting?
  • Were you ever scared/nervous to start squatting at the gym?

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  1. Awesome tips Bev! I know I don’t always sit back as far as possible and have definitely felt it in my lower back because of it… thanks for the reminder!

    • beverleyc

      18 May

      Thank you Ellie! Lower back is also always a point of contention with me! It will start aching at the slightest thing even with good form.

  2. Esther Cho

    17 May

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I have always wanted to be a master of squats but have always had so much trouble with them. It’s been around like 3 years of “trying to squat”…I work my legs a lot and I can lift pretty heavy on various macines so I feel like i should be able to squat with heavier weight but I always had such a hard time. And after reading this I realize I likely have to really work on my form!
    Thanks for the tips I am going to try these ASAP!

    • beverleyc

      18 May

      You’re welcome Esther!! I’m so glad that you could take something from this article. Let me know how it works out for you 🙂

  3. Great tips, Beverly! I feel like I have a decent foundation (from BodyPump) for squatting, but because my glutes are pretty weak and I’m self-conscious at the gym anyways, I’m scared to try heavier lifting. I think I just need to get over myself (see rule #1 re: ego) and just do it. 😉

    • beverleyc

      18 May

      Don’t be self conscious! Confidence is key for squatting, I swear. I’m sure once you start doing it more and more you will get used to it and kill it!!

  4. SuzLyfe

    17 May

    FANTASTIC tips. I love these. I tell my clients so many of the same things–I think they are completely over hearing me talk about pushing through the heels. But honestly, they can suck it ;D

    • beverleyc

      18 May

      Thank you Suz!! That means a lot coming from you. Hahah i knowww, all day it’s ‘heels this’ and ‘glutes that.’ so boring

  5. Natalie

    17 May

    Great tips! I love squatting, but it’s soooo easy to mess up your back if you do it incorrectly! I love the idea of the resistance band. I normally do at least 10 reps with the bar only before I put any weights on, just to make sure I’ve got my form in check, but I will probably try the resistance band moving forward now too!

    • beverleyc

      18 May

      Yess! The resistance band is so helpful. It’s good that you warm up without weight as so manyy people just jump right in!

  6. You would be SOOOOO PROUD of me !! I have been doing 2 – 5 minutes worth of squats EVERY DAY!!! Booty is ROCKIN’ ROCKIN’ ROCKIN’ ROCKIN’ ROCKIN’ EVERYWHERE!!

    • beverleyc

      18 May

      GIRL I am proud!! But you dont need me to tell you that you look banging 😉

  7. Great tips, awesome footage, and tutorial photo! I LOVE the benefits of squats and truly believe that a good squat routine is a MUST in everyones weekly workout.
    Xo,
    Natasha Kotto
    http://www.natashakotto.com

    • beverleyc

      18 May

      Thank you Natasha!! I wholeheartedly agree. If i’m not squatting on a Monday, something is wrong

  8. GiselleR

    18 May

    I seriously suck at squatting. Did legs last night and I had to drop my weight down to 10 so I could focus on my form. My hip flexors are super tight so I can never go as far down as I should. I usually do yoga to help with that, but I’ve been slacking recently and my squats are def suffering because of it.
    Thanks for the tips 😀 Pinning!

    • beverleyc

      18 May

      OMG Giselle I feel ya on the hip flexor front. My advice – take a tennis ball and just dig in where it hurts. It releases so much tightness but hurts like a mofoooo. Thank you for pinning! xx

  9. Feelin’ this one. Squats have never felt totally comfortable or natural to me, but now I do try to incorporate them more and just really pay attention to each movement. It helps me to set up my phone on a nearby rack or bench and video my sets so I can be checking constantly that I’m in the right position. It may look cocky but really I just want to be safe and improve!

    • beverleyc

      20 May

      it’s surprising how many people felt the way i did! they are such an awkward thing to learn. its definitely a great thing to film yourself, i do it all the time 🙂

  10. demeter | beaming baker

    18 May

    Beverley, I just LOVED this article!! Goodness, girl… squats have been haunting me forever (and then some!) I’m always thinking, “am I doing this right??” But I could not hide from the fact that they are super important and effective. Love that you broke it down into 5 tips, then included several angles AND a diagram. You’re the best, Bev! Now let me go do some proper squats… 😉

    • beverleyc

      20 May

      Yayy!! This comment made me so happy! So glad that it can help you out in some way. Happy squatting my friend xx

  11. Love these tips, girl! I’m just getting back into lifting after a lotta months off and this was a good refresher!

    • beverleyc

      20 May

      ooo good luck!! i’m sure you’ll kill it

  12. Loved this beautiful post, Beverley! his article! Love all your 5 tips! Doing squats is important and doing it right is more important. Thanks for this!

    • beverleyc

      20 May

      Thank you Anu! Glad you found them helpful 🙂

  13. Jason

    24 May

    Excellent post! Squats are the best 😀

    • beverleyc

      24 May

      Thank you Jason! Glad you approve 🙂

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