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Home / Exercises / How to Do a Proper Squat, Plus 11 Squat Variations to Try…

How to Do a Proper Squat, Plus 11 Squat Variations to Try…

If you want to strengthen your legs, build your butt, and work nearly every muscle in your lower body, look no further than the squat. This seemingly simple move is a staple in most strength programs because it effectively works multiple muscles at the same time, including your quads, glutes, and even your core. In fact, few other moves fire up more muscle than the squat, which is one of the reasons why it’s known as one of the “big three” exercises (along with the deadlift and bench press). To get the most out of this muscle-building, fat-burning move, follow our pointers below on how to do squats with perfect form. And to really get all the benefits of squats, mix things up by swapping out the basic bodyweight squat for one of our 11 favorite squat variations, many of which can be found in workout programs on Beachbody On Demand.

How to Do a Proper Squat

Before you load up your squats with weights, master the bodyweight squat. Here’s how to do a squat properly:

  • Stand tall with your hands by your sides, feet shoulder-width apart, and toes pointed forward.
  • Keeping your back flat and core braced, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. You want to “sit” into the exercise, pushing your butt back like you’re lowering yourself onto a chair or bench. Never bend forward at your waist – that will only increase the stress on your spine and throw you off balance.
  • Pause, and then push yourself back up to the starting position.

Benefits of Squats

Squats target two of your body’s biggest muscles (quads and glutes), and enlist the help of your hamstrings and calves to get the job done. And that’s just what it does below the waist. When you do a squat properly, you also engage stabilizing muscles throughout your core. Plus, it can be done with little equipment (or even no equipment in the case of a bodyweight squat), and it only requires a few square feet of space to perform. To maximize its benefits, however, weave multiple squat variations into your weekly routine, like the ones found below.

Common Questions About Squats

If you’re new to squats, it’s normal to have some questions on the best way to add them into your routine. Here are a few commonly asked questions about squats to help you out.

  • How many squats do you need to do in a given workout? That depends entirely on your goals. If you’re trying to build strength, you should focus on doing fewer reps (up to six per set) with heavier weights. If you’re trying to build endurance, it’s in your interest to do more reps (at least 12 per set) with lighter weights. If your focus is muscle growth, a good rule of thumb is to shoot for three sets of 8 to 10 reps using a weight that challenges you to complete them, while still maintaining perfect form.
  • How much should you be able to squat? Strength standards are generally defined in terms of a one repetition maximum (1RM), which is the amount of weight you can lift with perfect form one time. Squatting the equivalent of your bodyweight is average. Squatting 1.25 times your bodyweight is good. And squatting 1.5 times your bodyweight is excellent. Of course, you would never do single rep sets during a workout, so you should focus on lifting the maximum amount of weight that will allow you to complete all of your reps in every set. 
  • How should you start doing squats? Master the bodyweight squat before you even think about adding weights into the equation. Once you’ve nailed the movement pattern and developed the mobility to perform the bodyweight squat with perfect form, you’re ready to load it. Just be careful not to overload yourself right off the bat. Begin with a light weight, and increase the amount you lift gradually as your strength improves. It’s also a good idea to try different squat variations (like the Bulgarian split squat, jump squat, front squat, etc) to avoid hitting a plateau. But take the same approach with each new variation – ease into it until you you can do the move with perfect form, then add weight.

7 Ways to do Squats with Weights

Variation spurs adaptation, which in the context of strength training is another term for muscle growth. Keep the classic barbell back squat in your exercise library, but also try any or all of these seven squat variations with weights to keep your routine fresh and to keep adapting.

1. Dumbbell squat

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