How To Do A Squat Correctly.

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How to do a squat correctly.

When it comes to lower body exercises there is no doubt in any serious lifter that squats are king, but learning how to do a squat correctly is a vital aspect in your lifting career.

With research showing that squats are one of the riskier exercises for trained lifters learning how to correctly perform a squat can prevent injury and extend training life and progress.

Table of Contents

The Benefits Of Squatting.

  • Squats are and amazing compound movement.

Squats build not only most of your leg muscles including the Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves and Adductors. But it also builds the core and even your back through the use of stabilizing a substantial weight on your back.

  • We are built to squat.

Toddlers seem to be able to get into a squat depth that regular gym goer would be jealous of. As we bet older we sit in more unnatural positions and our squat form goes from natural perfection to less than ideal.

  • Squats strengthen your bones, tendons, ligaments and can increase flexibility.

Increasing the strength of your knee and hip joints drastically reduce the chance of injury during any athletic movement as well as every day activities such as digging holes, standing up from a seat or taking in all your groceries in one trip.

Learning to perform a deep squat safely will improve your range of motion through a weighted stretch. Increasing flexibility will aid in the prevention of future injury. 

In short if your goals are.

  • To build muscle.
  • Lose weight.
  • Be more athletic.
  • Better range of motion.
  • To feel like the strongest person to ever live.

Squats will get you there.

How To Do A Squat Correctly.

Trunk positioning.

First thing first when you are thinking about correct positioning in a squat and how to do a squat correctly proper trunk positioning is the first thing to talk about. 

Straighten up and pull your head and shoulders back. “Think proud chest.” This is the proper spine positioning for the squat.

This makes sure your head stays back and chest raised with a slightly arched lower back. “This avoids butt winking.”

Make sure to not bend your lower back over during the movement. “This stops the potential of hurting your lower back in squats, a common problem for gym goers.”

Where To Place The Bar.

When setting up the bar the ideal height  in the power rack, cage or squatting station should be aset around chest height.

Now step up to the bar and place your hands roughly the same width as bench press. you can play with this slightly but most people find 1.5 times shoulder width is comfortable.

There are 4 main rules you should follow for picking a hand position.

  1. pick a grip that you are comfortable with.
  2. Use a grip the creates upper body tension.
  3. Keep the bar stacked over the wrist.
  4. Keep the hand in line with the wrist.

Next you want to get the bar into correct position on your back. Pull yourself under the bar and trap the bar against the tops of your shoulders and the back of your neck. Pulling your shoulder blades together will create the “shelf.” for the bar to be positioned on top of.


Before we go further into unracking and descending we want to first discuss bracing.

What Is Bracing?

Bracing is the creation of tension in the abdominal muscles. it essentially stabilizes the spine from all directions reducing the chances of injury of the lower back as well as allowing you to lift more weight.

How To Brace.

  • Make sure you stack your ribcage over your pelvis.
  • Take a massive belly breath. “Think expanded 360 degrees.”
  • Hold your breath and contract all your core muscles.
  • Hold your breath as you descend and start of your ascent. As you pass halfway up you and slowly exhale. “You can hold your breath the entire rep or even for a few reps.”
  • Inhale.
  • Reset core to do your next rep.

Bracing is an extremely important step if you want a pain free lifting life and lifting optimally.

Bracing is important for every compound exercise in the gym.

Foot Placement.

There is no absolute answer in where you place your feet in a squat. The real answer is pretty much anywhere that feels comfortable. 

There are several facets to keep in mind when figuring out your feet placement.

  • Squatting with feet straight forward require a good deal of mobility and is not always the most optimal placements for individuals.
  • During a squat the entire lower extremities. The thighs and lower leg should be in a straight line to optimize your loading potential.
  •  The optimal foot placement will vary depending on individuals. There stance, hip anatomy and lift variation are all factors.
  • The vast majority of exceptional squatters squat with some degree of toes out.

If you are just beginning a good starting place is feet place 1.5x shoulder width apart with toes slightly facing out, around 10 to 30%.

The Descent.

After you have braced and you lift the bar off the equipment take a few steps back and establish your desired stance. 

Before descending you want to engage three points of your foot. The three points need to be in contact equally with the ground. Your heal and the base of the big and little toe. This is called the Tripod foot.

Squeeze your glutes. This allows external rotation torque to develop at the hips and knees are in correct alignment with the toes.

You may rebrace in this position.

Push your hips backwards slightly and bring your chest slightly forward. This engages your posterior chain and engages the hips.

Once you have engaged your hips slowly descend maintaining proper form and a tight core. Aim to reach at least parallel to the floor but this isn’t a requirement at the start.

The Bottom Of The Squat.

When you want to produce power out of the bottom of a squat you need to guarantee you maintain your center of gravity over the middle of your toes.

When you are performing a proper barbell squat the barbell itself becomes the center of gravity.

Avoid “Butt Wink” here by not allowing your pelvis to tuck under in the bottom of a squat. The easiest way to avoid that is to not go further into a squat than your ankles allow and ensuring you maintain a slight posterior tilt in the squat. 

Despite common gym myths it is completely fine for your toes to go past your knees at the bottom of a squat and often if needed to reach full depth.

Athletes often find it difficult to reach full depth in a squat due to ankle mobility and may require a weightlifting shoe.

Driving Back Up.

Hip Drive!

Coming back up out of the pocket of a squat is all about hip drive.

as you are coming up from the bottom of a squat your hips should be driving up while your shins are pulled to a vertical position.

Inexperienced trainees often times lose their bracing and tightness here and allow their back to round forward. Guarantee you aren’t making this mistake and insure you maintain a stable torso as you are driving up.

If you drop into the bottom position without control and bounce out of it you risk losing that stability and rigidity of the lower back and puts your spine in a vulnerable position.

How To Do A Squat Correctly. The Sequence.

  • Place barbell at a pin at chest height.
  • Pin the barbell on the shelf of your upper back.
  • Brace. Cue: Take big breath and push stomach out.
  • Unrack the barbell.
  • Take 2 to 3 steps backs
  • Establish squatting stance and stable foot position.
  • Generate torque at the hips. Cue: Squeeze glutes.
  • Rebrace here if needed.
  • Push hips back and start to descend.
  • Keep the bar over the middle of the foot.
  • Bottom position remain tight.
  • Use hip drive to push back up from the bottom position. Cue: Hip Drive and Pull the shins to vertical.

Credit to Hookgrip.

F.A.Q About Squatting.

What muscles does squatting work?

Nearly everything. A serious answer is your Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, Adductors, Calves, Abdominals and Erector Spinae.

How to stop butt wink?

Not going deeper in the squat than you can safely. Invest in weightlifting shoes.

There are also several cues to remember.

  • Chest up.
  • Tummy out.
  • Stay upright.
  • It’s okay to let your knees travel over your toes.

How to avoid injury when squatting?

There are a few things to remember to maintain and injury free lifting life when it comes to squatting.

  • Proper form over heavier weight.
  • Take proper deloads.
  • Use proper footwear.
  • Slow the eccentric portion of the lift.

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