Squatting improperly can be painful and could result in injury. Learn about proper squat form, how to squat safely and effectively, and the benefits of squats.

By Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Sit back, but don’t relax! Instead, recognize this functional move as the first step towards nailing proper squat form. As babies, we must learn how to squat before we learn to stand or walk; as adults, we must rediscover how to squat properly. While this primal movement pattern is a base for many activities—like taking a seat and lifting heavy objects—learning how to do a proper squat from a fitness perspective sometimes requires a little coaching. But knowing how to do squats using your legs and not your back will translate into better workout performance and real-life functionality! Also among the benefits of squats is that it’s one of the most time-effective moves for shaping your entire lower body, especially your backside. Since it engages all the major muscle groups of the lower body at once, you can actually squat your way to being a better runner, tennis player, or dancer (though no guarantees if you have two left feet).

How to Squat

Execute the move as if you were going to sit in a chair placed behind you. This will ensure that you are driving your hips back.

1. Go as deep as you can comfortably. If you have knee issues, don’t go deeper than a 90-degree angle, with your thighs parallel to the floor.

2. Keep your heels “glued” to the floor as you squat, and think about driving them into the ground as you straighten your legs to return to the starting position. (This will put even more emphasis on your glutes.)

3. Keep your knees in line with your toes. Also, don’t let your knees cave in. Press them outward so they stay aligned with your feet as you squat down.

4. Do allow your torso to tilt naturally as you squat. (Just don’t collapse your chest or round your shoulders forward.) If you’re too erect, your hips cannot release properly and you’ll put too much strain on your knees.

How to Squat

Proper Squat Form

Step 1: Stand with feet a little wider than hip width, toes facing front.

Step 2: Drive your hips back—bending at the knees and ankles and pressing your knees slightly open—as you…

Step 3: Sit into a squat position while still keeping your heels and toes on the ground, chest up and shoulders back.

Step 4: Strive to eventually reach parallel, meaning knees are bent to a 90-degree angle.

Step 5: Press into your heels and straighten legs to return to a standing upright position.

How Many Squats Should I Do a Day?

While doing squats daily probably won’t hurt you (unless you’re doing millions of them and/or holding heavy weights while squatting), a better goal beyond how many squats a day would be to aim to do three sets of 10-20 repetitions at least three times per week. This will give your lower-body muscles a good workout, and time in between to recover.

Benefits of Squats

Booty Benefit #1: They’ll Prime You to Lift Heavy Things Safely

Squats will not only prepare you to leap tall buildings as the wonder woman that you are, but they will give you the strength to pick up heavy objects correctly by using your lower body instead of your back.

Booty Benefit #2: They’re Totally Time Efficient

One of the prime benefits of squats is that they’ll tone your booty quicker than just about any other move on the planet. By recruiting pretty much all the muscles in your lower body (quadripceps, hamstrings, gluteals), when you learn how to do a proper squat you’ll find yourself toning up faster and more effectively!

Booty Benefit #3: They Can Prevent Injuries

Most athletic injuries involve weak stabilizer muscles, ligaments and connective tissues, which squats help strengthen. Many people shy away from doing squats if they have knee issues, but studies have shown that the muscles recruited and built when a person does a proper squat will actually improve knee stability and strengthen the connective tissues surrounding the knee.

Booty Benefit #4: They Are Functional Fitness

Functional exercises are those that help your body to perform everyday activities more easily, as opposed to simply being able to operate pieces of gym equipment. Squats are one of the best functional exercises out there for promoting mobility, flexibility and balance with real-world benefits.

How Many Calories Do Squats Burn?

Quantifying caloric burn without every person reading this wearing a FitBit is impossible to calculate. This is because every body is different and factors like height, weight, fitness level, muscle/fat ratio and so on all factor in to how many calories a person might burn doing any exercise.

This is really a case of quality over quantity being more effective. Because doing a proper squat simultaneously recruits so many muscles, it is a great bodyweight exercise for building muscle!

Instead of worrying about how many squats to burn 100 calories, focus on how to do a proper squat and building more muscle, since for every pound of muscle you gain, your body will burn an additional 50-70 calories per day.

photo by Henry Leutwyler, illustratrion by Brownbird Design

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