Squat 101: A How-To Guide

January 26, 2012

Coming Up

The Squat is a foundational exercise for any athlete who wants to build strength and power in the legs and hips, particularly in the quads and glutes. Through this guide, you'll not only learn how to perform the basic Squat, you'll also find several Squat variations you can use to take your workouts to the next level. Finally, check out some of STACK's Squat workout videos, featuring elite athletes like Ndamukong Suh, Josh Cribbs and Abby Wambach, to learn how you can adapt the Squat for your sport.

Squat How-To

  • Assume athletic stance with bar on back and feet slightly wider than hip width
  • Keeping back straight and knees behind toes, sink hips back and lower into squat until thighs are parallel to ground
  • Extend hips and knees to drive up out of squat position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Squat Exercise

Getting Started
Beginners should focus on perfecting form and technique before adding resistance. Start by performing Bodyweight Squats and Wall Squats or using a broomstick in place of a barbell.

Advanced Squats
For an additional challenge, increase your Squat depth or rise up onto your toes to strengthen your calves. To continue muscle growth, alter the bar and foot positions to challenge your lower-body muscles from different angles. To develop strength equally in both legs and improve, try single-leg exercises.

Common Squat Mistakes and Solutions

  1. Knees Collapse Inward: Reduce the weight on the bar for subsequent sets. Also, perform Bodyweight Squats with a mini-band wrapped around thighs just above knees to strengthen the muscles that maintain alignment of the knees with the hips and ankles.
  2. Knees Travel Forward Beyond Toes: Reduce the weight on the bar subsequent sets. Focus on sitting your hips back and keeping your chest up.
  3. Bar Resting on Neck: Causes discomfort on the neck and can lead to back pain. Instead rest the bar on your upper back, which will provide a firmer base of support.
  4. Leaning Forward: Places excessive strain on the lower back. If you find yourself leaning, focus on sitting your hips back and keeping your chest up. In addition, perform Bodyweight Squats to improve mobility.
  5. Rounded Back: Reduce the weight on the bar for subsequent sets. Strengthen the core with exercises like Hypers and Planks before adding additional resistance to your Squat.

Squat Exercise Variation

  • Front Squat: This variation changes the bar position to the front of the shoulders to eliminate stress on the back.
  • Dumbbell Squat: Dumbbells replace the barbell to reduce stress on the upper body, making it ideal for beginning weightlifters.
  • Dumbbell Squat and Press: Adds a Shoulder Press to the Squat, which also strengthens the upper body.
  • Single-Leg Squat: This bodyweight variation develops single-leg strength and balance for athletes at all levels.
  • Dumbbell Split-Squat: This variation, which develops single-leg quad strength, is also good for athletes beginning to lift weight.
  • Barbell Split-Squat: An advanced variation of the Split-Squat, this also focuses on single-leg quad strength.
  • Dumbbell Rear-Foot-Elevated Split-Squat: With single-leg movement, this variation improves balance while increasing quad and glute strength.
  • Rear-Foot-Elevated Split-Squat: An advanced version of the Dumbbell Rear-Foot-Elevated Split-Squat, this exercise increases quad and glute strength and improves balance.

Squat Workout Videos
We've shot countless videos of athletes who give the Squat a unique personal twist. In the Squat workout videos below, you'll see Ndamukong Suh perform some of the heaviest Squats you'll ever see. You'll also watch Abby Wambach work through a Squat/Box Jump Combo to build world-class explosive power.

Ndamukong Suh Flexes His Massive Squat Strength
Safe and Effective Squat With Josh Cribbs
Safe Squat With Antonio Gates
Abby Wambach Squat/Box Jump Combo

Topics: SQUAT | EXERCISES
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...

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