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How to Do Bodyweight Squats Correctly Once and for All

Ah, the squat. In the current "Age of the Booty," the squat has risen to the top of the exercise food chain, earning memes and emojis galore. But is this exercise move all it's cracked up to be?

Short answer: yes. Long answer: hell yes. The bodyweight squat isn't just an exercise, but one of the five main foundational movements for daily life, according to the American Council On Exercise. That's why it's important to master, whether you're interested in tearing it up in the gym, building a super-strong booty, or just making it through life uninjured. (And, FYI, squats actually aren't the best exercise for building bigger, stronger glutes.)

Bodyweight Squat Benefits and Variations

"It's the simplest exercise you can do while still getting the highest return," says Rachel Mariotti, the NYC-based trainer demo-ing the move above. "It works major muscle groups: your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core."

How you perform a squat can identify muscle imbalances, mobility deficiencies, and other strengths and weaknesses that may be important to address during your fitness routine. "This is your baseline," says Mariotti. "If you don't have this exercise nailed down, you shouldn’t be doing any variation of it." (Peep the form tips below or have a trainer or instructor check out your form to know for sure.) 

Feel like you haven't mastered the form quite yet? Try not to lower as far down. Perform squats while holding onto a TRX or other suspension tool or with your back on a stability ball on the wall.

If you are in fact ready to progress, try some of the many bodyweight squat variations that'll work your lower body and core in slightly different ways, add some plyometrics, or incorporate weight to the standard squat using dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell, or other resistance training tools.

How to Do a Bodyweight Squat

A. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with toes turned slightly outward. Brace abdominal muscles to engage core.
B. Inhale and initiate the movement by hinging at the hips first, then bend knees to lower into a squat position until 1) thighs are parallel or almost parallel with the floor, 2) heels begin to lift off the floor, or 3) torso starts to round or flex forward. (Ideally, in the lowest position, the torso and shin bone should be parallel to each other.)
C. Exhale and press into the mid-foot to straighten legs to stand, hips and torso rising at the same time.

Do 8 to 15 reps. Try 3 sets.

Bodyweight Squat Form Tips

  • Make sure to push hips back and sit into mid-foot and heels. 
  • Don't allow knees to push too far forward. 
  • Continue bracing abs throughout the movement to keep back flat. 
  • Watch for movement in the feet, ankles, and knees, trying to track knees directly over second toes. 

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