Updated: August 26, 2011

If you like how squats tone yourbutt and legs, you're probablytempted to improve your resultsby using more resistance. Beforeyou pick up a barbell, though, getout your calculator. In a recentstudy published in the AmericanJournal of Sports Medicine, of the48 people performing squats with60 or 80 percent of their one-repmaximum (referred to as 1RM,which is the amount of weight aperson can lift just once), all overarchedtheir spines, which canlead to chronic pain. Dropping theweight to 40 percent of their 1RM(for instance, if their 1RM is 40pounds, they'd lift 16) solved theproblem, but it also toned lessmuscle. The solution? Perfectyour form by practicing the movewith just your body weight, thengradually add resistance. Tomaintain the proper position:

  • Look forward or slightly up.

  • Lower only until thighs areparallel to the floor (if you can gothat far), knees aligned with toes.

  • Keep your chest lifted Yourtorso will naturally come forwardslightly as you squat, but youshouldn't lean forward; aim for a90-degree bend in hips and knees.

  • Keep heels on floor.

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