Often referred to as one of the best leg exercises, the squat is a compound exercise that effectively works your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves, and also engages your core. If you're new to squats, start by using only your body weight so you can learn proper form, which is essential for preventing injuries and getting optimal results.
Position your feet just a little wider than shoulder-width apart, and then slightly turn your toes out.
Face forward, let your arms hang by your sides and engage your core to stabilize your body. Imagine standing proud and tall with your shoulders pulled back and your chest forward while maintaining the natural arch of your back.
Transfer your weight to your heels and slightly hinge forward at your hips while keeping your back straight. Wiggle your toes to make sure you are resting your body weight on the heels.
Bend your knees directly over your feet and slowly lower your hips. Aim to bring your thighs as close to parallel to the floor as you can and pause one second. Mimic the motion you make when you sit on a chair. Avoid arching or rounding your back, and keep your torso upright. Really sit your buttocks back, and if desired, extend your arms forward to help keep your balance.
Push through your heels and straighten your knees and hips to come back to the starting point. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the motion. Repeat this eight to 12 times in one set. Work your way up to two to three sets as you progress.
Inhale as you go into the squat and exhale as you return to the starting point.
Before doing squats, warm up for five to 10 minutes with low-intensity cardio to prepare your body for the work to come.
Perform squats while standing sideways to a mirror so you can regularly monitor your form. Alternatively, have a certified personal trainer monitor and correct your form.
To guide your squatting form, consider putting a chair behind you and squatting as if you're about to sit on it. Then just before your butt touches the chair, stand back up.
Stretch after doing squats by bending over from an upright stance to try and touch the floor. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
For an extra challenge, perform one-legged squats, during which you slightly raise one foot off the floor while you are doing the squat movement with the other leg. You can also do squats while either holding dumbbells in your hands or steadying a barbell on your shoulders behind your neck.
Consult your physician before taking on a new exercise routine, particularly if you’re new to exercise or if you have a medical condition or injury.