Why Proper Squat Form Matters – And How to Master It


Squats are a full body workout. When performed with proper form, this one move will work your lower body, abdominal muscles, shoulders, upper back, and arms. But if your form is off, you won’t see the gains that you’re after. You may also injure your back and knees in the process.


How to Squat Properly

For maximum safety, use the power rack when squatting. Make sure that the horizontal safety pins are set, so they can catch the bar and prevent you from injuring yourself.

Proper squat form is simple and straightforward, but people tend to over complicate this move. Here’s how to perform a squat properly:

  1. Facing forward, grab the bar tightly using a medium grip.
  2. Dip under the bar to place it gently on your upper back. Lift your chest.
  3. Move your feet underneath the bar, and straighten your legs to un-rack the bar.
  4. With your legs straight, step back while locking your knees and hips.
  5. Inhale, and squat down. Move your hips back while pushing your knees outward. Keep your lower back in a neutral position.
  6. Continue squatting down until your hips are below your knees – don’t stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  7. Exhale while squatting back up. Keep your chest up, your knees out, and your knees and hips locked.

Squats are simple, but you need to break parallel and make sure that your body is properly aligned if you want to avoid injury.

Form Tips

  • Always push your knees out to the side and in the direction of your feet. Keep your knees locked at the top of each rep.
  • Stance is important. When squatting, your heels should be under your shoulders (shoulder-width apart).
  • Keep your feet turned out at a 30° angle, and your entire foot flat on the floor. Never raise your heels or toes.
  • Make sure that your lower back is in a neutral position, maintaining the natural arch you have when standing. Never round out or excessively arch your back.
  • When holding the bar, you should use a medium grip. Keep your hands outside of your shoulders.
  • Squeeze the bar when squatting, but don’t use your hands to support the heavy weight. The upper back should be carrying the bar.
  • If you’re squatting with a low bar, keep it positioned between your rear shoulders and traps. For a high bar, position the bar on your traps.
  • Before you un-rack the bar, raise your chest and keep it up before you squat down.
  • From start to finish, keep your head in line with your torso. Don’t look off to the side, up at the ceiling, or down at the floor.
  • When squatting down, bend your knees and your hips at the same time. Keep your hips back and your knees out.
  • When squatting back up, keep your knees out and push your hips straight up. Keep your chest up and your head a neutral position.

Squatting is a powerful exercise that will work all major muscle groups – if you use the proper form. Use these tips to master your form and get the most out of each and every squat session.