5-Minute-Expert-Guide-to-Squats-1504x944-1024x643

5-Minute Expert Guide to Squats

5-minute-expert-guide-to-squats-1504x944

Whether you like it or not, you — like the majority of people in this world — need to squat. You squat every single day to sit in your desk chair, get into a car and use the restroom, among other motions. The only difference between squats in the gym and those in everyday life is the addition of a barbell or dumbbells. When correctly executed, squats build strength and lean mass, improve coordination and balance, improve bone density, release anabolic hormones and improve mental toughness.

Squats work your glutes, hamstrings, adductors and quads — all major muscles that are critical to physically functioning as a human being. The stronger your squat, the easier it will be to perform simple daily movements. Squats can help you be a better athlete and give you a leg up on Father Time. Your strength (or lack thereof) has a direct effect on your daily function as you get older. Maintaining muscle mass allows you to do the things you love as you age, and squats are a great way to stay strong.


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Whether you’re brand new to squats or a regular at the squat bar, these four variations offer something for everyone. If you are an experienced lifter or work with a personal trainer, a barbell variation (back or front squat) will be a good challenge. If you have little to no experience, focus on learning the goblet squat or suspension pistol squat, as those two are less technical, have lower injury risk and can easily be mastered.

The Experienced Lifter

Equipment needed:  Olympic barbell, squat rack, weight plates, weightlifting or hard-soled shoes and weight belt (optional).

Low Bar Back Squat: Place the bar on your back, just below the top of your trapezius muscle or under the spine at the scapula, unrack the bar and step backward out of the rack. Set your feet about shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed outward about 30 degrees. Focus on the floor 3–6 feet in front of you.

Take a big breath and hold it for the entire rep while contracting your entire torso. To start your descent, push your butt back and down while keeping your knees pushed out and in alignment with your toes the entire time. Your back should be at about a 45-degree angle with the floor throughout the movement. When you are low enough that your hip crease is just below your knee, drive your hips forward and upward, returning to the starting position.

Perform 3–4 sets of 4–6 reps with plenty of rest in between.

Front Squats: These are a good alternative to back squats, as the mechanics of the lift are different. Place the barbell on your anterior deltoids, unrack the bar and step backward out of the rack. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed out 30–40 degrees, and your back should have more vertical angle than the back squat (more than 45 degrees from the floor). Keep your hands on the bar using the same grip you would for an overhead press.

Take a big breath and hold it for the entire rep while contracting your entire torso. To start your descent, keep your chest up, elbows high and knees out the entire time. When you are low enough that your hip crease is just below your knee, drive your hips forward and upward, returning to the starting position.

Perform 3–4 sets of 4–6 reps with plenty of rest in between.

The Beginner

Equipment needed: a dumbbell, a suspension trainer (such as TRX) and weightlifting or hard-soled shoes.

Goblet Squat: Grab a dumbbell and hold it vertically by one end in front of your chest. Set your feet about shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed out about 30 degrees. Keep your head in a neutral position with your chest raised, shoulders retracted and abs tight. To start your descent, push your butt back, making sure to keep your knees over your feet (not in front of them). When you are low enough that your hip crease is just below your knee, drive your hips forward and upward, returning to the starting position.

Perform 3–4 sets of 5–8 reps with plenty of rest in between.

Suspension Trainer Pistol Squats: Face the anchor point of a suspension trainer and grab the straps with each hand. Look at the horizon, extending your left leg in front of you. While standing on your right leg, push your butt back and down by bending your knee. (Think about preparing to sit in a short chair behind you.) When you are low enough that your hip crease is just below your knee, drive your right foot through the floor and straighten your right knee until you return to the starting position. Try your best not to pull yourself up with your hands.

Perform 5–8 reps and switch legs. That’s one set. Perform 3–4 sets with plenty of rest in between.


erik taylorErik Taylor is a NASM-certified trainer who works with clients online to build their fitness and nutrition plans. He works with people at all levels, from first-time exercisers to weekend warriors and endurance athletes. Erik lives in one of the beach cities of Los Angeles with his wife and two daughters. Connect with Erik on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat (eriktaylorsfit) and Taylorsfitness.com.


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