The Basic Squat: A Total Body Strengthening Exercise

In strength training, the squat is a compound, full body exercise that trains primarily the muscles of the thighs, hips and buttocks, quads, hamstrings, as well as strengthening the bones, ligaments and insertion of the tendons throughout the lower body.

Squats require no weights or equipment (other than a chair). The squat is an exercise that most people can do and may be modified to fit your individual fitness level.

*Muscle Groups Worked: Thighs, hips, buttocks, core & full body strengthening


Basic Squat: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. (Optional: Choose weights that will challenge you, but are not too heavy.) Keep your feet planted firmly on the floor, with your back straight and head facing forward. Slowly lower your body, while bending your legs. Be sure not to lean forward. Don’t allow your knees to extend over your toes. Keep squatting until you are in a seated position. After you have performed a full squat. Begin to lift you body and come to your starting position again.

Squat with Dumbells: Stand with feet hip- or shoulder-width apart. Hold medium to heavy dumbbells in each hand just outside the thighs or with arms bent above the shoulders. Bend the knees and lower into a squat. Stop when your knees are at 90-degree angles or before you lose the natural arch of your back. At the bottom of the movement, make sure you take your hips back, as though you’re about to sit in a chair. Avoid bending the knees so that they go beyond the toes. Contract the glutes and legs while stabilizing your body with a strong torso. Slowly stand back up without locking the knees.

*Squat with Barbell: (Advanced)
Barbell squats are a more intense, requiring more work from the largest muscles in the body. Take care when doing this exercise for the first time. Start with a light weight you can easily handle and practice getting your form perfect before moving on to heavier barbells.

Stand with feet hip- or shoulder-width apart. Place the barbell just above the shoulders on the trapezius muscles (i.e., the ‘meaty’ part of the shoulders). If you feel uncomfortable, you can use a bar pad to protect your back. Bend the knees and lower into a squat. Stop when your knees are at 90-degree angles OR before you lose the natural arch of your back. Contract the glutes and legs while stabilizing your body with a strong torso. Slowly stand back up without locking the knees. Always keep the knees in line with the toes!

Check out these references:
Visit www.livestrong.com and www.about.com for additional information and resources.

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-Eric & Maleka Beal

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*Before beginning any fitness program, always see a qualified healthcare provider for advice and to address any questions or concerns. The exercises presented on this website are for suggestion only and should not be substituted for medical diagnosis or treatment. Participate at your own risk and stop if you feel faint or experience shortness of breath.