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How To Do a Bodyweight Squat (From a Personal Trainer)

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Last updated: August 5, 2023

The bodyweight squat is a basic exercise that builds strength in your legs and glutes.

While it may look easy, this move is not to be underestimated.

Beginner or not, squats are guaranteed to have your lower body muscles burning and your heart pumping ten reps in.

People squat a lot in everyday life, which is why mastering this movement is essential.

Quick Summary

  • The two different bodyweight squat variations are the weighted squats, and the switching-up-your-stance squats.
  •  Some renowned benefits of bodyweight squats include; working on different muscle groups at once, helping burn fat, and improving movement.
  • The common mistakes people make in bodyweight squats are lifting your heels, failing to engage your core, and letting your knees cave inwards.

Benefits Of Bodyweight Squats

couple working out outdoors together

The bodyweight squat is a functional exercise, which means it has a practical application.

Humans squat from the day they learn to walk, so learning to squat correctly can make various movements like getting up from the couch and picking something up off the floor easier.

Regardless of your fitness level, the bodyweight squat can do you plenty of good.

Here are some of its benefits.

Work Multiple Muscle Groups At Once - Bodyweight squats help build muscle and strength throughout your entire body.

This exercise primarily works your quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings, strengthening your legs and the tendons in your knees [1].

But when done with proper form, they can also engage and strengthen other major muscle groups, including your thighs, hips, butt, abs, and upper and lower back.

Help You Move Better - Performing bodyweight squats improves your coordination and balance. It also develops mobility in your hip joint, ankles, and knees.

Help Burn Fat - Doing high reps of squats at a fast pace gets your heart rate up and allows you to get in some light cardio, firing up your metabolism and burning more calories in the process.

Can Be Done Anywhere, Anytime - You can perform the bodyweight squat virtually anywhere, and you don’t need any type of equipment to do them.

How To Do Bodyweight Squats Correctly

man in a squat position in a gym

The key to reaping all those benefits is getting your execution down to a T.

Here’s how to do bodyweight squats correctly:

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out, and arms at your sides.
  2. Keep your torso upright. Brace your abdominal muscles and look ahead.
  3. Shift your hips back and down, then bend knees to get into a squat position until your upper legs or thighs are parallel or almost parallel to the floor. Inhale on the way down.
  4. At the bottom of the movement, push through your heels to return to the starting position. Exhale as you go up.
  5. Aim to do three sets of 8 to 15 reps.

If you’re new to squats, you can build strength and improve your range of motion by starting with suspension squats, where you hold onto a TRX or other suspension tools while squatting so you can gain more control over your weight.

You can also squat with your back on a stability ball on the wall for added support.

If you always feel like you’re going to fall back when squatting, doing it first on a box or chair is a great option. This is also a good way to boost your confidence and practice the movement pattern safely.

Also Read: How to Do Otis Up?

Important Tips For Performing Bodyweight Squats

  • Hold your arms out in front of you at shoulder height to counter-balance your weight.
  • Make sure to push your hips back and drive down through your heels when you stand back up. This helps activate your calves, hamstrings, and glutes even more.
  • Keep your back as straight as possible throughout the exercise to avoid strain or injury.
  • You can increase the intensity by jumping up explosively from each squat.

Common Bodyweight Squat Mistakes

woman in squat position in a grey background

As easy as bodyweight squats look, a few common errors can make them less effective.

Lifting Your Heels - If you don’t keep your feet flat on the ground throughout the exercise, you will lose balance and body alignment.

Failing To Engage Your Core - Forgetting to turn on your abs during bodyweight squats will put unnecessary pressure on your lower back and may lead to injury, so make sure to brace your core before you squat.

According to personal trainer Sal Nakhlawi, doing so “can help protect your spine by increasing intra-abdominal pressure.”

Letting Your Knees Cave Inward - You put extra pressure on your knees when they fall out of line with your hips and ankles, increasing your risk of injury.

It also removes some of the work out of your butt muscles, leading to wasted efforts.

Bodyweight Squat Variations

people doing squats in different forms

Bodyweight squats are quite easy to outgrow, especially if you’re training for muscle mass and strength instead of endurance or weight loss.

If you’ve mastered the most basic squats, here are a few ways you can add resistance to this exercise.

Weighted Squats

Suppose you’re ready to progress to weighted squats. In that case, you can try incorporating a medicine ball, a barbell, wearing a weighted vest, holding dumbbells, kettlebells, or other resistance training tools while squatting.

Switch Up Your Stance

Try progressions such as pistol squats and split squats to increase the intensity of your squat exercise. These single-leg variations put extra emphasis on your working leg, increasing exercise difficulty and strength gains.

You can also change your regular foot position to a narrower one or go wider to perform sumo squats, which can fire up your inner thighs further.

How Can You Make Bodyweight Squats More Beneficial?

Regardless of your fitness level, you can reap the benefits of bodyweight squats — as long as you do them properly.

You can also make this exercise more challenging by changing your stance, increasing your speed, or adding resistance using weights. Also, If you want to boost your performance, I suggest taking a pre-workout supplement:

You won't get the perfect boost from these supplements, but even a five percent boost will add up quickly.


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