You work your major lower body muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes) while also relying on your core when you squat. The squat can be a simple with several important tips.
You can use your bodyweight, dumbbell(s), or a barbell when you perform a squat. If you are returning to strength training, you should start with your bodyweight before adding weight. Regardless of your experience, you can perform bodyweight squats as a warmup before adding weight.
How do you know if you are ready to add weight to your squat? You likely are ready to add weight if you can do 12 reps without feeling fatigued. When you are ready to add weight for the first time, I recommend starting with dumbbells as a standard barbell itself weighs 45lbs.
What weight dumbbell to start with? It will take some trial and error to determine what weight you can squat. You likely can squat much more weight that you expect but you should start with lighter dumbbells to begin. If you are using dumbbells for the first time, you likely can start with 10-15lb dumbbells. After a performing 12 reps, ask yourself “how did it feel”? You want to feel fatigued by your 12th rep, as in you probably could have only performed a few more reps. You adjust your weight for your next set based on if you felt like your last few reps were challenging.
How to hold dumbbells during a squat? You likely will see versions of where to hold your dumbbells. I recommend placing your dumbbells on top of your shoulders so you are not depending on your arms to hold the weight. You can place the dumbbells between your legs if it feels more comfortable to you.
- Stand with feet approximately hip distance with feet slightly turned out
- Lower down by moving your hips backwards while simultaneously bending your knees
- Find your lowest point of the squat press back to standing
Step 1: Stand with feet hip distance apart
Your foot position matters because it sets up the rest of your body to be in optimal position to perform a squat. Your foot position will change based on different variations of a squat (i.e. sumo you are in a wider stance with more foot turnout). For whatever squat variation you are performing, you want to be aware of the foot stance width and foot turnout.
The stance width is how far apart your feet are from each other. You often hear the cue to have your feet approximately hip distance. The cue “hip distance” is an estimate of where your knee and ankle joints are in optimal alignment in relation to your hip joint so you have a stable position as you squat. There is not an exact distance that your feet should be apart. Rather, it is based on what feels allows the best alignment for your anatomy. For example, if you have a wider pelvis, your stance width will likely be farther apart.
The foot turnout is how angled outward the feet are. For a basic squat, you want to find a turnout that feels natural based on anatomy of your ankle and foot joints. Your feet likely do not naturally face straight forward when standing. You do want to be aware that both feet have a similar turnout. Your weight should be evenly distributed across your feet with the exception of your toes. You do not want to be gripping or pushing with your toes.
Step 2: move hips back
What is position of my torso in squat? You want to maintain a neutral alignment (the natural curves of your spine) throughout the entire squat movement. If you watch yourself, your torso has to move forward as a result of the hips moving backwards. However, you are not changing the curves of your spine as you come into the squat. You will feel your back muscles engaging to keep you from rounding your upper or lower back.
What happens to your knees during a squat? Your knees should track in a neutral position. Your knees will move forward towards your toes as you squat down although you want to prevent excessive movement by pressing your hips backwards You may hear “don’t have your knees go over your toes”to avoid placing a shear force on the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) of the knee. You likely will not place your excessive force on your knee joint if you moving over your toes. You also want to aware and avoid your knees collapsing inwards or outwards when you are squatting down.
How far should you squat down? The squat movement starts with moving your hips back and down. Your knees and ankles work with your hips to lower you to the bottom of your squat. You should aim to squat down until your thighs are parallel with your knees, if not lower.