T Nation

Perfect Squat Form

Hi! I am an aspiring figure athlete (and ex yoga junkie?). I am currently trying to research my way into an intense fitness regimen, but I am also paranoid of injuring myself. I’m an American in Germany, and my German’s not so good, so I’ve been a bit timid and keeping to the ‘machines’ at the gym.

After reading through all of your posts, it’s clear that machines can do more harm than good, and that they are simply less effective than free weights. SO. I am building up the courage to go to the ‘men’s area’ of the gym (or at least that’s how it was described to me on the tour), and practice my squats and deadlifts.

Can you please advise me on how NOT to do a squat? And also please describe what I should be aiming for when I am doing them correctly (in English). Is Wikipedia a good reference? You’re the experts…I would sincerely appreciate any resources you can provide me with. :slight_smile: dankeshoen!

Watch videos on youtube for one thing. Aside from that, if you haven’t done any squatting before, you may wanna start out with front squatting. For most people, it’s easier to get lower without bad form on front squats than back squats.

Basic pointers though, for back OR front squats:

Take a big breath into your belly as you descend into each rep, sticking your belly out as far as possible, like you’re trying to look fat.

Push your knees apart as FAR as possible as you go down, and back up.

Push through your heels, not your toes. At the bottom of a rep, you should be able to lift your toes off the ground.

thanks! heels, heels, heels…

I suggest watching the whole “Squat RX” serie on Youtube.

Actually, that video is a pretty shitty demonstration of good squat form.

First off, he is making it a good morning when he comes out of the hole.

Secondly, there’s NOTHING wrong with using a stance with feet wider than shoulder width. As a matter of fact, I believe the longer your limbs are, the wider your stance should be, as a rule of thumb.

Thirdly, when you DO use a narrow stance, There is NOTHING wrong with your knees going in front of your toes, contrary to what this guy said.

Fourth, going lower than this guy does is excellent for quad stimulation. Not that there’s anything wrong with a squat just to parallel…it just depends on your goals, why you’re squatting to begin with, etc.

If this guy had any decent amount of weight on his back (315 lbs or more), his form would break down very quickly with the way he’s squatting.

Listen to the strong guys when you want advice on a lift, not some internet guru with an unloaded bar on his back. Y’dig?

This site ( http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/GluteusMaximus/BBFullSquat.html )has a GIF that shows a good full squat. Basics of good squat form are as follows:

  1. The first movement when you start to descend into a squat should be the hips moving backwards.

  2. Maintain a neutral or slightly extended spine. Your torso will be inclined forward from the hip flexion, but the spine itself should not flex forward.

  3. Maintain your knees in alignment with your feet. As you squat down, your knees should move forward in line with the direction your feet are pointing. In most people there is a tendency to allow the knees to move in toward each other, instead of keeping them out over the feet, especially during the ascent.

  4. Maintain equal weight bearing through the foot. The biggest thing to watch for here is forefoot to rearfoot weight distribution. Heels should always stay on the ground; if you have trouble with this you probably aren’t pushing your hips back far enough. You also want to make sure weight is equally distributed between the instep and the outer part of the foot. This goes along with #3 above: if you feel more weight on the inner part of the feet, it’s probably because the knees are not being kept out in proper alignment with the feet.

  5. For a full squat, descend until your hamstrings touch your calves. For a parallel squat, lower until the hip joint is even with the knee. I would recommend full squats if you can go that low while maintaining proper spinal alignment. They seem to provide better overall quad development than just going to parallel.

  6. The forward inclination of the torso should remain fairly constant throughout most of the movement. The GIF demonstrates this well. The trunk inclines slightly forward at the beginning or the descent, then maintains that angle until final hip extension at the very end of the rep.

Not everyone will be able to go that deep with a narrow stance (once again, with substantial weight), without falling over forward/putting the weight on their toes…not everyone has the same leverages.

3 is a big one a lot of people don’t get…basically the easiest way to keep this part proper is keep squatting properly, pushing the knees out as far as possible…I find a lot of people lack the groin flexibility to actually go deep while pushing the knees out, which is why the knees buckle in.

Going along with adductor flexibility: I’ve found a good way to warm those up is with the ab/adductor machine and some deep BW lunges (move your pelvis around at the bottom and you’ll find a position that gets 'em).

This is really helpful! Thanks for taking the time to respond! I just got back from the gym and found that I am extremely inflexible on the descent, and I think this is because I was not letting my hips back enough. There’s NO WAY IN HELL my knees would ever point in towards each other at any point during the exercise. I kept my toes slightly! turned out and found I was more balanced with a wider stance (I’m a bit long). I need to just practice my form with the bar for a while until I feel balanced going deeper, and maybe see what different knee angles feel like. I also have a much weaker left leg that I’ll have to develop. I’ll watch the exrx.net and SquatRX series as well. Good news is I rule! at dead lifts…must be the leverage…THANKS everyone!

I recommend that you buy Starting Strength (2nd Edition) by Mark Rippetoe. It is worth every penny. It will teach you how to squat, deadlift, overhead press, power clean, bench as well as many useful accessory exercises.

You need to have good mobility to perform the squat correctly. Work on your hip and ankle mobility. There are loads of mobility drills on You Tube. I can also highly recommend Magnificent Mobility.

Why is it so easy to spot people who do Starting Strength? Every time I see people looking down while squatting, I know what program they are on. Does he teach this nonsense? I’ve never seen anyone looking down while squatting over 600.