How To Squat with Proper Technique (with Video)

how to squat proper techniqueThere’s no question that the full squat exercise is an essential, Primal movement, and yet many folks in modern, industrialized society are unable to properly perform one. Kids have good squat form (just watch them at play), but their parents are stiff at the hips with rounded backs and tight knee joints.

Many more have been taught – by health experts and personal trainers – that the full squat is dangerous, that it will destroy your knees with wear and tear and render you incapable of normal activity. They say a half-squat is perfectly adequate, or, better yet, get rid of the squat altogether and use the leg extension machine! (Actually, don’t.)

Disregard these “experts.” Squatting is a natural movement that humans are built to do. You don’t need to use a ton of weight (or any!), but you do need to be mobile and flexible enough to reach a full squat below parallel.

What Do Squats Do?

Squats serve a variety of practical purposes: they can help you arrive into a resting position, they’re a proper starting form for lifting, and they work the muscles of the lower body. A proper squat engages and works a host of muscles, like quadriceps, abdominals, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors. When done correctly, squatting can build bone density, a key element in aging well.

How to Do a Squat

Stand with a comfortable stance. Most will prefer their feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart with toes turned out at a slight angle. Lower yourself by reaching back with your butt while maintaining a strong lower back. Keep your knees aligned with your toes and your toes on the ground.

Chest up, upper back tight, eyes looking forward and slightly down, head in a neutral position. Maintain a nice cohesive line along your spine. Go just below parallel, so that your butt drops below your knees.Come back up by pushing through the heel.

Proper Air Squat Form

Air squats, also known as body weight squats, can take pressure off of knees and still provide a ton of benefits. Learn, modify, and perfect your air squat over time using three squat progressions. If you’re already familiar with the motion but finding your squats result in knees caving, lower back or hip joints pain, your form might need a further tune up. Follow along with the video or these three progressions to get your squat into shape.

Squat Progression 1: Use an Assist

Find a supportive assist, such as a wall, bar, pole, or the back of a chair – anything that is sturdy and comes to about navel height. Come to a neutral position with feet shoulder width apart, bend your knees and explore your range of motion. Aim to achieve 20-30 of these assisted squats before moving on to Progression 2.

Squat Progression 2: No Assist, with a Spot

Use a box or a bench to act as a ‘spotter’ while working on your full squat form. When in the ‘sitting’ position, pull arms up and out ahead of you. Keep knees in line with toes, and keep feet just over shoulder width apart. At the lowest point in your squat, thighs should go parallel to the floor or the ground.

Squat Progression 3: You’re On Your Own

Take the bench away to move into a full air squat. Go as low as you can, and press upward through heels and not toes. You’ve now achieved air squat form!

Squat Variations & How to Do Squats at Home with No Bar

If you’re at home without a bar, looking to target specific muscles or modifying your squat for injuries or different abilities, consider adopting a few of these squat variations. For more detailed instructions on perfecting these variations, check out this article:

  • Goblet squats
  • Front squats
  • Band Zercher squats
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Resistance band split squats
  • Step ups
  • Walking lunges and Reverse Lunges
  • Tempo squat jumps

How Many Squats Should I Do?

If you’re an absolute beginner, first be able to nail the form just squatting your bodyweight. Focus on your mechanics for 10-15 reps, with 3 to 4 sets of these at a time. If this starts to feel too easy, rather than just crank out countless, mindless reps bouncing up and down, slow down the tempo and add a pause at the bottom of the squat. Once you get proficient, you can start adding weight.

A good general starting point for any workout is three to four “hard” sets – warmup sets don’t count. A hard set is one or two reps away from not being able to complete another rep with the same consistently good form. Plan for three hard sets, and attempt the fourth.

For rep counts, eight to ten reps is a good range for those looking to build muscle. Three to four reps can be helpful for getting stronger but not necessarily bigger. Split the difference with four to seven for a little bit of both. Find the rep count that works best for you. Expect to be somewhat sore in your legs a few days after the workout. If you’re not sore at all, you probably didn’t do enough to elicit a training response, but if you can’t walk correctly for a week, you probably did too much.

How Much Should I Be Able to Squat?

As a starting goal, everyone should be able to squat their own bodyweight, no matter their age. If you’re not there yet, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. It just means that you haven’t trained that muscle group yet. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you will achieve a bodyweight squat.

Once you start adding weight to the bar, use your own bodyweight to set benchmarks. First, aim to load your own bodyweight on the bar, as a beginner goal. Then go for 1.5 x bodyweight, with 2x bodyweight as a good long term benchmark to strive for.

TAGS:  exercise, fitness

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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54 thoughts on “How To Squat with Proper Technique (with Video)”

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  1. I really love this – I am greatly affected by sitting in a chair all day at the computer and when your hips and hip flexers get tight, it definitely hinders your squat ability.

    One thing I would recommend is to do some foam rolling prior to trying to increase the depth of your squat. As you mentioned, mobility is key to a good, deep “Grok squat” and using the foam roller prior to stretching will release the fascia surrounding the muscles and really open things up.

    Using a hard ball the size of a tennis ball to work on your periformis will really help as well, although you may hate me while you’re doing it!

  2. I really like the recent video series. Nice work!

    Do you have an opinion on keeping your arms above your head for alignment purposes? I have a tendency to lean forward and have found it sometimes helps.

  3. Love your infectious enthusiasm Mark! All of these videos are great.

  4. Well you have now covered the lift heavy things regimen I have been doing for the past 2 months!!

    Push-ups, pull-ups, squats and thats it!!

    I can’t wait for your description on the other 2 movements as I will be doing the “program” starting next week with all 5 exercises. Keep it up Mark!

  5. 8 Stupid Myths about Squatting.
    It’s time to finally put an end to these fallacies about this great exercise

    by Charles Poliquin

    We’ve all seen it. Massive iron plates loaded to the max on the 45-degree leg press – sometimes augmented with the weight of a dedicated training partner riding the sled like a cowboy at a rodeo. This obsession with monster leg presses inspired one equipment manufacturer to develop a machine that could handle 6,000 pounds of plates! But equally as impressive as the weights used are the elaborate rituals that are often associated with this exercise: knee wraps tightened to an excruciating degree, a weight belt cinched to create a waistline which looks like someone that Jessica Rabbit would admire, and the loud grunting that accompanies each slow, painful rep the trainee grinds out, finally reaching a crescendo with an ear-splitting ARGHHHHHHHH as the exhausted trainee pushes out the final half rep and allows the sled to slam down against the safety supports.

    The appeal of such a heavy-duty exhibition of ego is at least partially responsible for the fact that many weight trainees choose almost any leg exercise over the squat. After all, hoisting a ton on the leg press is far more impressive than a measly 300-pound deep knee bend. But anyone who has ever painstakingly inched out from a rock-bottom squat knows how much harder it is than pushing an angled sled a few inches, regardless of the poundage. The fact is, nothing is more difficult and more result producing than the squat – nothing.

    If the squat is not a major component of your leg training workouts, you’re probably listening to the “myth-information” that surrounds this exercise. To set the record straight – and to get you back in the power rack – I present for your consideration the eight most common myths about the squat.

    Myth #1: Squats widen the hips. The hip-widening myth originated from bodybuilding guru Vince Gironda. Even though Gironda contributed many valuable insights into weight training, there’s no scientific or empirical evidence to corroborate his belief that squats widen the hips. In fact, when the gluteus maximus (one of the prime movers in the squat) develops, it grows back, not out, because neither its insertion nor origin attachment is at the hips. If squats did widen the hips, Olympic lifters, who devote as much as 25 percent of their training volume to squats, would be built like mailboxes.

    Myth #2: Squats are bad for the knees. Not only are squats not bad for the knees, every legitimate research study on this subject has shown that squats improve knee stability and therefore help reduce the risk of injuries. The National Strength and Conditioning Association has published an excellent position paper on this subject with an extensive literature review, and data from the Canadian National Alpine Ski Team suggests that regular squatting reduces not only the rate of injuries but also the time it takes to recuperate from injuries that do occur.

    When I was hired to work with the Canadian National Women’s Volleyball Team, I found all of them suffered from varying degrees of an overuse injury called patellar tendinitis, or jumper’s knee. I believed the problem was partially caused by a structural imbalance in the lower quadriceps muscle called the vastus medialis oblique (the teardrop-shaped muscle that inserts at the knee). To correct it, I had these athletes perform Petersen step-ups and then gradually progress into full squats. Only one athlete still had jumper’s knee after less than three months of proper training.

    Providing you don’t relax or bounce in the bottom position of the squat, you’ve got nothing to worry about. When you relax, the knee joint opens up slightly, exposing the connective tissue to stress levels higher than their tensile strength. Does that mean you should never pause in the bottom position? No. It simply means that if you pause in the bottom position, you must keep the muscles under tension, holding the static (isometric) contraction. In other words, don’t relax at the bottom of the squat and allow your connective tissue to stretch out like a piece of saltwater taffy.

    Myth #3. There’s only one way to squat. Whether you switch from doing squats with the barbell on the clavicles to having it on the traps or whether you use a Zane Leg Blaster instead of a safety squat bar, you’ll force adaptation and growth.

    Most bodybuilders like to squat while keeping their backs as vertical as possible, a technique that increases the forward movement of the knees; powerlifters tend to squat by bending more from the waist, so there’s minimal forward movement. And, in an effort to handle as much weight as possible, powerlifters often don’t squat as deeply as bodybuilders do. From the field of biomechanics and neurophysiology, we know that the depth of squatting, degree of leaning forward, and knee-motion patterns affect muscle recruitment patterns. We also know that the more you vary your exercises, the more motor units you can recruit.

    What this means is that bodybuilders would benefit from squatting as powerlifters do because they would tap into a new motor-unit pool, and the greater the motor-unit involvement, the greater the muscle growth. Conversely, squatting deeply as the bodybuilders do would enable a powerlifter to increase the development of the vastus medialis oblique and hamstring muscles – thereby increasing knee stability. As Tom Platz, a bodybuilder who set the standard in leg development, says, “Half squat, half leg!”

    There are many variations of the squat that offer variety in training.

    Myth #4. You should squat till you puke. It seems there are weight trainees and coaches who believe that exercise intensity can often be measured by how much you regurgitate. This bizarre belief was discussed in Samuel Wilson Fussell’s controversial book, Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder. There is obviously no truth to this myth, and most vomiting can be prevented by proper conditioning and by choosing the rights foods before a heavy workout. For example, scallops leave the stomach much faster than fatty pork chops.

    Myth #5. Smith machine squats are safer than regular squats. This is a downright lie, and as proof I know of several lawsuits that were filed from individuals who became quadriplegics from accidents that occurred using this equipment. My experience with the Smith machine squat is that it’s very hard on the patellar ligament and the anterior cruciate ligament, both of which act as stabilizers for the knees.

    Most bodybuilders who use a Smith machine perform squats while holding their trunks vertical, a technique that minimizes the involvement of the hamstrings. Also, leaning back against the bar increases the stability of the trunk, further reducing the involvement of the hamstrings. This is not desirable, as hamstring activation is a direct antagonist to quadriceps activation at the knee, and this “co-contraction” neutralizes the harmful forces of the upper and lower leg bones.

    With a Smith machine, the bar is on a track, and this increased stability decreases the requirement of the body’s neutralizer and stabilizer muscle functions. Therefore, the strength developed on such machines has minimal carryover to a three-dimensionally, unstable environment such as occurs during the freestanding squat. This is an especially important fact to those who use weight training to improve sports performance. The bottom line is that free-weight exercises should always precede machine exercises, and athletes should limit their machine training to no more than 25 percent of the total work performed.

    Myth #6. Squats are bad for the back. As long as you squat with the proper form, the center mass of the barbell will not be far away from the center of gravity, and this in itself will help prevent injury. Some trainers recommend squatting with a tail-under posture, keeping the back flat or slightly rounded – a technique frequently used in aerobics classes in a misguided attempt to increase glute involvement. Lifting with this posture places excessive strain on the ligaments and other connective tissues of the back.

    To protect the ligament structures of the back, you should squat with a slight arch. This lifting form increases the stress on the musculature to make up for not using the ligaments to support the back. This may be associated with a higher incidence of lower back muscle strain, but you should understand that the alternative is a ligament injury. When you consider that a muscle takes three to eight days to recover from a mild or grade 1 tear but a ligament sprain takes at least 21 days to heal, the decision to arch slightly becomes relatively easy.

    Another important safety technique is to squat with the hands pulled in and the elbows tucked directly under the bar, which helps keep the torso upright during the lift. Also, you should try performing a few of your lighter sets of squats without a belt, as this will stimulate the development of the trunk muscles that help protect the back. Always wear a belt on your heavy sets, though!

    Some beginners find squats uncomfortable on the upper back area and may try to minimize their discomfort by rolling a towel around the bar. I strongly advise against this practice. The larger diameter of the bar caused by the towel can be harmful to the neck and increases the risk of the bar rolling down the back – I’ve seen this happen on several occasions.

    A better idea is to use a device called the Manta Ray. By redistributing the weight over more muscle mass, it minimizes the stress on the traps, and it does so without displacing the center of the mass of the bar. The only problem is that although the advertisements claim one size fits all, individuals with especially large traps may find the device uncomfortable. Another option is one of the various safety-squat bars with padded yolks that distribute the weight slightly differently than the traditional high-bar squat does. In time, however, most individuals will get used to the feel of the bar on the upper back. The best way to alleviate discomfort is to simply build up the traps.

    Myth #7. Squats make athletes slower. Squat performance can be directly related to success in track and field sprinting events, as well as in many other sports. Great examples of the relationship between squatting and athletic performance are the successes of bobsledder Ian Danney, who has become one of the most successful strength coaches for professional football players. Danney has front squatted 418 pounds for 2 reps at a bodyweight of 185 pounds. Other impressive athletes I’ve seen are skier Kate Pace, who back squats 264 pounds for 3 reps at a bodyweight of 150 pounds; and alpine skier Michelle McKendry-Ruthven, who squatted 66 reps in 60 seconds with 70 percent of her bodyweight.

    Which is better for athletes: front or back squats? Although sprinting performance has been more closely correlated to front squats than back squats, I believe these results have occurred because my sports science colleagues have varying interpretations of how the back squat should be performed. With a front squat, the weight is resting on the clavicles, and the technique is fairly standard. In contrast, there are many types of back squat techniques, some more effective than others in their carryover to sprinting performance.

    Myth #8. Squats can damage the heart. Squats will temporarily raise blood pressure, but the heart adapts to the stress in a positive fashion by making the left ventricle grow larger. Interestingly, studies have shown leg press performance on a 45-degree angle will increase the blood pressure three times more than the squat will. Obviously, if you suffer from cardiovascular disease or if it runs in your family, you should consult an experienced sports medicine practitioner before engaging in a serious squat program.

    While I believe the squat is the king of lifts, it is not the entire royal family. There are plenty of bodybuilders who have achieved extremely high levels of muscle mass by focusing their leg training around hack squats, lunges and leg presses. Likewise, many athletes have achieved the highest levels of performance without squatting. However, I do believe that most of these athletes would reach new physical heights if they incorporated the squat into their training.

    The squat has been an unfairly maligned exercise. Whether or not you choose to include it in your program is your personal decision, but be sure you base that decision on the facts, not the myths.

    1. Charles Poliquin gives us a rather lengthy defense of the squat.

      However, he does so from the perspective of the bodybuilder.

      Bodybuilders are into LOOKS and not fitness. The basis of bodybuilding is sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which sees to
      increase the fluid holdind capacity of non-contractile elements within the muscles.

      The basis of fitness is real muscle growth — myofibrillar hypertrophy, which trains muscles through load-bearing exercises and grows muscles through nutrition to increase the myofibrils, the actual contractile protein muscle fibers responsible for generating the tension or force that allows us to move.

      Bodybuilders seek temporary, pumped up appearances. Those into fitness seek authentic, permanent strength.

      Mark Sisson seems to side with us who are into fitness. Mark’s beliefs and ideas support fitness, not bodybuilding.

      In short, fitness training is athletic training. In athletic training, you train your muscles for strength, stamina and to support rapid, flexible movement of limbs.

      Key to athletic muscle training is teaching the nervous system to work with muscles simultaneously. This needs teach the body explosive but controlled movements.

      Machines exist for physical therapy and for those who want to deceive themselves and cheat at exercising. Avoid any seated squat machine.

      Olympic games lifters train using specialized techniques that makes them highly qualified to use barbells.

      All other athletes should avoid barbells in their training. Athletes have no need for barbells in their training whatsoever.

      Behind-the-neck barbell squats put intense, unneeded loads on joints rather than muscles.

      As the behind-the-neck squatter descends, the load shifts from the shoulder joints, to the hips, from the hips to knees and from the knees to the ankles. Worse, intense forces get applied first to the cervical vertebrae and then to the thoracic, lumbar and sacral vertebrae during the descent.

      Yet, in lifting, the lifter should seek to put the loads ON THE MUSCLES rather than the joints!.

      Far superior methods exist for the fitness seeker and athlete.

      If someone insists on performing two-legged squats, Zercher squats while holding a sandbag or aquabag places the load on muscles and not joints — including torso muscles (the core).

      Superior to all squats is the step up. This has been scientifically proven and made famous by Anatoly Bondarchuk. All someone need to is wear a weighted vest or weighted backpack.

      For added load, the athlete can hold a sandbag or aquabag.

      Better than the double-legged squat is the single-legged pistol squat. Again, these can be done with a weighted vest or backpack. Most likely, most persons cannot do these with any load.

      Yet another way to work the legs is to push a weighted sled. This is yet another exercise vastly superior to the behind-the-neck squat.

      In short, if you seek athletic fitness stay away from any training advocated by bodybuilders.

      1. I think you’re confused. Charles Poliquin is a renowned trainer of champion powerlifters and Olympians – aka the strongest people on the planet. Nothing to do with bodybuilding.

  6. This entire PB Fitness idea is great. I think a lot of people need this balance of guidance and primal freedom to gain the confidence to really invest in their fitness, primal style. I’m glad that you put a lot of stress on joint mobility, as that is the KEY to effective movement and a long-lasting muscular/skeletal system (in my opinion).

    If anyone is seriously interested in improving joint mobility, I recommend looking up Scott Sonnon and his various programs like Intu-Flow, Circular Strength Training, Prasara Yoga, and TACFIT.

    Keep up the awesome work, Mark! I hope you know how much we all appreciate it!

  7. At our gym we have found the squat to be the most effective exercise in all of its forms for almost all athletes. Unweighted squats, heavy back squat, front squat, overhead squat, one legged squats, high reps, low reps, and so many more. As one of our coaches often says, “the squat is the window to your soul.”

    If it is hard when you start, don’t worry. After I introduce the squat to clients I congratulate them on the beginning of a years long journey to develop and perfect this simple movement.

  8. I would suggest to those that are worried about their knees that they concentrate and sitting back into the squat so that their lower legs stay vertical and their knees stay over their ankles.

  9. I have a love/hate relationship with the squat. Learned proper form as a lad playing football (that and the power clean) and they continue to serve me well.
    However I’ve endured several knee injuries (…two ACL recon’s on my left, ACL/MCL/patellar tendon recon on my right…. but who’s counting)
    Keeping my knees over the balls of my feet is critical. And so it’s worth noting that I personally find it easier to drive be knees outward by pointing my toes straight ahead, and even thinking about pigeon-toeing them slightly. My knee caps naturally stay aligned with my feet. On the other hand, pointing my toes outward seems to invite inward translation of my knee.
    Anyone else have similar findings?

    1. Research is showing that hip strength is the biggest prevention to ACL knee injuries. When you turn your toes inward you activate the outside of your feet which uses more hip strength.

  10. The goblet squat from Dan John is also nice. Gets you deep, opens up your hips and feels great.

    Perfect, I’ve found, for feeling the stretch and gaining the balance to keep your feet flat and maintain a Grok Squat.

    1. Goblet squats are highly under-rated and a great way to get new trainees used to moving in the new way (most need to reset their motor unit patterns, as they are used to bending the back when bending).

      Holding the dumbell in front forces the upper body to remain partially upright, providing a cue to maintain an arch in the back (lordosis) during the movement. I use them with most clients who are struggling to get the position right.

  11. I always envision a toddler in a diaper squatting down to pick a Cheerio up off the ground – they have the most natural squat that makes sense to me. I then employ the same simple movement, although I don’t tend to pick up and eat food from the floor. 🙂

    Thanks Mark for another great post!

  12. When I was in college, I was a division-I thrower (shotput, discus, and hammer). Squats were a critical part of our workout. We primarily stayed around 225lbs, but we did DEEP squats…try to get our butts to the floor. We had to go through many days of reps with no weight to prove to our coach that our form was clean. We did the same approach with olympic lifts, which were critical to our need to be explosive. The world record holder in the hammer through never did a squat workout over 225lbs in his career…and his WR throw is 25 years old! CW makes the squat out to be a back killer instead of an energizer.

  13. Just remember the 2 most important things when squatting are to keep your toes and legs angled out from the facing direction of your body by about 40 degrees ( this shifts the line of action directly through your pelvis ) and to keep your lower back concave.

  14. Mark – Any recommendations for those with flat-feet AKA overpronation?

    (Overpronation, as you advise against, brings the knees inward during the squat movement)

    1. Use a strap or band (something elastic is preferable) to put around your legs, just below your knees. While you descend, you’ll naturally want to push outward, be more squared up, and may get a few inches lower.

    2. Actively engaging the flutes and vast us lateralis will naturally prevent overpronation. Keeping back on the heels helps this as well.

      1. I disagree. From what I generally see, overloading the V/L will only serve to worsen over-pronation. I very much agree that posterior chain activation is paramount, as those that over-pronate also tend to load their Quads a great deal on the concentric portion of the squat.

  15. Glad to see the squat getting some love!

    It seems like for guys, the only exercises that really matter are bench presses, bicep curls, and crunches.

    The squat is one of the movements our bodies were specifically designed to do and for ANYONE to neglect it is a big problem.

  16. Can one a tually build mass with bodyweight workouts? It seems that eith the number of reps possible, this would be primarily aerobic.

  17. The past few posts have been outstanding.

    Its really great that your teaching the proper technique as a series of progressions, allowing people of varying fitness levels to start with whats best for them right now.

    Always grateful for the hard work you and your team put in with this site.

  18. I did the whole LHT workout yesterday, following your videos. I am very glad you included so many starting levels!

    Following your instructions, my knees still crunched a lot during squats, but none of the usual pain. But my thighs swear they are never going to forgive me! How long until I can sit down on the toilet again, let alone do another round of LHT?! [wry grin]

    1. Funny how that happens. I squat once a week and I still find that moderate soreness creeps up on me a couple days following the workout.
      Just get good & warm and then stretch out for about 15 minutes, it’s the icing on the cake 🙂

  19. Mark, what about carrying things? I mean generally. When I go for long, moderate-paced walks with my girlfriend, I am going to try carrying a medicine ball with me. This seems logical, as often times Grok had to carry weapons, provisions, or found game with him. I am going to do this for a few weeks and see if there’s any benefit. Intuitively, I assume this will help my core tighten. Especially if i keep moving the medicine ball around.

  20. Mark, I love the site, and all the work you do for the primal world.

    My concern with the video above is this: knee position. While many can and do squat in the manner which is most comfortable, these people are generally already suffering from one or more muscle imbalance. I personally squat with a power-lifting style (wide stance, toes angled out), but I have taken steps to even out Quad development outside of my squat. My worry would be that those doing squats with their toes out constantly would overload their Vastus Lateralis, potentially leading to issues with the knees (particularly the patella).

    A squat with a more neutral stance (shoulder width, perhaps slightly wider, feet straight, as deep as possible without the hips tucking) would be a better catch all for those looking to start out. I would not question your mobility, but those without it may suffer from doing squats in such a way.

    Just my $0.02, keep up the great work!

  21. Amen! As a mom, pregnant with my second child, I have come to appreciate how vitally important full squats are, at least for women. I was fortunate to be in a Prenatal Yoga program during my first pregnancy in which we did 10-15 full squats in every class. For us preggos, with all that relaxin circulating in our bodies, the full squat opens the pelvis and takes advantage of gravity to move that baby down, head first, as nature intended. And talk about a powerful move during labor!

    I think I’ll do a few now. They just plain feel good!

    1. I stood/squatted to give birth to my latest two babies(separate pregnancies). Took only a couple hours from labor til they emerged and only about 20 mins of pushing. I was hardly in bed at all. Squats are an awesome way to give birth and get down to play with the kids and then to pick up their toys afterward.

    2. Ah, yes – I learned the Grok Squat in my Bradley class. Gave birth four times squatting on a hospital bed, ranging from 6 to 10 pound babies. Squatting opens the pelvic outlet by some 60% and should be no surprise – we were made to squat!

  22. Squats help with menstrual cramps, too. A proper martial arts horse stance with the lower back flattened and the hips tucked under will have the same effect as kegels, plus tone the butt and thighs. Wins all around.

  23. Mark, I have not yet delved in to this but it seems that, for better or worse, we have evolved beyond deep squatting for rest. From the little research I’ve done, it seems that the articular surface between the talus and tibia is different in the skeletons of squatting people.

  24. Hello,

    I’ve been doing squats for a while following these tips but I noticed while looking in a mirror that as I start to reach parallel my back starts to round and I can’t find a way to stop it. It looks like as I get to about parallel my glutes/hamstrings rounds my back. I’ve been doing dead lifts and hamstring/glute stretches to help alleviate this but to no avail. Anyone else had this problem? And any suggestions on how to fix it?

    1. Hi Robbie. The easiest way to maintain good spine position as you go past 90 is to widen your stance so that your pelvis can tilt forward as your hip flexes. Of course tight hammies will stop the pelvis from allowing full flexion at the hip however if your stance is too narrow (shoulder width is too narrow for a full deep squat) your femur itself with lock the pelvis at a certain angle and not allow full hip flexion. Also, some PNF type stretches for the hip flexors might help as well. I would also suggest the chair pose. Keeping your arms extended above your head helps keep the spine in proper position as you lower.

  25. It disturbs me how difficult/impossible it is for me to do what should be a totally natural, human resting position. It doesn’t surprise me, however, that Western medicine would suggest that if you are going to poop a watermelon (have a baby) that you should lay down to do it. That is insane. Hurray to ladies who bucked the CV and copped a squat to poop their watermelons. 🙂 My ancenstors dug a big hole, filled it with soft moss and then squatted to have their babies. Lay down? Who’s sick joke was that?

  26. I do Squats 3 times a week, started doing them with my running shoes on and always had pain in my knees as my feet were always inclined forward due to the shoe shape so I couldn`t push through my heels much. This created pressure on my knees. Now I`am doing them bare footed and no pain at all.

  27. @ MARK…I am not supposed to do squats, at least with a bar across my shoulders, because I have a curvature of the spine. I have always done wide and high leg presses to hit more of my glute and hamstrings. Is this okay? Or, am I losing out?

  28. Been primal with my diet and lifestyle for almost a year now, but started doing the workouts recently. Just thought I would make a suggestion for anyone doing the “Assisted Squats”… If you are doing them indoors & don’t have access to a pole, an open door works great by using the doorhandles in each hand for support. Love the life! Thank you, Mark!

  29. Knees over toes or not? Myth or fact? Ive been told repeatedly taht knees should stay over toes or risk injury, is this true?

  30. I’ve had a history of knee problems which include chondromalacia patella (I’ve roughed up the cartilage on the backside of my kneecap). So as you can imagine I have stayed away from deep squats, thinking that there would be too much pressure on the kneecap. After reading a couple of other sources which actually dispel the increased pressure theory I got up the courage to try deep bodyweight squats. I was able to do 40, and maybe could have done 45 or 50. The morning after, the knee feels fine and I have a new appreciation for bodyweight squats (I was really sucking wind by the end of the 40 rep set!).

    Thanks Mark for posting those instructional videos, and your excellent blog posts!

    Queenstown, Maryland

  31. Because of how I walk, it affects my lunges and squats. I just had my group x teacher Jackie tell me that yesterday. She knows I try to do them in the manner that I should. It’s just easier for her to point out because she sees how I walk and not to mention she pays attention to every single move that I make. Are there any stretches that I could do to help with it?

  32. I love this but miss doing squats because I have plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. Any tips or modifications for people with foot problems? I do a lot of stretches and foot exercises, but every time I re-try doing squats I have a resurgence of heel pain.

  33. I always enjoy and appreciate your content. But is there anything new being produced? When looking at web content, I tend to think the older the content, the slightly less reliable and dynamic I expect it to be. I’d love to see more new stuff. Thanks!

  34. Mark, two questions. 1- Why not use the leg extension machine?
    2- Best way to build bone density with a squat? I am dealing with osteopenia from cancer treatment.

  35. I have just started back to the gym after six months on Covid detention and I have now worked up to squatting the Olympic bar 20 times, and that’s it. I do aided chin-ups, I’ve worked up to 8 now. I do a one minute plank. I benchpress the bar 20 times, slowly. And I do an upright row with the bar and do 20 slow reps. I’m going to do those 5 for about a month and then start adding weight. I have learned the hard way that I tend to go into workout routines too heavy and the recovery time is quite lengthy. Nothing wrong with taking my time, right?

  36. Try this vertical jump test!
    1) Maintain “knees out” and see how high you can jump
    2) allow your shins to angle inward at the bottom as you go to spring up.
    In which attempt did you perform better? If you’re confused, go watch a basketball game and see how these amazing jumpers do it, they ain’t keeping their knees out or tracking their knees over their toes.
    So why squat that way?

  37. My knee (Rt) hurts like the dickens and getting into any squatting position is painful. I have always been one to hover over in public restrooms, so it would make sense that my legs had practice and were strong. Unfortunately, during Covid I was less mobile overall, yet could do a full squat, but when I started walking two miles, my knee decided to rebel. go figure.

  38. Myo Facia. You have lines of continuous facia running up and down your body which act as guywires to stabilise your joints. One such line runs from your forhead to the underside of each big toe. If you grip the floor/ground with your toes you can activate this facia so stabilising your posture. This can only be done in bare feet.