Why Squatting Is So Important (plus Tips on How to Do It Right)

CrossFit Front SquatJust as we should eat the foods our bodies were designed to eat, we should move our bodies the way they were meant to move and impose the stressors they were meant to bear. That means squatting, and squatting often. Our hips flex, knees bend, and ankles dorsiflex so that we can rest comfortably in a squat position.

Okay, but isn’t the squat a bit outdated? Why not just use a chair?

You’ve probably heard how modern processed foods use refined sugar, salt, and seed oils to hijack our natural desires for fruits, animal fat, and animal meat. They exploit our wiring and provide hyper-stimulation to our senses, prompting massive overconsumption; some refer to this as “Food Reward.” In a similar vein, chairs hijack our anthropometry, which was designed for squatting. Just look at yourself in a chair:

  • Your knees are flexed – same as in a squat.
  • Your hip is in flexion – same as in a squat.
  • Your spine is neutral (unless you’re slumping, which many of us do) – same as in a squat.

Chair sitting is attractive and easy because it doesn’t challenge the way our joints work. It doesn’t place us in unnatural positions. It’s easy to slip into. It hews to our anthropometry. It provides support, so we don’t even have to do or lift anything or worry about engaging our glutes.

I call it “Repose Reward,” and it’s obviously a concerted effort by the chair industry (Big Sit) to keep us dependent on their evil, addictive products! (Please understand I’m mostly kidding.)

The good side of all this is that if you can sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, you can (with some work) squat. It might be hard, because your muscles will actually have to work to maintain the load, and it might take some finagling since some of your joints will feel a little tight, but the position is possible. You just have to learn to support the load.

That’s one big reason to squat – it helps counteract all that sitting we do and lets us tap into a very Primal, very essential mode of repose. But there are many other reasons to squat, too. Let’s explore:

Squatting makes you stronger.

Deep Squat

Pound for pound, squatting is the best bang for your buck strength exercise, hitting many different muscle groups along the way. The obvious ones targeted are the prime movers – the quads, hamstrings, and glutes – but the trunk musculature must stabilize the torso and maintain a neutral spine, all while supporting the load and acting as a fleshy lever. All in all, the squat is a complicated movement that forces the body’s parts to work and grow stronger together as a single unit.

Squatting makes you faster.

Tons of studies confirm that the stronger your squat, the faster you can run. It’s probably not just a “people who are strong and can squat a lot tend to also be faster” kind of thing because research shows that adding weight to an athlete’s squat during the season directly translates to faster sprint speeds.

Squatting makes you jump higher.

It’s no surprise that training your body to stand up tall from a squatting position with extra weight on your back would also improve your ability to keep going past merely standing, also known as jumping. And even though you wouldn’t jump from a deep squat position in real life, training the deep squat (full range of motion) position improves the vertical leap more than regular squatting.

Squatting improves bone mineral density in all age groups.

A recent study found that supervised (by an experienced trainer) weighted squats can help postmenopausal women with osteoporosis or osteopenia improve their bone mineral density in the spine and neck by 2.9% and 4.9%, respectively (in addition to boosting their strength levels by over 150%). That’s huge. Now, imagine the strength of a lifetime squatter’s bones.

Squatting is even beneficial for endurance athletes.

Many endurance enthusiasts have the idea that squatting and other forms of resistance training will make them “bulky” and slow them down, but this simply isn’t the case. When they include resistance training in their regimen, marathoners improve their running economy. And even though their quads do plenty of work on the bike already, endurance cyclists improve their efficiency on the bike when they include heavy “hip flexion” strength training in their program. Reviews of resistance training in endurance runners and road cyclists confirm these results. Another benefit: every endurance athlete benefits from a stronger core.

Things to think about when squatting:

Even Kids Can Do It!Squat however’s comfortable for you. You should definitely try to improve your positioning, but you shouldn’t force your body into positions it simply isn’t prepared to reach just so you can attain the “ideal squat.” That might mean you squat with a narrow stance. Or a wider stance. Or maybe your toes are pointing straight forward. Maybe they’re externally rotated a bit. However, if your feet are rotated outward, make sure your arches don’t collapse.

Focus on range of motion, rather than load. Provided you can maintain good technique (don’t sacrifice your form just to get low), squatting deeper with a lighter load is better for the knees, producing greater muscular and tendon adaptations, than squatting more shallowly with a heavier load. In fact, squatting deep with good technique can actually protect your lower extremities from injury.

Avoid knee wraps to boost the amount of weight you can handle, unless you’re a competing powerlifter for whom every extra pound on the bar counts. A recent study suggests that wearing them changes the mechanics of the back squat, alters the targeted musculature, and compromises the integrity of the knee joint.

Single leg squat variations work well. Even though online lifting message boards make it sound impossible to get strong without squatting, single leg squat variations like split squats and lunges are effective replacements that target the same lower body muscles and even result in similarly systemic hormonal responses. One of my employees with a history of knee issues can do fairly heavy lunges of all sorts without any problem, but weighted squats are iffy. I on the other hand never really had an issue with squats, while lunges sometimes gave me problems. It all varies. Do what works.

Body weight squats are good enough, too. Weighted squats will get you strong, no doubt, but it’s not the only way. A recent study out of Japan found that an eight-week program of 100 body weight squats (or “body mass squats,” as they say in the study) each day increased lean mass, vertical jump, and knee muscle strength while lowering body fat in teenage boys. Body weight squats are also incredibly energy intensive, far more than previously assumed, making them a great tool for metabolic conditioning.

Squatting doesn’t have to be exercise. These days, I think of the squat as more of a mobility promoter than anything. In fact, if you can relax in the squat position and use it as a position of repose on a daily basis, your weighted squat performance will improve. Most of the research cited in this post refers to squat exercises, but that’s about all there is in the literature.

SquattingRemember that squatting can take many forms. It’s not just young ripped dudes lifting heavy and leaving chalky slap prints on each other’s backs. Squatting is:

  • Holding onto a post or a doorframe in front of you for support as you squat.
  • Standing up from a chair.
  • Lowering yourself to the toilet – instead of doing a semi-controlled fall.
  • Doing three sets of 5 reps at twice bodyweight.
  • Squatting down to examine an interesting bug on the ground.
  • Laboriously working your way down into a full squat, grimacing all the while as you push out on your inner thighs to make way for your lumbering body.
  • Grandpa doing quarter squats while holding grandma’s hand for support.

It all counts. It all helps. It’s all (variations on) a squat.

At this point in my life, I don’t even do weighted free weight squats, except for some air squats with a weight vest on. I don’t back squat or front squat. I sit in the Grok squat as much as I can, just to stay loose and mobile, but for lower body strength work with the minimum amount of risk I like the leg press and the hack squat machine. So don’t think this post is about squatting a lot of weight. Or any weight. For the vast majority of the squatting world, squatting is a way to pick stuff off the floor, wait for the train, go to the bathroom, or catch up with their friends. For them – and for you, should you choose to pursue the squat – squatting is a basic act of humanity, of movement, of utility. To squat is to be.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Now go squat!

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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123 thoughts on “Why Squatting Is So Important (plus Tips on How to Do It Right)”

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    1. I’ve worked my way up to doing over 350 squats per day in the past….not all at once but spread throughout the entire day. Basically just do whatever’s comfortable for you. I only started out with a goal of 100/day but as I listened to my body I realized I could do more.

      Try the “greasing the groove” method and just do a few here and there throughout the day. Not enough to fatigue you, but enough to get the blood moving.

    2. I squat 3-4x a week using Strong Lifts 5×5 adding 5lbs every time I succesfully complete 5 sets of 5 reps. My wife who doesn’t have the time to go to the gym Squats 3-4x a week as well, using her body weight… She started out only being able to do 3×20 but has been able to work her way up to 3×50

  1. Been following starting strength for a year now. Squatting isn’t just an exercise, it’s a way of life. Zen. Me Time. I love to squat. And on recovery days, I think about my next day of squatting.

  2. Awesome post! the Big Sit comment cracked me up. I definitely need more squatting in my daily life. I like the 100 a day body weight squats. that’s definitely a great start! also, squatting instead of lazing on the couch.

  3. Thank you, Mark, for giving me baby steps and the goal of improvement even though I have arthritic knees. I will go slow, hang onto something and do what I can for extra strength and balance! 🙂

  4. I’ve started incorporating the squatting position into my daily routine by getting a small, low table at home. I use it to read, use my laptop, and eat. I probably end up squatting for an hour or so at a time, and 2-3 hours a day. And I’ve been doing this for about a year, and I’m definitely noticing benefits at the gym–my deadlifts, Pendlay rows, and squats (of course) have improved significantly as I’ve gained more flexibility in my legs. I’ve found the most benefits with deadlifting, surprisingly–I can get better leverage and maintain better form throughout.

    1. I started incorporating the squat in routine activities, and I’ve noticed a substantial increase in core strength.

      I really like the idea of a low table for reading and laptop use. Call it a squat table. Apt in many respects.

      1. When I use my laptop sitting or the PC in my office after a while I always get lower back pain–a dull ache that no amount of stretching and walking around will get rid of. But using the laptop on my `squat table’, my back feels fine.

        I like the `squat table’ moniker–I didn’t know what to call it. I picked it up at a Korean supermarket in the home goods section. It’s not a coffee table, it’s not a side table–it’s just a low table.

  5. I’ve been incorporating ATG squats into my daily life for a few weeks now. Sadly, I have to cheat to get all the way down by placing something under my heels. Hoping to gradually reduce the height of the platform under my heels (currently 2″) so I can do a true ATG squat with no external assistance.

  6. Just to clarify – if I’m doing weighted barbell squats (on a Smith machine), I should be trying to past 90 degrees, as low as possible in good form? Back when I studied to be an ACE personal trainer, we were always told to go to 90 degrees but not past. I’m not surprised that this might not be accurate, but before I start trying to do my close to 400 pound squats much more deeply, I want to be sure this isn’t contraindicated….

    1. There is no such thing as a squat on a Smith machine; they are two very different movements. It is essential to be able to fall over during a squat, so that your brain and your muscles are required to work together to prevent you from doing that.

      1. I agree with this. You take away all the benefits to the core by removing them from the necessity of the movement (much like a chair removes glute function)

        1. To clarify, I do completely understand that there are enormous benefits to doing squats unassisted by a Smith machine.

          However, it very much depends on your goals, and the availability of a spotter. One, my gym doesn’t have freeweight barbells. Two, if it did, it’s fairly dangerous to do heavy squats unassisted with no spotter or at least a squat rack below you.

          Forgetting the comment on the validity of using a Smith machine, I’d still like some feedback on my original question. ..

    2. Nick I would lose the smith machine and go past parallel for a more realistic indication of actual strength.

      1. I agree…I would avoid Smith machine squats. If you are worried about building strength and not having a spotter, use dumbells in a front squat position. While this isn’t as effective as back squats with a barbell, it is still better than Smith machine squats. Plus, it allows your body to move freely without being “trapped” into a specific range of motion (like the Smith machine does).

        1. I am a little confused. Did no one see where I wrote “One, my gym doesn’t have freeweight barbells.”

        2. I completely understand…that’s why I mentioned using dumbells instead. As to your original question on squat depth – going below parallel is perfectly fine as long as your form is correct. This is why I said I would avoid using a Smith machine. It doesn’t allow your body to move freely, thus making squatting below parallel more difficult and increasing the possibility of getting injured. Just my two cents…

        3. I appreciate the reply.

          The gym also doesn’t have dumbbells heavy enough to be useful.

          My own goal is putting on muscle mass, with both squats and deadlifts, even on a Smith machine, being key to this effort. I wouldn’t be able to challenge myself significantly enough with either dumbbells or bodyweight exercises, as Mark pointed out in his adding muscle posts. I admit the Smith machine is not ideal, but for the purpose of adding mass, it’s far better than using light dumbbells.

          I’m not sure I completely agree that deeper squats on a Smith machine would carry a higher injury risk than the same weight with freeweights. I would imagine you would just derive a bit less benefit with stabilizing muscles being less engaged due to a restricted plane of motion.

          I think I’d still benefit from going past 90 degrees, based on htis post. I’ll cut my weight by about 25% and start going lower in goof form.

          Does this sound like a reaosnable approach to others?

        4. It depends on if you’re doing high bar or low bar squats. you’ll work more mass with low bar (more hamstring). High bar is more quad dominant. With low bar, if you go too deep, you have to relax back muscles to get there risking injury. High bar squats allow you to get down deeper. I would suggest low bar as your better option. Just below parallel or as deep as you can go without relaxing the muscles of the lower back.

          As far as the barbel situation, this isn’t meant to be condescending, but what are your options for switching gyms? Or getting a rack for your home? You’ll get mass with a smith machine but it really is a different animal.

          Starting Strength has made a huge difference in my life. I highly recommend it to you.

        5. Thanks for the tips.

          I’m following something like Starting Strength, albeit with a Smith machine.

          I live in Brooklyn in an apartment, so buying a squat rack is not even close to possible, lol. Also, gyms in our neighborhood are quite pricey, so I opted for the $10/month Planet Fitness membership. They have five or six Smith racks, so the benefit is I never have to wait. I get in some free movements on my pull-ups and chin-ups and push-ups.

          Next best option is probably the Y, at $60/month. They do have some barbels, but only one rack, and it’s constantly crowded.

          I’ve looked in the CrossFit near me, but it seems to work out to be several hundred dollars a month – I really have no idea how people pay for it.

          So yeah, there are some benefits to being in a suburb (though you’ll likely never catch me in one…)

        6. I hear ya on the cost of crossfit… $10/month is a good price, but there is nothing that’s say.. 30/month that might have what you need? I’m sure there are a ton of fitness places and probably few squat racks…. You could maybe talk to a crossfit gym about just a simple/cheap membership to squat there…. Not really sure what the situation is exactly, but I’m sure there’s a solution

        7. No free weights–no problem:

          Double kettlebell front squats! Go Deep!

    3. I also workout at a gym that only has Smith machines and no free weight barbells. You can go deeper with a Smith machine, but you will want to lower the weight until you figure out how low you can go comfortably. If you get your feet positioned in line with bar guides, you should be fine.

      I also stretch out with the Grok squat for 30-60 seconds between sets.

    4. Recommending people not go past 90 degrees is foolish. They likely do that because people who don’t know what they are doing are more likely to get hurt the harder they work… and going deeper is a lot harder. This comes from the same line of thinking that people used to have (some still do) that squatting is bad for the knees. Incorrect squatting is bad for the knees. Proper squatting is good for them.
      – 90 degrees is the weakest point for the knees… do not stop and reverse motion at that position.
      – Going past 90 degrees leads to far more glute activity. Going to about 45 degrees works thighs, (almost all quads), and practically no glutes or hips.

      I Rx trying different squat variations in lieu of a smith machine: Single-leg, high rep, partials, complexes, isometrics, offset weight, split squat, speed squats, jump squat, overhead

    5. Go buy a Navy bag online and get bags of sand or wood pellets. Make a sandbag of 100 to 150 lbs. Clean bag and do zercher or front squats till you collapse. Your legs will bulk up, guaranteed. Oh, and ditch the useless gym. A couple sandbags and a set of rings will give you more than your current gym will, and for less. Homemade sandbag and rings, about $60 and they are yours to keep forever. And apartment friendly. Pushing the weight on a Smith Machine with an exercise like squats is just asking for an injury, possibly a serious one. Just my opinion.

      1. Nick “sounds” like he must be quite the beast already?! Maybe buy the bodyweight bundle…there are plenty of ways to build mass. Don’t restrict yourself.

    6. I would try Bulgarian Split Squats. Let’s say you are squatting 400lbs, which puts 400lbs pressure on your lower back etc. but still only 200lbs per leg/glute
      Splitting it still forces your leg/glute to lift 200lbs but the strain on your lower back halves.
      I also find it that doing bulgarian splits in a smith machine gives me a bit more of freedom of movement as I can change leg positions by putting my leg further forward.
      This is the only leg exercise I do in a smith machine. If you want to spice it up a bit do this followed by deep squats with the heaviest dumbells you can find at your gym. trust me, such a super set will give you great results.

    7. Having almost forty years of training under my belt I would say if you were going to start deep squats your safest bet would be to back up to a light weight (25% of your max) or less.

  7. I have short Achilles Tendons so I can’t dorsiflex my foot and touch my heels to the ground. I can, at best, ape squats by holding on to things for support, but I will always be on the balls of my feet.


    1. Me too! Some of us will never be able to get the heel to the ground.

      I guess we don’t know squat!

  8. Wish I could squat, but osteoarthritis in one of my knees makes it incredibly painful. Even a little resistance can aggravate it for weeks. 🙁

    1. I too have arthritis in one of my knees from an anterior cruciate ligament injury when I was 15. For years I avoided squats and then moved to “sissy” squats keeping my thighs above 90º and I’ve always had problems sitting in & rising from a squat position. However in the last 12 months since going Primal I have dropped back to unweighted squats and stretching in a grok squat, (All be it for very short periods – 10 20 seconds at a time), and my range of movement has improved. I did get a little soreness to start with, but nothing major and this has improved also.

      How much of this is to do with improved diet & thus less inflammation I can’t really say, but I would suggest starting with no resistance or maybe assisted squats and try “greasing the groove” as Mark says; see if you get similar improvements.

  9. ALERT:
    DO NOT SQUAT ON TOP OF A TOILET SEAT. It can shatter and cut you open and you may bleed to death.

      1. Yes, I’m sure Knifey is posting from the afterlife… LOL! 😀

        1. Well technically speaking he said it CAN shatter and you MAY bleed out…. 🙂

  10. Question for you pros regarding squatting. 30 year old male, primal for 3+years. In good shape, very active and healthy. But I have always had problems squatting. My flexibility in general is poor. Have tried stretching, foam rolling all without any major obvious improvement. When squatting I can go no further than 90 degrees. But, if I squat on a surface with a slight decline or on a small step of just 2cm with my toes being in the lower part I can comfortably squat quiet deep. My question, is it/could it create any problems continuing to squat this way whilst working on my flexibility it improve my regular squat?

    1. I have found that just by squatting more, my flexibility is improved drastically. Training the squat also trains flexibility.

    2. For generally poor flexibility look for a yoga class of the Scaravelli persuasion – not the rigid forms or hot yogas. Scaravelli-inspired yoga is all about undoing the tightness from within and the increases in flexibility are remarkable. My yoga teacher started a men only class at the beginning of the year and the results have been stunning. And we’re talking about Scottish men 50 plus from couch potatoes to racing cyclists.

    3. It won’t cause problems… simply keep working on it. What I’ve found useful to a lot of people is to take a weight in goblet squat position and go about as deep as you can and simply hold it, say one minute a day. Having the weight in front (front squat/goblet/zercher, and more) counterbalances the weight, to help keep you from falling backward due to joint tightness, making it easier to hold a deep position. Adding resistance while stretching is a good way to build stability in a deep position (since there’s little benefit to being flexible if you aren’t stable in the position)

      1. +1 Holding a goblet squat at the bottom position daily will improve flexibility. Take it from a 45-year old inflexible guy.

  11. Nick – to your question about how deep to squat, from the beginning my trainer taught me ass to ankles for both front and back squats.

  12. If you cannot squat, half-squat is a good option. Just keep your knees no farther than your toes. Funny, I just wrote about it in my last post.

    Knifey’s post is funny, as often.

  13. It’s easy to get in a few squats when working with young children. They like to play copy cat games and that is another way to get a few more squats in you day too.

      1. My son’s name is Zac; but there’s no way I could squat with him on my shoulders!

  14. I call it “Repose Reward,” and it’s obviously a concerted effort by the chair industry (Big Sit) to keep us dependent on their evil, addictive products! (Please understand I’m mostly kidding.)

    It wouldn’t surprise me, seeing as how chairs and couches have gotten much cushier over the years! A few years ago, we went to search for a new couch, and half of them were so cushy, Hubby (with a cane) had great trouble getting up again. We opted for a high-back one with a short seat, so it forces you to sit upright (no slouching)–it was the only one Hubby could get out of with minimal difficulty.

    Looking back, I wish we hadn’t bought the couch at all, because these days, only the cats use it for sleeping and scratching. It’s now become a couch-shaped scratching post (fabric still intact). With no TV, we hardly go into the living room any more.

    Imagine if everyone gave up TV like we did–many would end up with an unused room like we have, and eventually, there’d be little need for living rooms at all. Nowadays, I would gladly trade that unused square footage for a bigger kitchen.

    Any architects out there? Care to design a Paleo/Primal house?

    1. Wow! Now that’s a great idea for a Primal Competition me thinks! What about it Mark … 🙂

  15. This is all great, but please, squat WITHOUT rounding your low back. This means your body isn’t getting ROM from your hips or your ankles and is a direct mechanism of injury.

  16. I sense a quote of the week coming from this article!

    So many great articles Mark, I keep passing them on and sharing your website link as a pivot to true change, health and well being.

  17. Don’t forget that squatting is also the ideal birthing position and can open the birth canal by 15-30% more during labor and delivery!

  18. Many people have mobility limitations (and I mean healthy, “normal” people). For them, barbell squats can be a road to injury from poor form due to reduced mobility. I recommend goblet squats to all my athletes.

    The goblet promotes proper form, isn’t hard on the traps, and is much easier to go all the way into a full, deep squat (most barbell lifters I see go to parallel, if that).

    They also allow good supersetting if you use kettlebells. I have my athletes do a 10-15 rep goblet squat + 15 rep kettlebell swing superset (i.e. you are going immediately into the swings after the last rep of the squats). Goblets are great at increasing mobility and a good starter on the way to heavier barbell squats (also a good form corrector for barbells). Plenty of youtube videos on how to do them, check them out.

    1. Fantastic comment Will! Had a desk job for the last 8 years out of college, and recently really found out how truly immobile I had become. Still can’t acheive a full squat and needed something to help get me there…this is it. Already done 10 reps at my desk.

    2. What’s the difference between a Goblet Squat & a Zercher Squat? – I have found Zercher squats a more natural & comfortable movement than conventional barbell squats and more focused on the legs too.

  19. I am so working on squatting but my knees or whatever are tight. I really cannot get very low at all certainly cannot get as low as the people in the pics 🙁

    1. Just keep at it! You’ll begin to increase your mobility and your joints will loosen up, letting you get deeper. You’ll get there, just be persistent. 🙂

  20. Fascinating article. I am new to PB and to squats. Over the last 6 weeks I have eaten primal and started bodyweight routines at home inc 2 sets of 20 bodyweight squats 3x per week. Now trying to increase by a rep each time. Currently at 2×24. Baby steps I know but I’ve started. Reading this encourages me to keep at it!

    1. Reading the comments keeps me at it, about 2+ years now.

      Wow, you’re very regimented! That really makes me realize everyone’s take-away is different. My whole implementation of MDA is whole foods, better sleep, & sporadic exercise. Next step is getting into a routine. When the weather breaks, I’ll be grabbing the wife & dogs for a daily 10 minute walk/sprint before breakfast.

  21. I am using body-weight training and am constantly getting bigger and stronger as I eat too much! I like to squat whilst standing on a mattress because it just takes more effort and is good for frog jumps to failure!

  22. Started reading this post on my back in the sofa but half way into the article changed to squatting.
    On top of at least one heavy squat work out per week I try to incorporate it as much as possible. When I brush my teeth and while reading. Sometimes I eat squatting. Today I changed the wheels of my car, almost the entire time in a squat.
    But not on the toilet, I’ve heard it can break and you can cut yourself and bleed to death…

    1. i squat while gardening & sometimes move around the yard while squating (Not sure how it’s called,
      i.e.d the plants are near by so no point of standing up, walking 1 or 2, squat). it’s very comfortable & easier on the back.

      but eating, reading, brushing teeth while squatting? that’s novel.

  23. Mark, you mentioned the leg press as being safer for you than a weighted squat. Interesting because I have a harder time keeping my spine neutral with the leg press.

  24. I love this article. Squats are fundmental to functional fitness. Imagine all the fun things you can do by being able to squat well. Like pick heavy objects up or light objects or really any object. You can propel yourself through the air on to a box or get low on a dance floor. At 34 I have back squatted over 400 and front squatted 315 and can run a sub-7 min mile. How about that for squats. Think I might go do some right now…

  25. I feel like printing this article and scattering copies all over my gym. Too many people loading up on weight but not going deep…makes me cringe every time and I have to stop myself from offering advice. Y u no go past parallel!

  26. Amen! I used to hate squats mostly because I could not squat heavy. I resigned myself to try strong lifts 5×5 however because Iostly recognized that I had weak hips due to some anatomical issues caused by WAY too many miles running long distance on cambered roads between ages 11 and 17…

    Anyway, I am working my up from 45 lbs and now squatting 195 and I love the exercise as it is promoting full body strength AND certainly appears to be providing measurable strength increases in my hips and reducing the hip bursitis I used to get from chronic cardio…

    Yeah squats!!!

  27. Only really incorporated squats into a routine in the last 12 months and am a convert. Love them and everyone thinks I’m mad. Issue I have is being 41 and my knees riddled with osteo arthritis, knee caps bone on bone. In essence I’m always in a bit of pain and always have some level of swelling. The squats have strengthened my legs and I find it far easier to do things, but believe I’m speeding up the damage to my knees. Already told that I’ll need both knees replaced at some point, but also been told that I shouldn’t do any exercise that involves bending the knee to minimise aggravation. To me that just seems illogical and a way back to where I was….overweight, stiff joints and struggling to get around in mid 30’s. Anyone in a similar boat or have any articles that can assist?

  28. I think I have bad knees. Beginning about a year and a half ago Air squats really began making my knees hurt for days after doing multiple reps. I’ll start feeling a grittiness in my knees during the exercise. Then for the week following my knees feel bruised. Before you say I’m doing them wrong, I know for a fact that I’m not. My trainer (not one of the dumpy guys who took the correspondence course to work at the big box gyms) as well as other reputable crossfit trainers have approved of my squat.

    So what should I do.

      1. He got a second opinion. And a third. Didn’t you read what he wrote?

        1. “Before you say I’m doing them wrong, I know for a fact that I’m not. My trainer (not one of the dumpy guys who took the correspondence course to work at the big box gyms) as well as other reputable crossfit trainers have approved of my squat.”

          I find this suspect. In my experience, there is a form issue (I’ve had knee pain that went away when I changed my form).

    1. I have bad knees too, & going primal has gotten rid of my lifelong knee pains but it still hurts when I do squats (& I’m very young). It may just be due to genetics or something, but I wouldn’t do squats if it hurts your knees. Ask your trainer if there’s other exercises to work those glutes

      1. Im no expert, but another thing is try assisted squats instead of air squats. My trainer showed me how to do it both while holding on to a beam & against a balance ball on the wall so it keeps your spine in the correct curvature. It might help your knees.

  29. Any suggestions on how to get out of a squat? I can get into a full squat with no great difficulty, and sit there for several minutes. But I cannot get up without initiating the movement by using my hand to push off the ground (or something else). Not what you want in ‘bush bathroom’ situations.

    1. In my experience, the longer you stay down there, the harder it is to get up. This happens to me a lot in the garden. I think it may have something to do with loosening ligaments, or maybe your muscles just get tired, I dunno. But practice pausing a bit before you stand when you are exercising & it will help.

  30. This is kind of a specialized issue but do you have thoughts on squatting and its effects on pelvic organ prolapse? Is it too much pressure for the pelvic floor that has already been compromised?

  31. This was posted in my high school gym when I was growing up. Loved it and lived it ever since.

    Down this road, in a gym far away,
    a young man was heard to say,
    “no matter what i do, my legs won’t grow”
    he tried leg extensions, leg curls, and leg presses , too
    trying to cheat, these sissy workouts he’d do.

    from the corner of the gym where the big men train,
    through a cloud of chalk and the midst of pain
    where the noise is made with big forty fives,
    a deep voice bellowed as he wrapped his knees.
    a very big man with legs like trees.

    laughing as he snatched another plate from the stack
    chalking his hands and monstrous back,
    said, “boy, stop lying and don’t say you’ve forgotten,
    the trouble with you is you ain’t been SQUATTIN’. “

  32. I was so glad to see the photo of the woman squatting on the beach, because that is the squatting stance my body prefers– feet wide apart & knees & feet quite turned out. I’ve been told that’s not great form, but it’s the only way I can go deep. (I do have some knee issues.)

    I love gardening & I think over the years I’ve learned to squat this way partly so I have room to work… I was afraid I’d ruined my form for life.

    1. There was an article recently on this site showing why people squat differently, mostly due to the position of the ball joint in the hip and showing variations. In the end what feels comfortable.

        1. Thank you (both Leigh & Mark) so much! I missed that one, but I will now squat happily in my own way without feeling like I’m some sort of garden-deformed freak! 🙂

  33. When I started reading this site I was impressed with the basic simplicity. Now it wears me out. I thought it wasn’t supposed to be about crazy training…just basic movement…nothing threatening. This stuff has become obsessive…and to someone not into health etc. quite intimidating. I know how to filter information…but those poor curious beginners must run and hide. What you are talking about isn’t basic…or easy to understand for the initiated. Just ” bend and stretch and reach for the stars…there goes Jupiter…there goes Mars” works just fine…

    1. IMHO, I disagree with this. If you’re intimidated by the excess of information, just try baby steps. First create routine for the things that are most important to you so you don’t have to think about them anymore and increase your primal dose as you go.
      When I went primal, I was not really into health. It was from a fatigue/depression and weight point of view. I first tackled primal eating, walking and a bit of the stress responses I had and now 20 months later I am finally ready for other primal aspects.
      For me, squatting on the toilet has become a necessity (in my mind, not physically) and now I am trying to do more squats. The information on this and other health blogs helps me and often even inspires me. You just need a good ‘spam filter’ to filter out the information that is not relevant for you at this very moment.

  34. I love squats. I can do a couple hundred body weight squats every day if I want. In the past 3 months, I’ve begun lifting heavy and those barbell squats are awesome! I have noticed that even with a decrease in the amount of cardio I’ve been doing while lifting weights, I have become a faster runner, which I find very interesting.

    Thanks for the great blog!

  35. OK, Im ready to begin… not just squatting but all the movements that Mark suggests in his ebook – Primal Blueprint Fitness. I am clicking the links that take you to youtube to watch the exercises done properly, and they are great.
    However I have one question: Each time Mark shows the progression say from wall assisted squats to pole assisted squats he says something about “once you have mastered the required number of squats you can move onto the next level”.

    What is this magic number? I am unfit, been primal for 2 yrs, do no exercise and have terrible hips and ankles… possibly no glutes at all, so will be starting at the very bottom level.

    How many squats/push ups do I do? Do I do “sets” if so how many sets?

    Is there a magic number to reach before moving on to harder version of exercise? Am I making sense?

    1. Also… when I click on the overhead press, it says this is a private video… so no instructions for that one? Has it been removed?

  36. My favourite squat is in the shower for 5-10 minutes in the morning while the hot water blast over my tight spine and loosens me up nicely

  37. OHHHH I found it myself guys.. rolls eyes… although several of the links to youtube still don’t work if anyone knows why that would be awesome…

  38. It took me 6 months of practice to be able to squat again.
    I have a feeling that if you played organized sports at young age, (soccer, baseball, etc ) you lost the ability to squat somewhere along the way as your body tried to imitate the “role-models” around you and you stopped moving naturally.

    Looking at our 7 old who has zero interest in organized athletics, his body still moves very very naturally. His classmates that are in sports move strongly compared to him but move their bodies very differently.

    Our little man will put Legos together for hours never coming up,from a deep deep squat. That’s how he sits or he sits on his ankles with his butt. ( remember that from when you were a kid?)

    Just sharing some thoughts and observavations 🙂


  39. The question is – Does squatting wears the cartilage in the knees?
    some of the Internet says it does, some says it doesn’t.. anyone have proven scientific data about whether it does or doesn’t?

  40. Esther Gokhale thinks it’s too late for you if you didn’t grow up squatting:

  41. Our we listening? Just squat through out your day. When waiting, while watching T.V., Waiting for your ride, then picking up your stuff and standing, oh that’s wieght training. Squat a lot!! Don’t sit by pit!!

  42. This year I started a squat routine I made up. Every morning I squat when I get up. January it was 10 a day, February was 20. March 30, and so on. When December gets here I will be doing 120 a day. Looking forward to seeing the results!!

  43. Er,,, what about the single most important function of squatting -ELIMINATION. Being in a squat is THE correct anatomical position to defecate ( ‘evacuate one’s bowels’ if you prefer euphemisims). I was told that in a squat the top sphincter to the small intestine (ensuring no ‘back flush’) whilst opening the anal sphincter ( allowing easy evacuation) – the opposite of sitting on a chair! The modern invention of the throne toilet was backward move for our health.

  44. I love your citations. Really good. I want to say great article but that just seems to, I don’t know, SP*MMY, it that makes sense.

    So much of what you read on the net lacks serious citations.

    My wife and I a now including squats as part of our training regimen.

    Thanks…. and keep up the citations. Much respect 😉


  45. Seen this article makes me wonder.

    Wouldnt it be better and more natural (paleo) to have a squatting desk than a standup desk?

    I think our ancestors stayed more in the squat position than standing up.

    We should promote squating desks!

  46. Was actually thinking of this this morning going up 4 flight of stairs, 2 at a time.
    Does taking 2 stairs at a time contribute to a partial sqaut, single leg partial – whatever?

  47. This reminds me of last month when I went to South Korea and I’d see all sorts of people doing the “Korean Squat” to alleviate their tired legs. And by all sorts of people I mean everyone ranging from young toddlers barely able to walk to old grandpas and grandmas in colorful outdoor gear climbing mountains at a frightening pace.

    Kinda makes you question where we have gone wrong…

  48. Thanks for these awesome tips on squatting. I didn’t realize it would help with vertical jumping. I have some benchmarks I want to achieve with CrossFit, and one of them is to do a 36″ box jump. So I’ll definitely focus on improving my squats. Thanks again!

  49. Only 3 posts entirely dedicated to squatting?
    Here’s something I saw linked to on Facebook from a cool page that posts similar stuff and lots of funny pictures, ” I survived every pandemic and the end of the world, what’s next? “.
    It’s a series of pictures.
    Girls who squat vs. girls who don’t squat.
    It’s not “explicit” but some of them are really scantily clad (think underwear) so you might not want to click this link (if it’s approved, I really don’t see why not) at work or in front of your girlfriend, wife, parents, kids, or whoever else you wouldn’t want seeing it.

  50. For all the ladies – squatting also eases childbirth. I practiced staying in a deep squat while pregnant with number one and that is how I delivered her…

    I did the same for number two and number three. Not painless but easy and fast. And since I had been practicing squats far before I was pregnant my body was accustomed to the movement. I delivered all three sans episiotomy and no tearing whatsoever…food for thought.

  51. Anyone tried a squatting desk, instead of a standing desk? I’m trying a squat on my desk chair as I type this, and the main issue is that typing around one’s knees seems annoying. Maybe a split keyboard would help?

    The height of the desk chair’s seat seems about right, though. Anyone with experience on this idea… ? It seems like a potentially good alternative to a standing/treadmill desk if one does a lot of reading.

  52. lol complete garbage, all American women who go to the gym want to do is squat and that’s so they can have a ‘big or bigger butt’

  53. I observe many people injuring themselves trying to jog or run for exercise when squatting is much safer.
    Simple body squats even if NOT perfect even if leaning on a chair, table, or your knees improves flexibility.
    Some day someone will do a video with people NOT in perfect shape like you and other optimal people.
    Show overweight and older people how to do MODIFIED healthy injury free safe body squats – please?

    Dr Zach Bush”s 4 minute exercise routine includes squats. Some theorize that squats cause less injury than running or a treadmill.
    Dr. Joan Vernikos, former director of NASA Life Sciences Division, determined based on anti-gravity astronaut studies, that it is best to stand up 32 x’s per day, roughly 4 x’s every hour, and squats are healthier than a treadmill.
    She wrote the book, “Sitting Kills, Movement Heals . . ”
    Dr Merdola: Prolonged sitting is the new smoking, doubling your risk of cancer. Move a minimum of 10 minutes every hour. Exercise cannot undo the damage caused by hours of daily sitting, just like it cannot undo the harm done by smoking.”

  54. Nice info. I really need this because I’m having difficulties and problems executing squat exercises.