Because proper form = a stronger booty.
Unless you’ve spent your life in the desert with no wifi (and even then…), you’ve performed a squat. It’s the move that makes an appearance in nearly every type of workout. Why are squats such a popular exercise? First and foremost, there’s no simpler way to strengthen your backside. Second, “Your legs and butt are the largest muscle groups in the body, and the stronger the muscle, the bigger potential to burn more calories,” explains celebrity trainer Astrid Swan. Talk about a two-for-one: By building your gluteal muscles, you’ll get a firmer, stronger booty and build more calorie-burning lean muscle—but are you doing those squats correctly? Here, Swan breaks down the five basic dos and don’ts of how to squat.
1. Position your feet correctly.
“To perform a perfect squat, start with your feet just slightly wider than hip-width apart, and turn your toes about five to fifteen degrees outward, depending on your hip mobility. Remember, not like a ballerina—just a small turnout,” says Swan.
2. Watch your knees.
Your knees should not extend forward further than your toes. If you drop your butt straight down your knees won’t have anywhere to go but forward, so initiate the squat movement by hinging your hips back toward a wall (real or imaginary) behind you. “Shift your weight back into your heels and test this by wiggling your toes. If you can’t wiggle, shift back more,” says Swan. Your heels need to stay glued to the ground the entire time in order to protect your knees and properly activate your glutes. And you want to avoid having your knees buckle in—imagine that you’re slightly pressing them out to help keep them in line with your shins.
3. Don’t arch your back.
“Keep your spine in a neutral position, arms extended straight out in front of you for balance,” says Swan. Avoid tucking your pelvis under or overarching your back—use your abs to keep your back long and straight.
4. Keep your chest up.
“Often I see people diving their chest forward as they lower into the squat,” says Swan. Instead, keep your chest lifted. An easy hack to learn this is to, “Keep eye contact with something level, straight ahead,” says Swan.
5. Use the proper range of motion.
How do you know exactly how low to go? “Starting slow and with no weight is best when beginning,” says Swan. Only go as low as you can while maintaining all of the proper form points above. Then, “Exhale and keep your core tight as you stand up to starting position.” With a little practice you’ll be able to get lower and feel stronger with each rep!
Ready, set, squat!
Now try doing a few squats keeping these form tips in mind. Start with three sets of 15 bodyweight squats. Once you nail down the basic form you can start to get ~fancy~ with your variations as well as start to incorporate dumbbells, kettlebells, and more. Here’s Swan showing off A+ form during a weight squat:
Justin Steele; modeled by Astrid Swan. Hair and Makeup by Sacha Harford at NEXT ARTISTS
You may also like: Try this 10-minute plyometric workout you can do at home: