Squat Video Guide

Exercise Profile

  • Strength
  • Barbell
  • Compound
  • Push
  • Beginner
  • Calves, Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back
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Quads Exercises Diagram Target Muscle Group

Exercise Instructions

  1. The squat is the king of all exercises, working over 256 muscles in one movement! Set up for the exercise by setting the barbell to just below shoulder height and loading the weight you want to use.
  2. Stand under the bar with your feet at about shoulder width apart.
  3. Position the bar so that it is resting on the muscles on the top of your back, not on the back of your neck. The bar should feel comfortable. If it doesn't, try adding some padding to the bar.
  4. Now take your hands over the back and grip the bar with a wide grip for stability.
  5. You should now bend at the knees and straighten your back in preparation to take the weight off the rack.
  6. Keeping your back straight and eyes up, push up through the legs and take the weight off the rack.
  7. Take a small step back and stabilize yourself.
  8. Keeping your eyes facing forward slowly lower your body down. Don't lean forward as you come down. Your buttocks should come out and drop straight down.
  9. Squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, and then slowly raise your body back up by pushing through your heels.
  10. Do not lock the knees out when you stand up, and then repeat the movement.

Squat Tips:

The are many mistakes that can be made when squatting, so it's important that you have your technique down before you attempt squatting heavy weights. If you are squatting correctly, you should not feel pain in your lower back. Lower back pain is usually a sign that you are not using correct form and/or your core is weak.  

Common mistakes when squatting:

  1. Rounding the lower back: It's crucially important that you keep a straight back when you squat! You can ensure your back is straight by keeping your eyes facing forward, chest out, shoulder blades back, and back arched. Keep your core muscles tensed throughout the movement to help hold your back in place.
  2. Pushing from the balls of your feet: This puts unnecessary strain on joints and tendons. Always push up through your heels. Curling up your toes can help you get the technique right.
  3. Leaning forward: This happens when your hips move up faster than your shoulders. To prevent this keep the rep timing slow and controlled and stick your buttocks out as you go down.
  4. Knees come too far forward: When you squat down, your hips should be dropping straight down, not coming forward. Using a light weight, perfect your form standing side on to a mirror. Your knees should never track out and over your toes.
  5. Not squatting deep enough: Using squats to their full potential requires squatting down at least until your thighs are around parallel to the floor.
  6. Knees in or out: Don't point your knees in or out when you're lowering or pushing the weight. This puts unnecessary strain on the knee joints.
  7. Looking down: As soon as you look down your back rounds, simple as that.

67 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Thu, 03/15/2012 - 12:05
Chris Lund

I can't do squats. I know the form, but when i go down i loose my balance and fall back. I Need to do squats, but I don't know what to do. Any advice would be appreciated.

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Posted Thu, 03/15/2012 - 18:42

I'd start with a Smith machine before attempting to squat with free weights. Position your feet further forward than normal and that will allow you to keep your hips under you as you squat since the bar is stabilized. Work on your form and then go back to the free weight.

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Posted Fri, 07/06/2012 - 05:43
Ray Rayson

Stay away from the Smith Machine. It forces you into a ridged motion that leads to injury. Try putting 5 lbs. weights under your heels, this will prevent you from lurching forward. You'll gain stability and will eventually not need them, kind of like training wheels.

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Posted Fri, 03/16/2012 - 02:03

Well when i first started to do squads i had the same issues. I found these 2 things could help you :

1. Get a spotter. The spotter will assist you when needed especially when you are about to fall backwards.
2. Start with a empty bar and squat for a few reps till you are used to the positioning. Then increase the weights slowly.

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Posted Tue, 03/27/2012 - 20:24

when i learned to do squats i was told to look up while i do it and it helps you keep your balance

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Posted Mon, 04/02/2012 - 08:10
Josh K

Yeah you need to first get your legs loose. If you run for a quarter of a mile and then do some good leg stretches (goal is to loosen the ham strings, hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds) you should not have that problem. It might take a few workouts though to get to the point where you are not loosing your balance. I would start out with light light weight and perfect the form and balance then you can go up in the weight.

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Posted Sun, 04/15/2012 - 00:34

before touching the bar, you can do squats on your own w/o weights to help get your balance and correct form.

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Posted Wed, 05/02/2012 - 11:31

hi coach,i think i need tour help here,i want to build up my musles and also gain the muscle mass to grow bigger.Is there any supplent/s that i can use to achive this desired results?

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Posted Mon, 07/30/2012 - 21:30

When I first started, i also had the same problem falling backwards until I added a little weight and gained more flexibility. The bar by itself or anything less than 95 pounds was very hard to manage. I am not very strong and could only do around 135 total at the beginning. Using a cage with a higher safety bar might help until you get more confident.

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Posted Fri, 08/31/2012 - 14:49

smith machine bro, at least until you get the good form and balance down, thats how i learned

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Posted Mon, 09/17/2012 - 19:26

I had the same problem and I used the Smith Machine Barbell with a light weight at first to do my squats. Try that.

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Posted Tue, 02/19/2013 - 20:07
Mian Azmat

I also had the same problem may be because when i stand straight, my knees, which are bent inwards (knee-knocking phenomenon) don't allow my straight posture. Then my coach advised me to do the sqats on the machine instead of free weights. This tip is working for me. May be you should try it too.

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Posted Sun, 04/07/2013 - 18:42

put your heels on either 5 pound or ten pound plates and squat, i had the same problem

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Posted Thu, 05/30/2013 - 14:25

widen gap between your feet and do box squats to get used to sitting back! Most people can squat- its not that hard, just need to loosen up a bit >.< Good Luck!

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Posted Sat, 07/13/2013 - 02:46
Tom J.

I know this is a very late reply and you've probably gotten all sorts of advice by now, but here goes. I think your main problem is a lack of flexibility in your ankles and hips. I'll also bet you've been told to try to keep your back perpendicular to the floor while squatting to conform to the "bend your knees, not your back" school of thought.
This is bunk. It is also unnatural, awkward, and dangerous despite what the warning labels on heavy boxes say.
if you're still interested in squatting and all that other stuff, email me and I'll get back to you with details.

God bless,
Tom J.

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Posted Thu, 07/18/2013 - 13:37

One step at a time. Initially start without any weights on barbell, once you are comfortable with the form then add 2.5 pounds every week. But never do on Smith Machine it will mess up your natural form.
It is really the best workout of all.

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Posted Fri, 07/26/2013 - 22:36

hold out your arms forward, and hold a bar (not neccessarily a weight, just a bar)

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Posted Wed, 11/20/2013 - 21:56
JOHN Varde

use lighter wieghts, controll your motion. Let the muscles that are making you loose balance get stronger. its really simple.

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Posted Mon, 02/03/2014 - 13:28

My crossfit trainer told us if you cant get that form right and squatting down without falling over is impossible, use a heel board. Step on small heightened surface (a piece of 2X4 works excellent) with your heels and perform your squats. It is amazing the difference it makes, you form improves greatly and it doesnt take away from the effect of the squat. Many crossfit competitors use heel boards.

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Posted Thu, 04/24/2014 - 14:36

use the machine to keep your balance. you're welcome.

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Posted Thu, 08/21/2014 - 04:36
Desiree P

Mobility and air squat. Stretching hammys, quads, tight groin area..hips swings are all key..at least 10 minutes. Then get into your form..try wall squats. Position yourself facing a wall as close as you can get, arms raised in a Y, hips at full extension, meaning tight butt. Then lower yourself into a sitting position..if you happen to feel like your going to lose balance then simply move yourself further away from the wall. Key is your chest nor hands touch the wall. Do several sets of 10 and even try pausing. As your mobility and strength gets better youll find you can slowly move closer to the wall and have better balance. There are several ways of improving form in the squat, this is just one of the ways that I implement.., hip extension, push through your heels, use those hammys! and chest always up. :)

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Posted Sun, 09/28/2014 - 00:22

I used to have the same problem! What I did was use the smith machine instead and isolated leg machines until my legs were strong enough to squat. Try to see if you can squat without the machine every couple of weeks. A lightweight barbell such as a broom stick in your home can help with balance and help prevent falling. -Personal experience.

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Posted Mon, 10/06/2014 - 23:13

I'm no professional but what helped me not fall back was curling my toes when I did them. Good luck! start small!

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Posted Wed, 10/15/2014 - 01:33

If you're having a balance issue try taking your shoes off, wear socks and start with just the bar. You'll have better natural balance that often times running or gym shoes will throw off because of their heel. Focus on a point above you ie. I look at the center of the top crossbar. Keep your back as straight as you can while you squat, try using a chair or bench and just sit down and stand up until you are comfortable with the motion.

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Posted Wed, 12/03/2014 - 22:57

Squat like your taking a shit in the woods. Practice with no bar. Then with bar, no weight. Add weight and do 5 sets of 5 reps. Read Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe.

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Posted Wed, 12/24/2014 - 01:44

Perfect your form with just the bar. Then add weights when comfortable!

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Posted Mon, 03/19/2012 - 08:02

When starting off learning squats its best to use an empty bar to get the form perfect, I also find using a bench behind me helps, use the bench as if you are going to sit on it when your butt taps it push back upward. just remember it begins with the form not the weight.

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Posted Tue, 03/20/2012 - 14:19

I find that putting a 5lb or 10lb plate under my heels helps to squat proper and not fall backwards.

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Posted Mon, 04/02/2012 - 08:11
Josh K

Yeah you need to first get your legs loose. If you run for a quarter of a mile and then do some good leg stretches (goal is to loosen the ham strings, hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds) you should not have that problem. It might take a few workouts though to get to the point where you are not loosing your balance. I would start out with light light weight and perfect the form and balance then you can go up in the weight.

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Posted Sat, 04/07/2012 - 15:05

I am 6ft and 77kg. I have been looking for a workout to bulk up and decided I am going to give this a go, I'm sticking to this routine and days of workout. I started on Monday and can only bench press 30 kg at 5 reps x 5 sets sticking with the first 2 sets being a warmup, I can squat the same. I feel this is very low but all I can do ATM, but I finished off the workout fully pushing myself to the max, I have been so sore all over today so I am happy about that. I am taking that cyto to help with gaining some weight and i have also planned out a 6 meal a day plan to aid in the weight gain. I'm am currently 77kg and I will add my weight on here every 2 wks to see how I develope and if this is working for me. Opinions on the following comments over the nxt 4 months would be greatly appreciated as I'm a beginner to this and am determined to bulk up and get the body I have wanted for sometime..

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Posted Wed, 05/02/2012 - 11:39

I have began the workouts three days ago,but i think i need weight gaining suppliments,which one/s can i use,please i would appreciate the advices.Any supplements to help me grow bigger?

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Posted Thu, 05/17/2012 - 17:49

just eat alot of food bro you dont need supplements unless your rich and got alot of money to blow otherwise just eat right.

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Posted Fri, 05/04/2012 - 20:09

thats looks like fun but Ill stick with the girl squats I just want to tone up and I thought this would be the best way to loose the baby wait lol

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Posted Tue, 06/05/2012 - 00:59

Definitely should not squat parallel. Bad instruction there. ATG or just below parallel to make sure that you aren't putting unnecessary strain on your knees. It has been debated forever, but physiology and research are pretty solid that ATG is the proper and natural way to squat.

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Posted Sun, 05/04/2014 - 21:56
Frank H.

ATG? Please explain. I'm trying to get my squat alignment straight.

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Posted Wed, 07/11/2012 - 11:38

Hi, just hoping for some advice. I joined the gym back in March just hoping to tone up and get my body into a good shape. I had already stopped smoking for nearly a year and I dont need to loose anymore wight, but I dont really seem to be seeing any progress. I do on the cardio equipment and resistance. I havent worked with any dumbells or anything like that yet and to be honest I dont really have the confidence to be using them in the gym. So can you tell me please which equipment i should be using to see an overall toned difference in my body. Cheers!!

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Posted Tue, 07/24/2012 - 05:31
Tyler Newstead

Hey, I broke my left ankle years ago and can extend my left foot down farther than the right, but can bend the right foot back farther than the left. I find that this throws off the dynamic on doing squats and I have to stop when I cant bend my left ankle anymore. In essence I can't go down as far I should by a few degrees, about 5 or so. My question is, will this impact me at all long run? If not fine, if so is there something I can do to augment my workout to compensate.

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Posted Tue, 08/07/2012 - 19:36
Ali Omar

Is the 45 degree leg press even an alternative to this exercise?

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Posted Tue, 08/21/2012 - 20:05

I can't do squats either because it is too heavy for me and also I have thoracic scoliosis. I started working out about a week ago and I gain little by little by my strength to lift weights is my problem and also my endurance. Do you have any advice for my problem? I really can't afford to have a personal trainer to help me out.

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Posted Sun, 09/02/2012 - 18:43

Dang my gym doesnt have a squat rack. What can I do?

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Posted Sun, 09/09/2012 - 13:39

Hey, this guy is not squatting in a full range of motion. What gives? Why squat to where your thighs are parallel to the floor? Just curious.

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Posted Mon, 09/10/2012 - 15:49

He is going parallel. Here is a video of the deep squat where he goes below parallel: http://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/deep-squat.html

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Posted Mon, 10/01/2012 - 12:31

Just a difference in terminology, but people should be aware that the "deep squat" is what Medhi (Stronglifts) and Rippetoe (Starting Strength) would refer to as a "full squat." Hip joint needs to descend below the knee joint or you're not getting the hamstring stretch. IMO deep squat is what you want to be doing or you risk muscle imbalance, but I'm no expert - just going off experience and what I've read.

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Posted Sun, 10/07/2012 - 17:53
Benard bosire Asira

Please I meed help seriously,when I squate Istarted Ifeeling pain at the knee joints what could be the problem??

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Posted Tue, 10/09/2012 - 07:35

can this exercise be done with dumbbells?

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Posted Wed, 11/07/2012 - 14:20

Do to injury, I cannot do squats.
My left leg will not bend at the knee more than about 30 degrees.

However, I do not want to avoid working the muscles.
Does anyone have any alternative exercises I could try?

Would a one legged squat be dangerous??


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Posted Mon, 11/26/2012 - 13:55


Most knee injuries can be rehabilitated with the proper physical therapy. I tore my ACL my freshman year of college and it took quite a while before I was able to have full range of motion again. I would suggest doing some serious stretching to regain motion before attempting to do squats. Squats with limited range of motion will actually be more dangerous for your knee than going all the way down because no weight will be transferred to your hips/butt.
I would warm up on something like a bike (low impact on knees) and then lay flat on your back and scoot the heel of your bad knee as far as you comfortably can towards your butt and then hold it for a few seconds. Once it becomes slightly uncomfortable, slowly move you leg back down to a flat position and repeat around 10 times for 2-3 sets. There is such a thing as overstretching so this shouldn't be incredibly painful but it also shouldn't be comfortable by any means if you want to make progress.

I would start to practice your squatting motion in a pool or hot tub where the water can take away most of your body weight. In the shallow end or on the steps you will be able to keep form without risking injury from having too much weight. I would do sets of these in the water mixed with running/power walking in the shallow end for resistance while rehabilitating your knee. Once these stretches start to become more comfortable try moving to body weight squats. (try to avoid the smith machine as it may seem like an attractive alternative to just using your body weight, but that thing sucks! trust me) Focus on keeping the weight on your heels. You may have to really get a good sweat going before trying these to make sure that your muscles are warm and you are able to go all the way down. If you feel uncomfortable you can hold onto a bar in front of you for support, just make sure if you are holding the bar not to be leaning forward on your toes. You can also get a spotter to assist you from behind (this can look a little awkward if you get embarrassed easily). Another way to have a "spotter" is to actually put a bench or stool below you that requires you to break parallel to sit down on. You can start off by actually sitting down and then standing up until you are comfortable enough to do the motion without the bench going all the way down. If this still isn't working for you it means you need to keep working on your range of motion before adding the weight of your body. Once you can do body squats on your own, move to the bar and then to added weight. Push yourself but never do it at the expense of breaking your form.

I thought I wouldn't be able to squat again and am now back to doing a max set of 5 at 295lbs going below parallel! Start slow and stay positive. Knee injuries are a bitch, but you can get through it with the right rehabilitation and attitude. I would recommend doing this at least 3-4 times a week to get your range of motion back. Also make sure you are icing your knee after your stretching/strength building workouts to help prevent swelling. You are most likely to have a little bit of swelling from the stretching but this shouldn't alarm you. There really isn't a "replacement" exercise for squatting because it is arguably the best compound movement there is in weightlifting. There are plenty of other exercises to strengthen your legs (dead lift, lunges, leg press, leg curls, etc..) but I think if you focus on getting your range of motion back you will be able to squat within a few weeks/months (healing time will most likely depend on your age/effort). I've never actually written anything on one of these walls or any kind of forum in fact, but felt inclined to since I went through a knee injury myself. Hope this helps and good luck!

(also, once you have your range of motion back and strength up you should be able to do one legged squats, but that will be a ways down the road. They take much more strength and flexibility than a regular squat)

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Posted Wed, 11/14/2012 - 00:39

is there something else i can substitute for squats instead? i dont want to worsen any back problems that i have.

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Posted Thu, 05/30/2013 - 14:27

hack squat? u can let go of the bar if its too much, or leg press

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Posted Fri, 11/16/2012 - 14:52

sqates sometime bring knee problems please help