Squats

Squats are the most important exercise when it comes to training the leg, buttock and core muscles. It can be performed in different variants. The most basic you can see here.

Full Squats, Smith Machine
Full Squat, Smith Machine

Muscles involved in squats

Primary

Secondary

Correct execution of squats

  • Position the barbell (alternatively: rod, bar without weight bearing) behind the head approximately above the shoulder blade bones, but never higher than the rear deltoids. The bar must never rest on the cervical spine!
  • Hold the bar well and securely.
  • Your legs are about hip-width apart, feet pointing forward.
  • Your gaze is directed straight ahead.
  • Your knees are minimally bent and your back is straight.
  • Now firmly tense all your leg, buttock and core muscles and slowly squat down (as if you were about to sit down on a chair): your buttocks are deliberately pushed backwards during the movement, while your back nevertheless remains as upright as possible.
  • At about a 90° flexion angle between your upper and lower legs, pause briefly and then return to the starting position.
  • If the exercise is performed without weights or other equipment, extend your arms forward so that they are parallel to the floor. You can either grasp the other with one hand or keep both hands stretched out next to each other. In this way it is easier for you to keep your balance during the movement.

Tips

  • Be sure to distribute the entire load evenly on both feet.
  • Keep your lower back straight and avoid a hunched back position.
  • Do not push both your knees too far forward when squatting (bending).
  • Never fully extend your knees! A small amount of flexion must always be present.
  • Avoid “press breathing”, i.e., make sure you breathe evenly without holding your breath.
  • Make sure your feet are parallel and pointing forward. Some athletes modify the foot position so that the feet are slightly wider than hip-width and/or point slightly outward. This is sometimes found to be more comfortable and stable. The outward foot rotation also ensures that the feet do not point inward – because inward rotation would cause a lot of stress on the miniscus and ligaments in the knee. This increases the risk of injury!

Common mistakes with squats

  • Too much weight: too much weight will prevent you from performing the exercise correctly. This reduces the training effect and increases the risk of injury. 
  • No torso tension: Make absolutely sure that you do not arch your back or assume an extreme hollow back at any time. Also, keep your shoulders back and maintain muscle tension throughout your body.
  • Wrong position of the knees: Important for stability in the legs is the position of your knees. They point directly in the direction of the tips of your feet. Make sure that your knees remain stable during the exercise and do not move inward or outward. Furthermore: Do not push both your knees too far forward when squatting (bending).
  • Uneven load distribution: The weight must not be unevenly distributed among the legs. Make sure the balance is even.
  • Arched back: Keep your lower back straight and avoid an arched back position at all costs, as this puts the spine at high risk of injury.
  • Press breathing: Avoid “press breathing”, i.e., ensure steady breathing without holding your breath.

Variants of squats

  • Sumo Squats
  • Hackenschmidt Squats
  • Front Squats