Here’s Exactly How to Do a Squat (Plus Variations to Try)

From proper form to advanced options, here’s a complete guide to this functional exercise.

A strong lower body powers your pedal stroke and wards off injury. Incorporating resistance moves like squats into your strength-training routine is an essential—and easy—way to round out your training.

Squats are a functional exercise that benefits your joint and muscle health, as well as your posture—all of which are important for improving your form and speed, explains Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., CEO and founder of TS Fitness in New York City. But there are a few things about how to do a squat you need to know before quickly banging out some reps on your next strength-training day.

Sacrificing form can lead to injury and will make the move ineffective. Common mistakes Tamir sees include:

  • Heels lifting off the ground, shifting the weight onto the toes
  • Not going deep enough, stopping with knees at 90 degrees
  • Allowing the chest to fall forward
  • Curving the upper body and spine, creating a hunchback
  • Losing the neutral spine position in lower back (less frequently)
  • Standing with feet too wide or too narrow
  • Not controlling the movement, rushing through reps

To avoid these mistakes, here’s everything you need to know to do a squat the right way. And, once you’ve mastered a squat, try one of the progressions below.