Form Check: Proper Squat Technique

proper squat technique simplyfitandclean

Squats are like the PF Flyers of the exercise world: a proper squat will help you run faster, jump higher, build core strength, improve your balance, and give you sexy leg definition.  Need more specific reasons?  Here’s a bullet list culled from Poliquin Group:

  • Can increase run speed by up to 7%
  • Shown to reduce knee and lower back pain (great for runners with ITBS)
  • Full range, deep squats can improve jump height by up to 8%
  • Improved performance in sports of all types
  • Out-perform planks for core strength building
  • Benefit all ages and abilities

Essential to squatting, as with all exercises, is proper technique.  There American College of Sports Medicine has given this checklist for proper squat technique:

  1. Use an approximate shoulder-width foot stance.
  2. Descend in a controlled manner.
  3. Ascend at a variety of speeds, including fast but controlled speeds.
  4. Exhale after the major effort on the ascent.
  5. Avoid bouncing or twisting in the bottom position.
  6. Maintain a normal lordotic posture with an erect spine.
  7. Descend to the point where the tops of the thighs are parallel to the floor.
  8. Keep feet flat on the floor.
  9. In general, be sure knees do not go beyond the toes.
  10. Keep progression of both resistance and depth of the squat gradual, and do not exceed the body’s capacity to adapt to the imposed demands. Warning symptoms for progressing too fast include back pain, knee pain, and other symptoms of overtraining.
  11. Consider fatigue to be a risk factor in squatting.
  12. Maintain proper form, or stop performing the exercise.

Below I’ve linked a few videos which demonstrate proper form on just some of the (MANY) varieties of squatting.


Bodyweight squats can be done anywhere, anytime.  I like to do them during commercial breaks or when I’m feeling like I didn’t get enough movement in for the day.  For an added challenge, make it plyometric by jumping as high as you can after each squat.


I prefer to do back squats on a Smith Machine to help me slowly build up the amount of weight I lift without injury.  To double up on exercises, finish squat sets with calf raises and feel the burn.


A front squat differs from the back squat in the bar placement, front being in front of your head, back being behind it.  Technique for front squats vs back squats is not identical, so pay close attention to your body movement.


I love any exercise that can be done with minimal equipment, and dumbbell squats qualify.  While you will never build up to the same weight and strength as with a stacked bar, they can be done at a higher speed with higher reps, allowing for cardio and strength training at the same time and torching calories.


Bosu Ball squats use the same technique as a bodyweight squat but throw in the added challenge of balance.  These squats are especially helpful for building ankle strength in runners prone to over or under pronation.


If you want a simple exercise that combines balance, strength, and flexibility, the pistol squat is perfect.  I am still working on not falling over during mine!

Looking for a challenge?  Try the Daily Hiit’s “Tight Ass – 30 Day Sexy Ass & Legs – Squat Challenge”

Do you have a favorite type of squat? A trick to help keep correct form?  Share it in the comments.  Be sure to join the community of simplyfitandclean followers by subscribing to the blog and following my Twitter!

Note: There is a great deal of debate over whether the hips should drop below parallel on a squat.  The ACSM says to keep the top of the thighs parallel to the floor, and I trust their expertise. 


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About Sarah McMullin

Mother of two, Bachelor's and JD, married to a crazy high school teacher.
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