The Squat: What you Need to Know

Performance & Sport

The squat is a fundamental movement pattern and arguably one of the most critical movements to improve sports performance, reduce injury, and support lifelong physical activity. Not only is the squat essential for increased performance because it is a compound movement that targets many muscle groups at once and strengthens the prime movers needed to support explosive athletic movements, such as jumping and running, it is also required for daily activities, such as sitting and lifting. The main muscle targeted during the squat is the quads. Some secondary muscle included in the movement are: glutes, hamstrings, core, lower back, and calves.

Like all exercises, it is extremely important to perfect your form and technique before adding weight to the movement. Begin with just bodyweight and then slowly add weight once you have mastered the technique.


1. To perform a back squat, set the barbell on your upper back and grasp the bar with an overhand grip at a wide distance.
2. Spread your feet a little wider than your shoulders and have your toes pointing forwards or slightly outwards.
3. From a secured position, flex through your legs to descend into a squat.
4. Pause when your quads are parallel to the floor, then press upward by extending your legs.


1. Ensure abdominal tension when performing the movement to enhance stability.
2. The line of the neck should be perpendicular to the ground with your gaze aimed forward.

Illustration of squat alignment

3. Your chest should be held upwards and shoulders retracted.
4. The descent motion is initiated with a hip hinge.

Illustration of hip hinge

5. The weight in your feet should be focused in the heel.
6. Your knees should track over your toes throughout the squat motion but ensure that your knees do not go out farther than your toes.

Illustration of toe and knee alignment

7. Use a hip drive strategy as the primary driver during the ascent.

Remember, all bodies are made differently and because of those natural anatomical differences, the movement can and should be modified to fit your body and abilities. For example, individuals with legs disproportionately longer than their torso will need their toes to extend past their knees during the descent. Keep this in mind when working on your form. If necessary, find a professional to help you determine the form that is ideal for your body type.

Variations of The Squat

There are a number of squat variations that are used in order to more specifically target certain muscles. Once your back squat form is perfected, you can begin incorporating squat variations into your routine. Some of the variations are:

1. Goblet squat
2. Jump squat
3. Front squat
4. Single-leg (pistol) squat
5. Smith machine squat

By developing proper technique and form before adding weight to the squat you can minimize your potential risk of injury and improve your overall athletic performance. Keep these tips in mind during your next leg day and make major squat improvements.