Squat Your Heart Out

The squat is one of the most important exercises with or without weights. The squat takes the crown as the best lower body calisthenic exercise much like the push up is the winner of the calisthenic exercise for the upper body. Squats work nearly every major muscle group in your body including:

  • Calves
  • Hips
  • Thighs
  • Gluts
  • Quads
  • Lower Back
  • Abs

If you’re not squatting in your exercise regime then you need to start!  It’s an essential movement and below is how you can do it.

How to Perform a Standard Traditional Basic Squat (no weights):

The squat is a very simple motion but with many details:

  1. Begin by standing and with your legs and feet spread slightly further apart than shoulder width.
  2. Feet may point outward up 30 degrees to better stabilize your body for the exercise. They should not move after you are comfortable with the position of your feet.
  3. Slowly bend your knees and push your gluts out as if you were about to sit on a small chair, go down with your weight on your heels – the ball and toes of your feet should only stabilize and help your balance.
  4. Knees may bend out due to the slight angle of your feet, but that’s okay! You want to push your knees outwards too!
  5. You may squat slightly lower than 90 degrees between your leg and thighs.  The keyword there was “slightly.” Also known as, “squatting below parallel” (your thighs go beyond parallel to the ground). Many may disagree with this, but if you are worried, bending your thighs to parallel is perfectly fine.
  6. Contract your abs as you bend at the knees.
  7. Keep looking straight forward through the exercise.
  8. Your torso may lean forward slightly in the process, but that’s okay as long as your torso remains straight!  Just don’t lean too far forward, just enough to be comfortable performing the exercise.
  9. Also, while your torso  is being lowered, you may extend both arms in front of you for better stability and balance.
  10. Keep in mind your knees should not bend over past your toes!
  11. Once you are low enough, push yourself back up to the original position through your heels.  Pushing through your heels engages the correct muscles in the exercise and builds strength in the leg muscles.

Simple yet detailed! When done properly, squats will give you outstanding results.

For a slightly more difficult squat calisthenic exercise, you can keep your hands behind your head, but do not force the head forward.  Try to force your elbows back as this will tighten the upper back muscles. You can also hold a broomstick on your upper back shoulder muscles and perform the standard squat to engage the back muscles.

Various Forms of Squats:
  • Half Squats – Assume same technique as traditional squat except you do not go down parallel to the ground with your thighs.
  • Box Squats – You do everything in the standard traditional squat, but with this exercise you have a box, or a chair, or any kind of supplementary equipment behind you to aid you in performing the exercise.  The ideal “box” should come up to your knees, that way when you perform a squat, your thighs will be sure to be parallel to the ground. This is a safe practice for those who have stability or balance issues. This also helps people perform the squat correctly by practicing to move the hips first to make contact with the box. It can also be a safe alternative to traditional squats.
  • Jump Squats – A plyometric calisthenic exercise that makes squats more explosive and challenging. You don’t want to use your arms for momentum when jumping so hold them up crossing your chest or in front of your face. Begin by bringing the torso down as in the standard traditional squat. Get ready to explode upwards through your heels first, then the balls of your feet – your whole body should be in the air. This will really workout the gluts, quads, and calves. Land on your toes and then your heels when coming back down and repeat!
  • Hindu Squat – Begin standing in a standard traditional squat position. Start by bending your knees, however as you are going down, raise the heels so that your body weight is placed on the balls and toes of your feet in a comfortable and stable position. At the bottom of the Hindu Squat, you will be on the balls and toes of your feet. The knees will go past the toes, but that’s okay for this exercise. Go back to the original starting position by pushing through balls of your feet and then the heels. As for your arms, as you come down your arms will be by your sides pointing down, raise them out in front of you as you come back up and back to the sides when you are back at the original position. You arms will be doing a somewhat circular motion for this exercise.
  • Split Squat – These squats look very similar to lunges. Please refer to Elevated Front and Back Lunges in the Lunges section.
  • One Leg Squats – Also known as the “Pistol Squat,” this is an extremely challenging variation of the squat calisthenic exercise and should only be attempted by advanced athletes. You will use only one leg to perform the squat while the other is held out in the air in front of you like a pistol (the angle of the leg in the air can be any desired angle – the smaller the angle the easier it is to perform this exercise).  Your arms will definitely be flailing around to gain balance but that’s okay! You will feel the burn in your quad muscle of the leg in the air.
Common mistakes with squats:

(unless noted otherwise)

  • Hips should always be pushed back first as you go down!
  • When coming back up, push through your heels and hips! NOT your toes and back.
  • Be sure to push your knees out! Don’t point them completely straight forward.
  • Make sure you keep your weight ‘back’ and over your heels.
  • You will naturally lean forward slightly, but don’t go too far forward. Make sure your chest is engaged tight and pushed up while looking forward.
  • Don’t go too fast! You’ll just be using momentum if you do.  If you want to work out the muscles more effectively, than go slow!
  • Knees do not go past your toes!
  • Keep looking forward!
  • Breathing – exhale when you go up, inhale while going down.
  • Keep your whole body tight through the exercise!
Squat your troubles away!

No doubt the squat is one of the best calisthenic exercises for your body – it’s simple and effective! Add it to your exercise regime right away if it is not on your list, just do it! Trust me, do yourself this favor and you will not regret it. You’ll have a much more defined and toned lower physique. Girls, you will love the results and the men will love you for it. Men, you’ll develop great all around strength with this exercise. Do it!

Good luck!