Basic Squat Technique and Overview

This article covers basic guidelines for performing a Squat exercise.  No one particular technique will be endorsed, rather general tips and guidelines will be given.  This will attempt to help you perform a safer and better Squat.

Practice with light weight!

For any exercise, but especially for Squats, make sure to use very light weight when you are tweaking, practicing, or trying to improve your form.  There is a lot that can go wrong with a Squat and you want to minimize the potential for injury as much as possible.

Stance - Foot Width

Before you even put weight on your shoulders you need to have thought about foot position.  It is important to know where you will put your feet BEFORE you start the exercise.

There are many people who will tell you that you must have a certain width for performing a Squat.  However, it's really up to you since different widths tend to work different parts of the legs, butt, and back.  So, let's just generally say there are three different widths: narrow, medium, and wide.

These three widths will be covered in greater depth in another article.  Just know that narrow means that your feet are shoulder-width to less-than-shoulder-width apart; medium (as it's being called here) is basically slightly wider than shoulder width; and, wide is generally much wider than shoulder width.

Where to Point Your Feet?

The basic premise here is to make sure that your toes are pointed in the same direction as your knees.  If you use a narrow stance, this will generally mean that your toes will be facing straight ahead or just slightly outward.  As your stance becomes wider, your toes will generally angle more out to the sides as they follow the direction of your knees.

Knees Past Toes = Bad

When you go down in your Squat do not let your knees go out past your toes.  This is a very good rule of thumb.  If you start to put up a lot of weight and your knees are extending way out past your toes, you will feel it big time, and not in a good way!

To figure out how far you are extending your knees, try to use a mirror on the side when practicing your Squat.  If you are not using any weight (just practicing your form), you will be able to look to the side to see just how far your knees are moving.  Even better is to use a video camera to record an actual Squat from the side and then look at the footage after the Squat.

Bar Position

There are a few different bar placements from low to high.  You can use what is most comfortable for you or what works best for the type of lifting you are doing.  The specifics will be covered in another article.  However, it is very important to make sure that the bar is NOT resting directly on your neck or your vertebrae.  This can cause serious pain or injury.  Most people rest the bar on the traps or the top of the Trapezius muscle.  Just be careful to prevent the bar from rolling forward and off of that muscle and directly onto your neck and vertebrae.  This is also one reason you need to be holding the Squat bar with both hands at all times.

Back Straight!

Always keep your back straight.  As a good rule of thumb, stick your butt out when going down and look up.  This will help to keep your back straight.


You need to be relatively limber in order to perform a really good squat.  As a result, you need to make sure that you stretch a lot before you really get into performing Squats.  In fact, you shouldn't even start Squatting until you are limber enough to perform a perfect Squat.  With increased flexibility, you will be able to keep your back straight, keep your knees behind your toes, and generally perform a safer and better squat.

This article should serve as a very general and brief overview of some of the things that you need to think about when you squat.  Other articles go into more depth about specific elements of the Squat.  But remember, Form is King.  A lot of weight on the bar with poor form is dangerous and will get you nowhere.

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