Bodyweight Workouts Strength

Perfect Squat Technique — A Progression For Building The Perfect Squat

Written by Adam

Unfortunately, there’s often a big disconnect between the way we SHOULD move and the way we DO move. Because most of us lead sedentary lives — glued to a seat most of the day — we lose many of our inherent movement patterns. Is there any hope?

Of course! If you’ve been following our popular Desk Jockey series, you know that all you need to do is address the specific overcompensations that crop up as a result of your lifestyle, occupation or training. We often attack these overcompensations with specific mobility drills , but you can also use exercise progressions that gradually reintroduce missing elements back into your movement palette, slowly retraining your nervous system and reshaping your tissues.

One of the most important movement patterns, and the one most of us lose first, is the squat. In the video below, our buddy Smitty from Diesel Crew reveals a frighteningly effective progression for taking your squat from Zero to Hero in record time!

Smitty’s Squat Progression

Here are a few of the key technical points:

  • Brace your core / maintain the natural arch in your low back
  • Send your hips back
  • Drive your knees out
  • Keep your heels down
  • Maintain neutral chin / head alignment
  • Keep your upper back engaged and neutral

Whether you want to improve your bodyweight squats, your pistol squats or any form of weighted squat, following these cues is the key to rockin’ your squat like a pro!

Watch the video and give this progression a try. You’ll immediately feel those ranges where you naturally run into trouble. Start there. That may be the first step in the progression or the last, but it’s where you need to work for now. As soon as you feel comfortable with that step, move on to the next and perfect it.

If you have any questions for us or for Smitty, drop them in the comments!

Wanna see another awesome and unique warm-up technique from Smitty? Gimme 25 comments below and you got it…!

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Adam

31 Comments

  • Thanks for this video. I realized lately that I bend over too much when I squat. So this progression can really help me nail down the squat technique properly.

  • This was awesome. Thanks! I know I tend to not push my hips back enough so this is a great drill. Goal: stop hitting the walls with my knees. I didn’t know the part about pushing the knees out.

  • You’ve accurately nailed the problem areas in squatting and provided very sensible solutions.
    Unless one uses flexibility and posture-control to get the body into the right position for any movement, one will never be able to utilise full strength.

  • Thanks for this one..used it earlier a long time ago…one thing I realised is that when my legs go below parallel my tailbone starts to bend inward …I wonder if this might stress it too much ..should i just stop going below parallel and stop at 90 degrees ?

  • I wanted to say first, what a very cool community Adam & Ryan have built here at Bodyweight Coach. No bickering, no fighting…just a great place to talk training.

    @Manoj – if your hips are pulling over it probably is due to tight hamstrings. I would go to work on them with foam rolling, duck walking and seated glute stretches. I would stay in a range where you’re able to stay neutral with that lower back. Great question!

  • @Scott, not just nice for beginners, it is nice for everyone. All of my athletes still incorporate wall squats regularly into their warm-up. If you are just starting out, you can definitely start with wall squats about a foot away from the wall and progress closer. Also squats to a low box are perfect too to get the lifter accustomed to the cues; arch lower back, set core, spread the floor.

  • Really enjoy your approach!!!! About Manoj’s question, would you also recommend he work on strengthening his rectus femoris (doing like 1-leg leg extensions even just with no resistance) to help narrow the gap of strengths between opposing muscles?

    • Annie,

      Quad activation is really important for any type of lower body training AND tracking / stabilization of the knee. 9 times out of 10, people are quad dominant and need to strengthen the hamstrings. I would focus on hamstring activation and lengthening / improving the soft-tissue quality first.

  • Hi!
    Smitty is really amazing! With this simple progression anybody can really improve his squat!

    I have just one question.
    When I usually squat, I like to keep my toes pointed forward instead of outwards. But as I can’t keep my heels on the ground by doing so, I place my heels on something elevated (disk weights or gym stick) to be able to do the full squat without raising my heels or rounding my back. I obviously try to keep my weight on my heels.

    Do you think this is a good practice? are my knees and back safe with that?

    Thank you very much Adam and Ryan!
    Hope to hear from you soon
    You are amazing!
    Sattar 🙂

    • Yes Sattar, but we really are masking the issue. Start doing more barefoot warming up and start working on your ankle mobility. It will help keep those heels down on the squat. Widening your stance slightly should also help.

  • I know squats are good for the legs, but I have to be careful with them as I have a weak left knee. I tore the cartilidge in it when I was 14. I am not sure, but I don’t think torn cartilidge ever heals, does it? From watching this video though, I feel like I am maybe not doing squats correctly. I think I need to spread my knees a little more, instead of keeping them straight forward. Thanks for the tips. I will try this.

    • I also have torn meniscus and anything that activates the quads and hamstrings is a good thing. Unfortunately, for those of us with knee issues, full range squats can be very difficult as you lose tension when your body feels pain. You can try some walking on the treadmill with it turned off to start that quad firing again.

  • Thanks so much. This is awesome. I have played volleyball for 20 years, so all my training has been explosive. I am now so inflexible in the areas needed to perform squats that I am not able to do the first step of your progression correctly, even after working on my hip and ankle ROM for about six months. I really think this is going to help me out a lot!

  • Wow KEEP EM COMIN.
    a great tutorial and for me , where the knees are such an intersting challenge right now
    I can see improvement already
    I’ve got to say overall and although after the bilateral total knees I was questioning whether I would ever be able to get down to 90 degress and it is happening with , no doubt , more depth and strength to come
    Again as always , thanks for being who you guys are being .

  • Thanks for the video! I’ve used the wall for squats, but I’ve never thought of the resistance band variations before. I can hardly wait to try them!

  • Also extending my gratitude about the squat video, I’ll incorporate those as soon as possible as I also find myself a bit chair-shaped from too much desk work.

    I also second the request for a deadlift video.

  • Thanks Smitty! I really enjoyed this video – I have had knee problems too (torn cruciate ligament 15 years ago) was getting some dull knee pain doing squats. Nice aha moment… with my knees turned out slightly I can now do full range with no knee pain. I do notice a bit of popping/cracking in my knees – guessing this is synovial fluid?

  • great post. good to know where to start from. thought my form was ok til I tried this. the band was a great addition. used it on my soccer lads. sad to say some are absolute beginners and need to work on hams and glutes first as they are unable to keep feet on the ground. Any quick fix suggestions for exercises for this?

  • Smitty, Adam, and Ryan,

    Very good video on the correct squatting cues – is this the same form you then use for full barbell front and back squats? The toes will always follow the knees, correct? To get your knees spread that far, the toes seem to be at such an extreme angle I’d be afraid of losing my balance – no I haven’t tried it yet.

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