Ask the Expert: How To Do A Perfect Squat

Most people don't do squats correctly, taking away serious health benefits.

Squats on the beach. Photo via Shutterstock

Squats on the beach. Photo via Shutterstock

For years, I’d do squats at home, in group fitness classes, and at the gym, and for years, I was doing them wrong. Until one day, a brilliant trainer said six words that changed everything: “Put your weight on your heels.” That was all it took, and now my form is perfect.

When doing squats, most people concentrate on how far their knees are going over their toes, rather than on other important elements. So we asked Equinox Boston trainer Ali Arnow what you should really focus on to achieve the perfect squat.

Q: How do you do a squat correctly?

A: Squats are a great exercise for adding strength and mobility to your hips and thighs. Many of your muscles work when doing a squat; your legs move the weight, your abdominals and lower back stabilize it, and your upper body holds the weight. It is also an exercise that, if performed improperly, can wreak havoc on your knees and lower back.

Common mistakes made in performing squats are knees buckling in, trunk leaning too far forward, squatting with your knees as opposed to your hips, letting your heels come up off the floor, and squatting with more weight than your fitness level can handle. So, if you look like a melting candle when doing your squats, you’re doing it wrong.

How to do it right:

1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Toes can point out a few degrees.

2. Don’t look up or down. Look at a point about 20 feet in front of you.

3. Keep your chest up.

4. Begin the movement by shifting your hips back, not by bending your knees.

5. Make sure that as you are performing the movement, you push your knees out—they should track over your second or third toe.

6. You should try to keep your spine tall with no forward flexion.

7. Your heels should remain on the floor for the entire move.