Practice Makes Perfect: Getting Results with Squats

Key Points

  • Squats are an efficient way to work multiple large muscles in the lower body.

  • Proper form and technique are essential to avoid injury when doing squat exercises.

  • Incorporating squats into your strength training program has several whole-body benefits.

Prioritizing physical fitness is an essential part of enhancing your quality of life. Regular physical activity boosts cardiovascular health, increases endurance, strengthens muscles and bones, and reduces your risk of developing chronic diseases. One key aspect of physical fitness is leg strength, which is essential for maintaining balance, mobility, and stability. Squats are one of the most effective exercises for developing leg strength.

This compound movement targets multiple muscle groups and is adaptable to suit any fitness level. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete looking to improve performance or strengthen your lower body, squats are a go-to for physical and mental health

Why Do Squats?

If you ask fitness professionals which exercises were the most efficient at sculpting and improving strength, they cite squats most frequently. The benefits of squats are long and varied, and they are one of the most efficient ways to reshape the lower body. Get those tight jeans and short shorts ready as you discover how squats can revolutionize your physical fitness.

Sculpted, Strong Leg Muscles

Since squats are a leg-focused movement, they require your major lower-body muscles to work together to get the job done. Learn more about all the muscles impacted by the squat:


The gluteus maximus and medius comprise the largest muscle in the human body, responsible for the bulk of your lower body power production. Squats increase muscle strength and stability, making daily activities more efficient and enjoyable.


Four quad muscles — the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris — support your leg extension and protect important knee joints against wear and tear. Research suggests that full range of motion exercises elicit significant muscle growth and efficiency.

You don’t always have to squat heavy weights to build mass, but a full range of motion is preferable to produce efficient movement and strength in the lower body.

Girl doing squat exercise


Your hamstrings are comprised of the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris, which flex during leg exercises and when walking, jogging, and running. These muscles are the first you feel when you perform an exercise incorrectly. Protecting them with proper form and correct weight is essential to ensure that squats are effective.


The calves encompass two muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus, essential in facilitating movement speed through plantar flexion, enhancing ankle stability, and supporting proper lower body extremity mechanics. Strong calf muscles increase ankle strength and improve your ability to generate and absorb power through the ground when performing activities like running, lifting, and jumping.

Compared to static calf exercises, squats offer a more comprehensive range of motion to calf muscles. The compound movement and motion of squats strengthen muscles around the calves, adding to both the definition and efficient function of these muscles.

Higher Vertical Possibilities

Believe it or not, incorporating squats into your workout routine enhances your jumping abilities. A stronger lower body contributes to increased power output. In a 2012 study involving 59 participants, researchers analyzed the impact of a 10-week program that emphasized three types of squat variations:

  • Front squats

  • Back squats

  • Partial squats

The study found that engaging in deep full squats enhanced participants’ vertical jumping abilities, enabling them to develop greater strength and force.

Man doing squat with kettlebell

Improved Core Strength

How is it possible that a lower body exercise improves core strength?

In this context, “core” refers to the entire torso, including the abdominal muscles, obliques, and back muscles. When carrying weights and moving through different planes of motion, your body must work diligently to maintain stability and balance, preventing you from toppling over. This compound movement strengthens your core, adding balance to your actions.

Improved Mobility

Mobility encompasses not just range of motion but strength within a specific range of motion. Incorporating squats into your exercise routine enhances your squatting ability by making joint movement more manageable and efficient. Squat movements train your joints to handle more movement and stress, improving strength and efficient mobility for other daily activities. 

Improved Fat Burn

Increased muscle mass gained from squats leads to a higher caloric expenditure during the day. Squats target multiple major muscle groups and require substantial energy to perform them, promoting a more significant calorie burn. 

Reduced Risk of Injury

Injuries from physical activity often occur due to imbalances and weaknesses that result in poor form and instability. The squat is an exercise that efficiently promotes knee and hip stability, thereby addressing many issues related to imbalances.

A squat is also an effective tool for identifying and correcting deficits in your lifting ability because it enables you to diagnose movement using proper form and correct weight. 

Improved Posture

Enhancing core and lower body strength has a positive impact on your posture. The way you carry yourself involves front and back muscles, contributing to a healthier body. Executing squats with proper form enhances hip health and counteracts the harmful effects of prolonged sitting. 

Performing back squat

Efficient Hormone Production

Squats are proven to improve natural hormone production — specifically testosterone and human growth hormone. Your body’s reaction to the stress of demanding movements and forces stimulates a need for healing. This helps regulate the release of hormones that go straight to muscle tissue for repair and restoration.

Increased Confidence

Squats are physically demanding and somewhat risky, requiring confidence to perform. The ability to carry several hundred pounds on your shoulders and complete a deep squat demonstrates bravery!

As you progress and add more weight to your reps, you naturally build self-esteem and confidence in your ability to perform them. 315 lbs on your shoulders may seem overwhelming at first, but soon it will feel like a mere warm-up.

As you power through your squat sets, you gain the confidence to tackle other complex compound movements, such as heavy deadlifts and bench presses.

The Importance of Proper Technique

Using proper form and technique is essential when doing squats. This compound exercise engages multiple muscle groups; improper form leads to knee, hip, and lower back injuries. Gray Cook, a professional fitness trainer and certified orthopedic specialist says, "Don't put fitness on top of dysfunction." Proper form reduces the risk of injury and ensures you target the intended muscles.

Maintaining proper form during squat sets ensures that your outcomes are more efficient and effective. You activate muscles in your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, yielding better results and measurable progress toward achieving your fitness goals.

How To Perform Squats

The setup to perform a correct squat is simple; following it is essential to avoid injury.

Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips; your toes should point slightly outward — about 5 to 20 degrees. The wider your stance, the more you must rotate your toes outward to stabilize yourself.

Man doing squats with weight

Once you're in the proper stance, follow these steps to complete a squat:

  1. Look straight ahead as you lower your body toward the floor. Keep your chest up and tall, with your spine in a neutral position.  

  2. Lower your thighs almost parallel to the floor. Ensure your weight is in your heels and the balls of your feet. If you have proper form, you should be able to wiggle your toes throughout the entire motion. 

  3. Keep your entire body tight and focused, flexing your core to protect your lower back and provide additional stability. Breathe deeply into your stomach, breaking at the hip and pushing your glutes back. Focus on sending your hips backward while bending the knees.

  4. As you squat down, keep your knees aligned with your feet. Make sure that your knees aren’t moving in toward each other through your movement. If you find the weight you are attempting to squat with too heavy, lighten your load until you build strength and stability.

  5. Lower your body until the hip joint is almost lower than your knees, with thighs almost parallel to the floor. If you think you are low enough, you probably aren’t, so keep going!

  6. Keep everything tight when you reach the bottom of your squat, breathe out, and drive through your heels. Drive knees outward and away from each other, squeezing your butt at the full extension of the movement to ensure you target your lower body efficiently.

As you gain confidence in your form, add weights and other exercise variations to transform your lower body, one repetition at a time.

Squat Variations

Now that you’ve mastered the basic squat and its form, it’s time to add some variations that take your workouts to the next level. Try the following squat variations on for size to experience lower body strength.

Barbell Front Squat

In a barbell front squat, hold a barbell in front of your chest. Some people use a crossover grip to keep the bar firmly in place.

Start with the barbell racked in a squat rack at shoulder height. Position the bar on the front of your shoulders and push it up with your hands to remove it from its resting position. Move forward in the rack to accommodate your squat. While holding the bar across your shoulders, hinge at your hips and push them back as if sitting down.

Continue until thighs are close to parallel, then stand back up. 

Barbell Back Squat

The barbell back squat is a slight variation of the front squat. Place the barbell at the back of the neck along the shoulders. You may need to adjust your center of gravity as you lower into a squat position; with practice comes proficiency as you experiment with different foot widths and toe angles.

Dumbbell Squat

Dumbbell squats offer a few more options when it comes to positioning. Place dumbbells at your sides, at chest level, or on the shoulders. Even with more mobility in the upper body, you must maintain proper form as you squat to make your move efficient and reduce your risk of injury.

Split Squats

Split squats — or Bulgarian squats — are an excellent way to improve individual leg strength. Perform these with any combination of dumbbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands.

Place one foot on a chair or bench behind you as you lower the front thigh toward the floor. Be careful not to lock either knee as you focus on balance and keeping your core nice and tight.

Sumo Squats

The sumo squat maintains more comprehensive foot placement, activating the muscles of the inner thighs, such as the adductor magnus and the gracilis. Point your toes outward with feet wide apart as you lower your thighs toward the floor. Employ additional weight to firm up those inner thighs, tightening and toning all muscles of the upper part of the leg.

Couple doing squat exercises

Single Leg Squats

Single-leg squats are a more advanced form of squat that requires superior strength and balance. With single-leg squats, one leg remains extended out in front of you as you bend the other leg by hinging at the hips. Use props such as a chair, rack, or wall to assist you with balance.

Jumping Squats

Jumping squats are a plyometric exercise that combines the traditional squat with a jump. From a squatting position, explosively jump up while strengthening your legs and pushing through your heels. Land softly on the balls of the feet and lower yourself back into a squat position to complete one repetition. 

Avoid Squat Mistakes

Errors in squat technique lead to injury and plateaus in progress. When in doubt, find a strength training coach to encourage proper form and help avoid these common mistakes when squatting:

  • Knees collapsing inward

  • Tucking the tailbone inward instead of outward

  • Shifting the hips, loss of balance and stability

  • Raising up on the toes

  • Raising hips before shoulders when returning to a standing position

Practice Makes Perfect

Squats are among the most effective exercises for whipping your lower body into shape. By incorporating proper form and technique into your strength training protocol, you reap the benefits of squats while reducing your risk of injury.

Squatting with medicine ball

Start light on the weights and reps, focusing on form as you increase weight and intensity. With consistent practice, you eventually get to squat perfection and the kind of lower body strength that makes daily life activities easy!

For more squat tips and tricks, subscribe to FitnessCorner. Get up and get moving!

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