3 Squat Variations and Proper Technique Tips

They're sometimes referred to as the king of all exercises, and with good reason. Squats are a full-body fitness staple that work the hips, glutes, quads and hamstrings, and sneakily strengthen the core.

Squats can help improve balance and coordination, as well as bone density, too. Plus, they're totally functional. Time to banish those sloppy squats and help perfect the go-to move.

Illustrations by Shannon Orcutt

More: 4 Full-Body Workouts to Burn Fat

THE BODYWEIGHT BASICS

  1. Place feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, hips stacked over knees, knees over ankles.
  2. Roll the shoulders back and down away from the ears. Note: Allowing the back to round (like a turtle's shell) will cause unnecessary stress on the lower back.
  3. Extend the arms out straight so they are parallel with the ground, palms facing down (like your hands are on someone's shoulders at a seventh grade dance). Or, if it's more comfortable, pull the elbows close to the body, palms facing each other and thumbs pointing up.
  4. Initiate movement by inhaling into the belly, and unlocking the hips, slightly bringing them back. Keep sending hips backward as the knees begin to bend.
  5. While the butt starts to stick out, make sure the chest and shoulders stay upright, and the back stays straight. Keep the head facing forward with eyes straight ahead for a neutral spine.
  6. Let the hip joint squat lower to the ground than the knees, if comfortable. Pro tip: Try squatting onto a box. Gentle tapping it with the butt will be a reminder to squat low.
  7. Engage the core, and exhale while driving through the heels to return to standing. Imagine the feet are spreading the floor (the left foot to the left, right foot to the right) without actually moving the feet.

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