BLOG

Secrets to Mastering the Squat: Part 1

In the fitness jungle, squats are king.

In the fitness jungle, squats are king.

By the way, here’s a link to Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

There are many good reasons why squats are considered “The King of Exercises.” Few other exercises have the potential to increase strength, change your body composition, and make you feel like the ultimate bad-ass in the gym quite like the squat.

(Oh, and if you want to snag the ultimate strength training program to tell you step-by-step exactly what to do to achieve those goals, check out The Modern Woman’s Guide To Strength Training here!)

The problem is that most people don’t perform squats correctly, and that’s totally understandable. The squat looks simple, but it’s actually a very complex exercise. There are a lot of moving parts and things to remember.

Molly Bodyweight Squat - side view 640x400

Below you’ll learn seven secrets to help you start mastering the squat now. And don’t worry — at the bottom of the page, you’ll find two videos explaining and demonstrating exactly what I’m outlining in the text. Enjoy!

1. Check your stance.

Women who aren’t powerlifters wearing gear, don’t need to be squatting much wider than just beyond shoulder width, with their toes pointed out between ~15-30 degrees. Squatting very wide is harder on the hips, and once you get extremely wide, it can be even harder to drive your knees out, which, as you’ll see below, is very important.

2. Brace your core.

Again, most women don’t brace the core effectively. Even if you think your abs are strong, you might not be bracing correctly. You actually have to learn how to create pressure in your low back when you squat, not just in your anterior core (i.e. abs).  Here is a fantastic video that teaches you how to breathe, and create pressure in your core.

3. Keep your head in a neutral position.

It’s really popular in the powerlifting world to throw your head back when you squat. This is completely understandable as it can help you “drive out of the hole” (stand up from the bottom of a squat), and it’s common knowledge in the training world that the body will go where the eyes go.

That can be fine for competitive powerlifters, but since most women are lifting simply because they want to look good and feel good, they need to keep their head in a neutral position. Throwing your head back causes you to go into lumbar hyperextension, effectively putting all of the pressure on your lower back, and not allowing you to use your entire core, or your glutes, as effectively as you could. Think neutral head, eyes up.

Baby Squatting

This little cutie has the right idea when it comes to keeping her head neutral!

4. Use your hips.

As you’ll see in the video, it’s very common for women to use their spine to “catapult” themselves up, instead of using their hips and their entire core. Once you learn how to effectively brace your core, you will allow your hips and your entire core to start taking the load, and you’ll get much stronger, and stay much safer.

5. Drive your knees out.

Using your glutes to drive your knees out, allows you to open up your hips so you can sink down into the proper squat position. If you don’t drive your knees out, you’ll not only run into your hips, but you won’t have a comfortable (or safe) hip, knee, and ankle angle. This also ties into tip number 1. If your stance is too wide, you often won’t be able to drive your knees out effectively, so bring your stance in, and think about driving your knees OUT to open up your hips. Using a light mini-band right below the knees here as a reminder to drive them out, can be very helpful.

6. Sit back.

Women tend to be very quad dominant, and we typically either want to shoot our knees forward on a squat, or almost “plié” down into the squat. Neither of these are correct when you’re trying to do a true squat. This is why I recommend learning how to squat onto a box first. It teaches you to sit back into your hips safely, and allows you to learn this pattern without feeling like you are going to fall backward.

This is not the position you want to be in when you're trying to squat real weight!

This is not the position you want to be in when you’re trying to squat real weight!

7. Use an appropriate range of motion.

When first learning to squat, many women won’t be able to hit depth, which is typically defined as parallel or slightly below parallel. If they can hit depth, they often can’t control their pelvis in that position, and they will experience “butt wink” where their butt tucks under at the bottom. Only squat as low as you can maintain good form, and over time, with practice and the correct mobility and stability work, you should be able to squat to depth.

If you are squatting onto a bench or box (which as just mentioned, we recommend learning first), and can’t control your squat, throw a plate or two onto the box until you get strong in that range of motion, and then slowly increase your range of motion by removing plates, until you can squat at your desired depth.

 

Master these seven things, and you’re on your way to mastering the squat. When you’re ready to move on, check out Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

What’s Next?

Want to know how to incorporate squats into your training program safely and effectively? Let us help. We’ve worked with thousands of women all over the world helping them achieve the results they want while allowing fitness to enhance their life, not become their life. Which is exactly why we created…

The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training

Designed by women, for women who want to get strong and lean, and feel amazing.

When you’re crazy-busy and everyone wants some of your time, figuring out your training and nutrition often gets pushed aside. Even if you can find the time, wading through all the marketing BS can feel like a full-time job.


At Girls Gone Strong, we want you to feel confident knowing that what you’re doing to look good, feel good, and feel healthy and strong are not only based on tested, reliable, and safe information from trustworthy sources, but that it is also effective and efficient.

That’s why we developed our flagship training system, The Modern Woman’s Guide To Strength Training. We’ve cut through all that noise and the BS with a sane, sustainable, and efficient approach that will help you achieve maximum results, whether you’re brand new to strength training, or a veteran in the weight room.

With four different 16-week programs—that’s 64 weeks of training—you get over a year’s worth of workouts, including progressions to ensure that you continue making progress. You’ll also get a training manual, exercise glossary, progress tracker, a bonus conditioning manual, plus a video library with over 70 high-definition videos breaking down each exercise, step by step.

We believe fitness should enhance your life instead of become your life. If you exercise in a way that you actually enjoy, staying fit and strong won’t ever feel like a drag. You’ll look forward to it for years to come.

If you want an entire training system that will help you look and feel your best, The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training is for you!

About The Author: Molly Galbraith

Molly Galbraith, CSCS is co-founder and owner of Girls Gone Strong as well as a member of the Advisory Board and the author of The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training. Molly is committed to helping women look and feel their best, and works tirelessly to combat persistent misconceptions that often deter women from exploring their physical strength. Learn more about Molly on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Want more articles like this?Join Our Free Newsletter
Follow us via

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR YOU

Can You Get Strong Doing Bodyweight Exercises?

There’s no denying that bodyweight training is an effective training approach for improving conditioning and endurance, but when the goal…

Why Building “Long and Lean Muscles” Is A Myth (And How You Can Get Strong and Lean!)

If you’ve been enticed by the promise of “long and lean” muscles, you’re not alone. Fitness companies pump millions of…