The bodyweight squat is a great exercise for strengthening the lower body, particularly the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. This exercise is a perfect option if you are a beginner and want to master basic squatting form, or need to gain the necessary levels of full body strength, stability, and mobility, before you move on to more advanced squatting variations. It is also a great way to warm up your body before you perform more advanced squatting variations, or other lower body exercises.
You do not need any equipment to do this bodyweight exercise.
The bodyweight squat is a great option for beginners who are looking to master the basic squatting movement pattern, and are looking to develop the strength, mobility, and technical proficiency to be able to perform more advanced squatting variations. In some instances, the bodyweight squat might be too advanced for women who are just beginning to strength train. If this is the case, you might prefer to start with the bodyweight box squat variation (squat/sit down on a bench/box, and stand back up) as it is slightly less technical. Beginners might perform 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps of the bodyweight squat. Once beginners can perform 12+ reps with good form, they can move on to more advanced progressions of the bodyweight squat.
Beginners who are comfortable with the bodyweight squat exercise can choose to perform negative bodyweight squats where the lowering phase to each position is increased to 3-5 seconds. This trains the muscles eccentrically. You can also perform the pause squat variation, pausing for 3-5 seconds in each position, or you can combine the negative and pause squat variations.
Intermediate lifters who have mastered the bodyweight squat can use this exercise as part of a general dynamic warm-up before a strength or cardio based conditioning session, or can use it as a specific warm-up to prepare their body for any loaded squatting variations. The bodyweight squat can also be included as part of a bodyweight HIIT circuit which would be perfect if you don’t have access to a gym. This exercise can also be used in workouts that are done in de-load weeks, during recovery workouts, or as part of a workout finisher on lower body days. Lastly, bodyweight squats can be done in between sets of upper body exercises as a way to increase the overall squatting volume over the course of the week.
Advanced lifters can use the bodyweight squat in their workout program the same way as intermediate lifters.
There are many bodyweight squat benefits. How a woman chooses to use a bodyweight squat is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, her reason for using the exercise, the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general bodyweight squats can be used to do any or all of the following:
Once you’ve mastered the bodyweight box squat you can move on to a bodyweight free squat. You are going to set up the exact same way, you just won’t have a bench or box behind you. So you are going to start with your feet a little wider than shoulder width , toes turned out, you are going to brace your core big breath in through your nose, blow out through your mouth, breathe in again to fill up with air, drive your knees out and sit back into your hips. You only want to go down as far as you can while maintaining a neutral spine.
Let me show you from the side what it looks like. Again, your squat is going to look a little different than everybody else’s based on your leg length, your training history, your movement history, and if you have ever been injured. For me, because my femurs are really long and I’m a little bit taller, I usually don’t go quite as low unless I am holding a kettlebell because I don’t feel stable in that position and I can’t maintain a neutral spine. I might be leaning a little bit forward and sit back into my hips a little more, where if someone has shorter legs and a longer torso they might be a little more upright. So whenever you do it make sure you only go as deep as you can maintain a neutral spine. There are a lot of people who say you have to be squatting all the way down to the floor for it to be legit, but it’s really whatever feels good and feels safe to you, and keeping your neutral spine is what’s going to be most safe. So if you can’t go below parallel – when your thigh is parallel to the ground, keeping your spine neutral – that’s totally fine. Just go as deep as you can and over time you can work on that range of motion. Deep breath in, blow out, breath in again, sit back and come up. Make sure you control it all the way through.