How to Do a Squat

Strength training doesn’t always require a machine and weights. The squat is an exercise that you can do on your own.

Imagine walking into the gym and seeing that all the equipment is being used. Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to doom your workout. There are strength training exercises you can do without a machine to assist.

The squat is a cornerstone lower-half exercise that can enhance total body strength and power. The primary muscles involved are the quadriceps and glutes. These are two main muscles used in locomotion.

“The squat pattern is the foundation for enhancing overall strength, lower-body power and explosiveness,” says Drew Walsh, a corrective exercise and performance enhancement specialist.

So, what should you keep in mind to properly complete a squat? Here are some things to remember when performing this exercise.


When you set up in a squat position, keep your feet shoulder-width apart. This means placing your feet just outside of your shoulders. You want to make sure that your feet, knees and hips are square and that your eyes are looking straight ahead.

As you lower into the squat position, drive your hips back. Make sure to maintain soft knees as you feel your feet drive through the floor on the way up.

After you’ve mastered the squat, you can add weight to your workout. There are multiple ways to perform the squat, including:

  • Barbell squat
  • Kettlebell squat
  • Kettlebell goblet squat

Woman Performing Barbell Squat

Before completing a barbell squat, we suggest bringing a partner along to serve as your spotter. Learn more about how to properly spot a barbell squat with these Pro Tips.

Once you have your spotter, begin your barbell squat by:

    • Resting the barbell on your upper back and shoulders. Your grip should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
    • Lift the barbell off the rack and take a few steps back. Your toes should be turned slightly outward and shoulder-width apart. Your feet should remain flat on the ground.
    • Maintain a firm grip on the bar as you drive your hips back and knees out, setting into a squatting position. Make sure to keep your knees soft and your chest up.
    • Power back up and return to your original standing position.

Woman Performing Kettlebell Squat

To complete a kettlebell squat:

  • Start by finding a kettlebell that you’re comfortable with.
  • Once you have your kettlebell, maintain a firm grip on the handle with both hands.
  • Lift the kettlebell in front of your chest. Be sure to stand tall and keep your feet just outside of your shoulders.
  • Once you’re comfortable holding the kettlebell, drive your hips back, descending into a squatting position.
  • Remember to keep your knees soft and your chest up. Your feet should be flat on the ground.
  • Hold a firm grip on the kettlebell throughout the exercise.

Woman Performing Kettlebell Goblet Squat

To do a kettlebell goblet squat:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Holding the kettlebell upside down and slightly away from your chest, squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your elbows tight, chest up and knees steady.

Now that you know how to do a squat, maybe you want to add another exercise to your leg day routine. Continue to build your lower-body strength by learning how to properly complete a lunge.