Not only are squats the go-to butt exercise, but they are the key to strong, sculpted legs.
This one simple exercise is so powerful in fact, every type of athlete incorporates it as a foundation exercise.
Squats are a compound, full-body exercise, meaning they work out multiple muscle groups. Simply doing squats alone works your thighs, hips, and buttocks. It also works your quadriceps femoris muscle, which includes the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris.
If your goal is to increase the strength and size of your legs and buttocks while developing your core strength, there is no better exercise.
Squats further work your lower and upper back, abdominals, trunk muscles, costal muscles, and your shoulders and arms isometrically—meaning your muscles tense but don’t contract (2). Essentially, a simple bodyweight squat uses almost every muscle group in your body!
If you literally want to kick your butt into high gear, try our 30-Day Squat Challenge.
How To Squat Correctly
The trick to doing squats is proper form. Without it, you won’t get all of the benefits of this amazing exercise and you can even end up hurting yourself, especially if you incorporate weights.
So, before you start your 30-day Squat Challenge, let’s learn how to properly squat.
How To Perform The Perfect Basic Squat (3)
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Point your toes slightly outward, about 5 to 20 degrees. Lift your chin up so your head is facing straight ahead. Pick a spot on the wall in front of you and keep your glance steady—don’t look down at the floor or up at the ceiling.
- Now, push your chest up and out.
- Raise your arms up in front of you to shoulder height and parallel to the ground with your palms facing down. Keep your spine in a neutral position—don’t round your back, hyperextend or over accentuate the natural arch of your back.
- Keep your weight on the heels of your feet, as if they were glued to the ground. Keep your entire body tight during the entire exercise.
- Now, take a deep breath and break at your hips, pushing your butt back. Keep pushing your hips backward as you bend your knees.
- Begin your squat by lowering your backside as if you are about to sit in a chair, keep your back straight, your spine neutral, and your chest and shoulders up. Look at that spot on the wall.
- As you squat down, focus on keeping your knees in line with your feet.
- At the peak of your squat, your hip joints should be lower than your knees and your thighs should be parallel to the floor. Anything less than parallel is considered a partial squat.
- Keep everything tight and exhale, keeping the balls of your feet on the ground. Hold for a few seconds and then as you return to a standing position, drive your knees out the same way you did on the way down. Squeeze your butt at the top to make sure you use your glutes.
Squats are not for everyone. If you have a bad back, knees or an injury or even if you are overweight, this exercise can be difficult. But, there are ways to modify this amazing exercise so you can still get some benefits and still take part in the 30-day squat challenge.
Here are some 3 ways to modify a basic squat to fit your needs (4):
- Use a wall to help support your back while you slide into a squat position. Make sure your knees stay behind your toes and only slide down as far as is comfortable.
- Use a chair to guide your body as you squat and to provide support at the bottom of the squat. If you need to, briefly sit on the chair to take pressure off your knees.
- You can use a large exercise ball to provide support for your back, similar to how you use the wall. This will help keep your knees from moving too far forward. Walk your feet out enough in front of you so that your knees stay behind your toes.
The 30 Day Squat Challenge
Are you up for it? This challenge entails 200 reps in 30 days!
It involves 5 different squats over the 30 days and slowly increases the reps. Make sure to rest every 4th day and then start back on your squat rotations and reps until you reach your 30-day goal!
Don’t jump ahead and slowly increase the number of reps according to your ability and schedule and before you know it, you will have done 200 reps in just 30 days! Good luck!
1. Basic Squat
Follow the instructions above for the perfect basic squat.
2. Basic Squat With Side Leg Lift
This squat helps smooth out saddlebags or lower love handles. Prepare to feel the burn in both sides of your butt!
Follow the instructions for the perfect basic squat. As you rise back up from the squat, however, straighten your legs completely and then lift your left leg out to the side, squeezing your outer glutes. Step your foot back into a shoulder-width position and squat down again. As you stand up, do a side leg lift using your right leg. Lower your leg back to the starting position. This counts as one rep (5).
3. Narrow Squat
Follow the instructions for the basic squat, but stand with your legs closer together to create a narrower stance. This type of squat targets your inner thighs, inner quads, and inner hamstrings (6).
4. Narrow Squat with Back Kick
Do a narrow squat as outlined above. As you rise back up, however, straighten your legs completely and lift your left leg behind you and kick backward. Now, lower your foot back to the floor to the narrow squat position.
Do another squat and then straighten your legs. Kick back with your right leg, and step your right foot back to meet your left. This is one repetition (7).
5. Sumo Squat
This squat focuses more on lower body strength. You create a wide stance, which works the muscles of your inner thighs. This squat also allows you to safely incorporate heavier resistance loads like weights.
Integrate the basic principles of the perfect basic squat but start by standing with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Your toes should still be slightly turned out. Now, clasp both hands in front of you in a fist at chest level. Push your hips back and squat down, keeping your chest up and knees out. Then stand back up to starting position to finish the rep (8).