Do you associate squats with bodybuilders or meatheads at the gym and skip them because you think they’ll bulk you up? Or, maybe you avoid them completely because you don’t know how to do them properly or you’re afraid they’ll be tough on your knees or back?
These are all myths, people. Squats are actually a functional exercise that we perform in real life when we pull weeds from the garden, play catcher in a baseball game, or pick up a seashell from the beach. It’s hard to imagine life without squats and that’s why adding them to your workout makes perfect sense.
Of all the squat variations, the free-standing bodyweight squat is perfect for almost everyone because it requires no special equipment or space, and it works a lot of big muscles, offers many benefits, and is relatively easy to perform.
Muscles Worked by Free-Standing Bodyweight Squats
- Lower back
Benefits of Free-Standing Bodyweight Squats
- Help maintain balance and flexibility
- Increase bone density and metabolism
- Tone and firm muscles
- Increase cardiovascular conditioning
- Strengthen connective and surrounding tissue (helps prevent knee injuries)
How to Do Free-Standing Bodyweight Squats
1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with a nice proud chest—chest out, shoulders back and down, and a neutral head and neck. You will maintain this posture as you squat. Many people straighten their arms out in front of them or fold them across their chest to counter their bodyweight as they squat—do what’s comfortable for you as long as you maintain correct body position.
2. Hinge your torso forward as you lower your body. Keep your feet flat on the floor but always hold and drive your weight through your heels. (If the weight is in your toes, you’re putting a lot of pressure on your knees.) It’s okay to lean forward as long as you keep your back straight or slightly arched. Make sure to squeeze your core as you lower yourself into the squat.
3. As you lower yourself into the squat, it’s important to make sure that your knees track correctly: Make sure they do not buckle in or bow out. They should stay directly in between your feet and hips.
4. Lower yourself down as far as you can comfortably go but make sure that your knees never go out in front of your toes. Pretend you’re sitting down slowly into an imaginary chair—no plopping allowed.
5. Reverse the motion until you return to starting position.
Do you have questions about free-standing bodyweight squats? Ask us in the comments below.