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How to Perform a Squat: Tips for Proper Form & Technique

woman performing a squat

If you have had physical therapy for your hip or knee, work out regularly, or are an experienced weightlifter, chances are you have probably done a squat or two, or three to say the least. The squat is a common exercise utilized for strengthening the lower body. What many don’t realize is that the basic squat movement is similar to sitting down onto a chair. However, as simple as that may sound, performing a squat incorrectly can lead to added joint stress and possible injury. Here are the steps to performing a basic squat using the proper techniques:

  1. Begin in standing with your feet about hip to shoulder width apart with your toes turned slightly outward:Squat-photo-1-J-Bennett
  2. Make sure to keep your head straight and looking forward, with your chest out and shoulders back to keep your spine properly aligned throughout the entire movement.
  3. During the entire downward phase, be sure to stick your butt out and keep your weight on your heels, similar to sitting in a chair. Do not allow your knees to go in front of or over your toes:Squat-photo-2-J-Bennett
  4. The depth of your squat should not be further than when your thighs are parallel to the floor or knees are at 90 degrees. Beginners can perform a quarter squat or half squat by not going as far down:Squat-photo-3--J-Bennett
  5. During the upward phase, keeping your chest out, shoulders back and head looking straight ahead as you push through your heels and straighten your knees and hips back to the standing starting position.
  6. Be sure to exhale during the upward phase, inhale during the downward phase.


  • The squat can be performed with or without weights.
  • You can also perform a wall squat which allows you to have your back against a wall as you squat. The wall acts as a guide to keeping your back straight as you perform the exercise.

If you are unsure of your form for any exercise or movement, seek advice from a certified personal trainer, certified strength and conditioning specialist or licensed physical therapist to help you establish proper form.

Joy Bennett is physical therapy assistant and personal trainer. Joy graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion from Florida Atlantic University, going on to earn her Associates of Science degree as a Physical Therapy Assistant from South University. Joy is a former collegiate volleyball player and has extensive experience working with athletes of all fitness levels, ranging from professional athletes to people recovering from injury.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.