How To Do a Perfect Squat For Amazing Legs

Woman Squat

How to do a perfect squat

Most people do the squat wrong! Simple as that.

I am a big fan of the squat so I wanted to write a detailed post about how to do a perfect squat so that you can progress with your leg training and avoid all injuries. There are a few little tips and tricks involved that can help things a long.

What muscles does the squat target?

As always, before we can be really good at an exercise we need to look at which muscles the exercise hits when it is done correctly. We need to know how these muscles work and where they are located.

The main muscles targeted by the squat are the:

  • quadriceps,
  • calves,
  • hamstrings,
  • glutes,
  • hip flexors, and the
  • lower back

If you have ever done a set of heavy squats then you will know that the majority of the weight is handled by the upper thighs or the quadriceps. This is important to know as during the upward motion you need to keep the weight on this part of the leg and not let yourself lean forward or back.

Why is the squat so effective at building the legs?

The squat has always been know as one of the “king” exercises along with the deadlift and the bench press. The reason these exercises are so good is becuase the are simple to do, handle a lot of weight and involve a lot of muscles. Each repetition of a heavy weighted squat puts your muscles under great stress and thus brings about great growth and progress.

I am often telling people the benefits of free weights over machines when exercising. One of the main reasons for this is that the free weights force many other “stabilizer” muscles to come into play and you can generally get a much greater range of motion (ROM). This makes them much more effective and this is why the squat is so good.

How to do a perfect squat for amazing legs

In order to do a perfect squat you should make sure each of these elements is met in each repetition. If even one of them is not present you run the risk of a serious injury. As always, start off with a lighter weight and add weight only when you are sure you are doing it perfectly.

NOTE: A weighted squat should always be done in a squat rack and only after a proper warm up. Using a weight on your shoulders is dangerous unless there is a machanism to catch the weight should you run out of steam.

  • With a light weight on your shoulders gently bend the knees so that your quadriceps bare the weight and slowly squat down to a position where your quads are just above being parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your upper torso as straight and upright as possible and make sure there is no strain in your back.
  • Without pausing at this lower position slowly push the weight up by tensing the relevant muscles and pushing up through the floor using all of your legs.
  • The decline motion should be longer than the push.
  • Breathe in on the decline and breathe out on the push upward.
  • Your feet should stay flat on the floor throughout the entire motion and you should use both the balls of your foot and your heels to do the pushing.

Problems with the squat

There are quite a few problems with the squat and because of these it can be quite a dangerous exercise.

Many times people will become GRADUALLY injured by the squat. This is the real danger as you may not notice it happening at all. For example, you might use the squat once a week on your leg day over a period of one year and never notice anything wrong. During this time you might develop a knee, ankle or back injury and due to the long term nature of the injury you might not attribute it to the squat and continue performing it. This is the main danger.

A the squat uses so many muscles and joints the damage might be very gradual. The only way to avoid this is to make sure your technique is perfect and that it does not become sloppy over the months and years. The best way to do this is to train with a partner as they can see parts of you that you can’t.

Lastly, if you feel any pain whatsoever during the squat then you should stop straight away and not resume until you know exactly what is wrong and why.

About Katie

Katie has transformed her body from a flabby 186lbs, to a fit & toned 124 pounds through healthy diet and exercise. Katie joined the Lean Curves team in 2007 and has posted hundreds of articles on fitness, fat loss and healthy eating.


  1. Lindsey says:

    Is there a guide for non-weighted squats?

  2. Julia says:

    hello, I really like your site! My gym only has a smith machine and dumbbells. Is one or the other of these better to perform the squat?

  3. annette says:

    Most experts agree that the smith machine puts the body in an awkward position to do squats. You can use dumbells . Or bodyweight. You can do one-legged squats if your own bobyweight is not enough.

  4. GINA AKYAA ODEI says:

    please i really need to exercise and i need more exercise tips to help me daily

  5. Toni Little says:

    Is it normal to be sore after you start doing squats for the first time?

  6. Craig says:

    I think you focused on the wrong points.
    1) Always keep your back straight
    2) Your feet should be slightly pointed outward. The wider your stance the more they are pointed outward. Make sure your knee is aligned with the direction your foot is pointing. If your knees are buckling inward or outward you need to adjust accordingly.
    3) When you are lowering make sure your knees do not travel over your feet. (Usually you will feel your weight shifting off your heels when this happens)
    4) You should be squatting below parallel to build the muscles in the hamstrings as well as the quads. If you are not you are risking injuring your hamstrings because your quad to hamstring ratio is overbalanced. This causes injuries for many people performing it wrong.

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