How To Progress and Perfect Your Squat


by Hailey Brady, BS, ACSM-CPT

The squat is one of the body’s major movement patterns. You squat when you sit down in your office chair, use the restroom, pick up your child, lift grocery bags, the list goes on and on. Knowing how to properly squat in both your daily activities, and during your workouts is essential to maintaining proper movement patterns for life. Knowing proper squat form will also help to prevent injuries and maintain self sufficiency as you age.

Check out the basics of squatting including regressions and progressions below!

Important cues that apply to the majority of the following exercises:

  • Keep your weight in your midfoot and heels. With that said, the entire foot should remain in contact with the floor (don’t let the toes come up even though your weight is shifted into the midfoot and heels)

  • Keep your core engaged by pulling your bellybutton toward your spine

  • At the bottom of your squat squeeze your glutes and bring yourself up to the starting position

  • Deep breath in through your nose on the way down into the squat, exhale through your mouth on the way up

  • The best shoes for squatting have a flat bottom and neutral support

Squat Regressions

Stability Ball Squat:

Place the ball between your middle back and the wall. Get into the starting position by inching your feet forward as you lean into the ball. You will NOT be in a completely upright position. You want to be leaning back slightly in the starting position, so that the ball remains in contact with the wall as you sit into your squat. Continue leaning into the ball throughout the exercise.


Sit to Stand Squat

Wall Sit



Heels Elevated Squat (using plates)


Standard Squat Variations

Body Weight Squats

All of these variations can be progressed by adding weight either using dumbbells, a barbell, a kettlebell etc

Bench or box tap

See sit to stand squat. Instead of sitting, tap glutes to bench or box without resting and return to standing. Use a box that will allow you to get full range of motion. To further progress the move use a lower box for deep squats.

Mini Band Squat (above the knee)


Narrow Stance



Sumo Squat



Squat Progressions

Weighted Squats


Dumbbell Squat


Dumbbell or Kettlebell Goblet Squat - Core Stability

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Pre-weighted Barbell Back Squat

Progress this to a standard Barbell Back Squat when the pre-weighted barbells are not heavy enough and/or you prefer to use the squat rack

Note : Most standard barbells are 45 lbs by themselves, add appropriate weight on in small increments (2.5, 5, 10lb plates on each side) until you’re comfortable and confident squatting each weight. Always use the safety catch/ safety bars when lifting heavier.



Smith Machine Squat

Advanced Squat Progressions

Pistol Squats (use TRX or box for assist)

Bulgarian Split Squats


Jump Squats