Body weight squats, sometimes called deep knee bends, can be performed anywhere and without equipment. They are a good way to tone the lower body and raise core temperature.  Performed correctly, body weight squats are a beneficial addition to your fitness routine. Read on for how to do a body weight squat and why you should.

What Muscles Do Squats Work?

Squats work several muscles around the body. They most often affect the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors, but several other muscles may be involved depending on the variation of squat being done.

How to do a body squat

couple workout squat postureStand with feet hip-width apart. Your spine should be straight and your feet facing forward. Extend your arms straight in front of you with palms facing down. Keeping your gaze forward, bend your knees until your thighs are parallel with the ground (they should look like a flat surface from a side view of your body).  Hold for 5 seconds before slowly returning to a standing position. Repeat for two sets of 10.


Why do body squats

Body squats are good for warming up the body and raising your core temperature.  They are a good way to start your exercise routine. Performed regularly these exercises can help you begin toning your glutes and quads. Body squats are also beneficial because they are a gateway exercise. You can use the strength you build doing them to successfully take on gradually more demanding exercises or even to improve your running form and avoid injury.

Benefits of the Body Weight Squat

Body weight squats have benefits that include strengthening our lower body and core muscles while improving our flexibility. They target the:

  • Hip muscles
  • Hamstrings
  • Obliques
  • Calves
  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes

Squats also help us burn more calories, so we may lose weight if we do them as a part of our exercise routine. 

Body weight squats also help us reduce the risk of injuring our ankles and knees. The squatting movement strengthens the bones, tendons, and ligaments around the knees and in the legs. Thanks to squats, our knees may become more stable, making us less prone to injury even when doing other kinds of exercises. 

On top of a reduced risk of injury, squats help boost our bone strength. Squats can increase our bone mineral density and may strengthen parts of our skeleton including the lower body and spinal column. 

Progressively overloading the body weight squat

As with any kind of exercise your body will quickly adapt to the workload of body squats if you do them regularly. To continue reaping the benefits of this lower body workout you will need to modify the squat. Here are some ideas:

Increase the repetitions – increase the number of squats you do by about ten percent each week.

  • Increase the sets – if you start with two sets, move to three so that you continue challenging your muscles.
  • Increase the intensity – if you hold each squat for five seconds to start, increase that to eight or ten seconds as you build strength.
  • Reduce or eliminate rest time between sets.
  • Pair or alternate body squats with another exercise such as squat jumps.  Stand with feet shoulder length apart, with your arms extended fully at your sides lower your bottom until your thighs are parallel with the floor.  Next swing your arms above your head and jump high into the air.
  • Try a body weight squat variation

Body Weight Squat Variations

There are dozens of body weight squat variations we can try including:

  • Side-kick squats
  • Squats with knee drive
  • Split squats
  • Side squats
  • Prisoner squats

These and other variations can be used to minimize the risk of injury and to accommodate beginners, those with injuries, or people with disabilities. 

Side-Kick Squats

To do a side-kick squat:

  1. Get into position for a normal squat. 
  2. As we stand back up, we kick the leg as high as it will go.
  3. We drop back down and do the same on the left side.

Squats With Knee Drive

Doing a squat with knee drive starts with a basic squat. 

  1. Once we’re in a basic squat, stand up.
  2. As we stand, drive a knee up as high as it can go.
  3. Drop down again into a basic squat.
  4. Repeat.

Split Squats

To do a split squat:

  1. We start by staggering our stance. Our right foot should be in front of the left. 
  2. Now, we drop down until our thigh is parallel to the ground. 
  3. We then stand and repeat the deeper squat.

Side Squats

To perform side squats:

  1. We start by placing our feet shoulder width apart.
  2. We step to the side with our right foot and raise our hands up in front of us.
  3. We continue into the squat until our thighs are parallel to the ground.
  4. As we stand, bring the left foot to meet the right foot. 
  5. We repeat in the opposite direction.

Prisoner Squats

Prisoner squats are done with core stabilization, which is good for improving balance. To do a prisoner squat:

  1. We move our feet shoulder width apart.
  2. We place our hands behind our head, lacing our fingers together. 
  3. We do a basic squat.

There are modifications we can use if basic squats are not right for us. The three basic modifications include:

  • The wall squat.
  • The stand-to-sit squat.
  • The sit-to-stand squat.

These modifications are good for people who don’t have strong knees or good stability because there are tools that help take some weight off them.

The Wall Squat

To do a wall squat:

  1. We start by standing with our back to the wall.
  2. We step out about 12 inches from the wall, keeping our backs against it.
  3. We bend our knees into a squat while maintaining connection to the wall. 
  4. We stop and push back up when our thighs are parallel to the ground.

The Stand-to-Sit Squat

For the stand-to-sit squat, we:

  1. Stand in front of a chair. 
  2. Raise both of our arms up to shoulder height in front of us. We keep them parallel to the floor.
  3. Bend our knees to hover over the chair. We keep moving downward until we feel the seat. 
  4. Stand back up after tapping the top of the chair.

The Sit-to-Stand Squat

The sit-to-stand squat is similar to the stand-to-sit squat:

  1. We start by sitting on the edge of our chairs.
  2. We keep our legs hip-width (or slightly wider) apart.
  3. We stand up, but we don’t allow our knees to go forward past the toes.
  4. After standing, we bend our knees to sit back down.

Body Weight Squat Safety Tips

There are a few safety tips that will make doing squats safer for us. 

  • We should try not to shift our body weight toward the direction of our toes. Doing this can place undue pressure on our knees and cause injuries. 
  • We should push off from our heels.
  • We should breathe in as we go into the squat and out as we stand.
  • When we’re in the middle of a squat, we should check our balance by attempting to slightly lift our toes up. If all the pressure is on our toes, we need to try to sit back on our heels.
  • We should always look straight ahead when performing a squat.
  • We shouldn’t slouch. We should focus on keeping our cores tight.

Factors Affecting Body Weight Squats

Factors that may affect body weight squats include our foot placement angles, our body weight, different stance widths and experience. The stance width, as well as our foot placement, need to be chosen based on which joints we’re targeting during the exercise. Always avoid extreme positions, such as extremely narrow or wide stances that put pressure on our knees and ankles.

Body weight squats offer a good, low-impact type of exercise that helps you build fitness and muscle strength. Consider wearing a brace if you have knee trouble. You should also take care to wear sneakers that offer stabilizing support. Ultimately, any movement is beneficial. Humans were not meant to sit as much as we do. Body squats are a good way to get moving because the risk of injury is low while the long term benefits are high.