5 ways to make squats work for you

Squatting has been a human movement since, well, ever!

It's a natural movement that all humans *should* be able to perform. 

Now, if you've had a severe injury, or surgery, then this might not pertain to you. But, most folks should be able to perform some 'type' of squat.

If you can't, you can START HERE.

This article is designed to run you through a good starting point and then some simple progressions to use with your squat.

Squatting is a primal movement and when performed correctly can result in;

  • Dramatic increases in strength
  • Improved mobility
  • Fat loss
  • Increase in muscle size (nutrition is vitally important here, if this is your goal)

When you are training, try using exercises which give you the biggest bang-for-your-buck. Lots of results from one single action, or movement.

Squats fit the bill perfectly!

At Fulla Strength and Conditioning, we have 4 pillar movements that we aim to have our clients perform on a weekly basis. They are;

1- Push
A movement that propels a resistance AWAY from the body.

A movement that pulls a resistance TOWARDS the body.

A movement requiring the hips to act as a hinge, working the muscles on the posterior. This is a backward-forward hip motion.

A movement which is knee-dominant and is more of an up-down motion.

We will be focusing on number 4 today and specifically aim to give you a step-by-step guide to help squats work for you.

1) Start with your body-weight

Don't skimp the basics!

If you can't perform a body-weight squat proficiently, you have no business loading the movement, or doing them dynamically -- like you see so many people doing in group exercise classes.

You need to learn how to move several joints together in a systematic fashion so that you are correctly aligned, working the right muscles and preventing any unnecessary strain on the body and its joints.

Below is a video tutorial that will take you through step number 1.

How to correctly perform a Body-weight squat

2) Progress to a box

Box squatting (to a box, or bench) is a great option if you have either, hip or knee issues, as you get the same depth of squat each rep and can also learn how to keep tension from start to finish.

Now, you can either use the box as a touch 'n' go (touch the box and stand), or as a more hip-dominant squat (full sit, onto the box).

Which one is better?

Neither. They are just different.

  • If you struggle to get the same depth of squat, with good form, opt for the touch 'n' go. 
  • If you can't keep your abs on, or maintain good posture, then the full sit would be a better option for you.

3) Goblet squat

The goblet squat is starting to become more and more popular, and with good reason.

It is an excellent progression for squatting!

This is where you hold a weight -- either a Dumbbell or Kettlebell -- under your chin, with an upright posture and squat with the weight.

You get tremendous benefits in terms of increasing core strength and also from a postural standpoint, as you have to resist the forward pull of the weight you are holding.

The technique doesn't really change a great deal, but the difficulty does. If you get pulled forwards, you'll need to focus on sitting further back onto your heels and/or  maintaining a more upright torso position.

If neither of those adjustments work, the weight may simply be too heavy for you.

Focus on quality of reps, rather than quantity.

4) Change the tempo

Ok, so you've now got a grasp and mastered the goblet squat. Where to from here?

Changing the speed or 'tempo' of your squat is a subtle, yet noticeable way to progress to the next phase of your squatting journey.

Typically, when performing squats -- or any movement for that matter -- you go at a tempo of 1-0-1. Meaning, you take one second to descend, there is no pause and then a one second ascent.

To make your squat more challenging, try varying the speed of your reps.

I'll outline a few examples below.

Example: (1-2-3)

  • 1 represents the DESCENT. Going down

  • 2 represents the HOLD. Holding the bottom part of the squat. No movement

  • 3 represents the ASCENT. Going up


  1. 1-1-1
  2. 1-2-1
  3. 2-1-1
  4. 2-2-2
  5. 3-1-1
  6. 3-2-1
  7. 3-3-1

I've just outlined seven different options for you. In order of easiest to hardest. 

The mission of tempo squats is to stay at the same tempo for each and every squat, minimising any variation/change in your repetitions.

5) Add load

If you can tick all the boxes that we have outlined so far, you can now start to focus on adding load to the movement.

You have shown proficiency to perform a good squat, with repetitions under your belt (through practice) and can maintain good posture with various tempos.

Fulla Strength and Conditioning

Some options of loading the squat could be;

  • Offsetting the weight    
    • Asymmetrical loading. Meaning, you have a different weight (or no weight) from Left to Right side of the body. This creates an imbalance, which you must overcome.
      • Half-rack, Double-rack, Offset squats (Using Kettlebells)
  • Using a barbell
  • Dynamic, or plyometric variations
    • Used for generating speed, power or to illicit a heart-rate effect of training.

The main thing I'd like you to take away from this article is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to squats.

I have some clients who are still doing sit-to-stands, some doing Dumbbell front squats and I also have clients doing Back squat challenges. 

One isn't necessarily *better* than the other. They are just at different levels of difficulty and should be crossed only when you have the requisite strength, mobility and confidence to perform them.

There are plenty of options.  Find the squat that works for  YOU .

There are plenty of options. Find the squat that works for YOU.

Practice, practice, practice.

That is the best advice I can give you with regards to squats.

Oh, and like Louie Simmons says, "Don't have a 10 cent Squat with $100 shoes"

Until next time,

Practice your squats.



I send out my weekly newsletter, 'Fitness Advice That Works In the Real World',  every Tuesday to help people like you, lose fat, build strength and create results that last.

Check it out here.

Jesse FullerComment