The squat is a compound free weight exercise. It is probably one of the best overall exercises for building body strength and increasing mass. It is also one of the most difficult exercises to perform and has gotten a bit of a bad rep as being bad for the back and legs. In proper form, it is a very safe and effective exercise. Without proper form, it can lead to injury.

To do a squat, all you really need is an olympic bar and some weights. However, this is a bit dangerous because dropping a heavy weight on yourself could be bad. If you are doing a squat, you should use either a power rack or squat rack with bars adjusted to an appropriate height. You should also perform this exercise with a broomstick first, then graduate up to an unweighted bar, and finally add weight. This is to ensure proper form without the added burden of weight.

Start off with the bar high on the pins of a rack. Back into the bar, grabbing it with a grip slightly wider than shoulder width. Rest the bar slightly above your shoulder blades. It should not rest of the neck or you are asking for trouble. Your shoulders should be pulled back and your back arched. Keep your head up through the entire exercise. The arched back and head up are essential to preventing injury. Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width, with the toes pointed slightly outward. Keep a slight bend in your knees.

Now you are in a good starting position. To perform the squat, you should begin by rotating your hips, not bending your knees. The basic motion should be similar to sitting down. Shove your butt backwards, and lean forward slightly to balance the weight. Do not kneel down, your knees should never extend past your toes. If you extend your knees farther forward than this, you are asking for knee injury. In addition, you should try to bend your upper body forward as little as possible to prevent stress on the back. Inhale as you squat down slowly, resisting the weight, until your thighs are parallel to the ground.

When you reach the bottom, do not bounce back up. Pause breifly, take a few breaths if needed, and then push up. Push with the legs, not the back. Avoid rotating your legs, the knees should be inline with your feet to prevent knee injury. In the entire exercise, keep your head up and back arched, this is very important!

A note about reps, the general consensus is that this is one of the few exercises that benefits from higher repetitions. Most experienced weightlifters believe it is best to do a set of 20 reps. This requires some intense concentration. The squat is very difficult and can be painful with higher weights. It takes a strong desire and ability to block out the pain to complete a set of 20 reps. You should work your way up to this, only attempting an all out set of 20 when you are sure you have proper form.

You will feel this in your legs the next day, be careful going down stairs...