How to Squat Without Weights | Tutorial | NoobStrength

How To Squat Without Weights: A Complete Tutorial

The squat is one of the basic movements that every human being should be able to do.

 Spider-Man doing bodyweight squat

In fact, squatting down is how we used to take massive dumps before toilets were invented. Most strength and fitness programs often (and rightfully so) incorporate squats. However, before we load 300 pounds onto a barbell, throw it on our back and squat it down, we must learn how to squat without weights first.

The good news is, once you learn how to squat without weights, all the other squat variations become fairly intuitive because they all share many of the same basic principles.

Squatting without weights is commonly known as the Bodyweight Squat or the Air Squat. Along with the push-up, the air squat is one of the most basic bodyweight exercises. You can do it anytime, anywhere and without any equipment.

That is why learning how to squat without weights is one of the very first things you learn in your fitness journey. The ability to squat properly is also used as an assessment tool by personal trainers and physical therapists to check for any mobility or movement dysfunctions, so it’s a good movement to master! Regardless of whether you’re brand new to fitness or have been in the game for a while, the bodyweight squat is always something worth revisiting.

On that note, this guide is meant to be a comprehensive resource for people who are interested in learning how to squat without weights properly and safely.

How To Squat Without Weights: The Initial Setup

Before you do any exercise, its important that you have a strong setup. Squatting without weights is no exception.

 Bodyweight squat torque external rotation

First, you’re going to stand with your toes pointed forward or slightly turned out.

When I say slightly turned out, I mean very slight. No more than 10 or 12 degrees turned out.

Then, you are going to “screw” your feet into the ground by externally rotating your feet against the ground WITHOUT actually turning your feet outwards. This “torque” against the ground helps create stability.

There are a lot of ways I could describe this feeling but some cues that I have found to help are:

  • It feels like you’re trying to open a giant bottle-cap with your feet

  • Imagine you’re trying to spread the earth apart with your feet

The next step in how to squat without weights is to squeeze your butt.

Aka the glutes; for those of you who prefer a more technical term.

This is something you’ll hear a lot in the world of lifting.

Strength Coach Dan John said that squeezing your butt in lifting is like rice and beans in Mexican food.

What do the burrito, taco, chimichanga, and enchilada have in common?

Rice and beans.

What do the squat, bench press, deadlift, push up, and pull up have in common?

That’s right: Squeezing your butt.

You don’t have to squeeze your glutes so hard that you cramp and turn red; it just needs to be solid enough that you can withstand a (very) light kick in the ass without flinching.

Next, make sure your abs are tight as well.

Like the butt squeeze, the ab squeeze is also present in many exercises and the bodyweight squat is no exception.

Again, you don’t need to go balls to the wall and squeeze it like your life depends on it. Just enough so that you can take a slight belly whack without getting disoriented. The important thing to remember is to maintain your upright posture while squeezing your abs. Think of a tall position rather than a hunched position. This should actually be fairly easy to remember because no one looks good in a hunched position.

Literally no one.

The combination of squeezing your butt, pointing your feet forward and externally rotating your feet against the ground create a strong, strong and stable position to squat from.

The rotation stabilizes your joints. The feet pointed forward allows you to squeeze your butt harder and the butt squeeze itself help keeps weight off your lower back, which is especially important if you add weight to your squats later on.

How To Lower Yourself Into The Bodyweight Squat

 How to lower yourself into the bodyweight squat

Now that you’re all nice and stable, its time to lower yourself into the bottom of the squat.

To do this, you’re going to initiate the movement by folding your hips, bending your knees and lowering your butt down into a 5 or 7 o’clock position.

Think about sitting down on a sidewalk curb or a taking a poop in the woods.

While you’re doing this, make sure to keep your weight on your heels rather than your toes. This is very important to avoid knee injuries down the line.

While squatting down, think about shoving your knees out to the side. Again, this is to avoid knee injuries. The last thing you would want is for your knees to collapse inward.

I mean, it doesn’t even remotely look like a safe, stable position.

How Low Should You Squat?

You’ll get a lot of different opinions on how low you should squat.

However, I would say that a bare minimum guideline would be parallel to the ground. With a flat back of course. Rounded would be no good. This means that your butt and knees are at approximately the same level.

However, the ideal depth for a squat is ass to grass. You should be able to hang out comfortably in the bottom of the squat position. How are you going to poop in the woods if you can’t? You’ll fall over and end up in a shitty position! Literally!

If you physically can’t get into at least a parallel squat position without rounding your back, then you likely have some mobility issues to work out. Sadly, this is quite common as the modern world has wrecked havoc on our ability to squat.

This is what the bottom position of the squat should look like.

Keeping Your Back Flat During the Bodyweight Squat

 How to keep your back flat during an air squat

It should go without saying that having a flat back while doing a squat is important, but I’m going to go ahead and say it anyway.

You want to have a flat back during the entirety of the squat.

I mean, a squat without weights is one thing, but can you imagine how disastrous squatting a heavy weight with a rounded back would be?

Yikes.

Keeping the back flat is going to be an important habit to ingrain during the bodyweight squat so it doesn’t transfer over to the other squat variations.

How do you do this? By keeping your chest up and abs tight. This is the same as the “tall position instead of the hunched position” I mentioned earlier. If you do both of these two things, your back will be flat.

If you only squeeze your abs but don’t keep your chest up, your back will round. Not good.

If you only keep your chest up and lose the ab tightness, you’ll end up overextending and going the other way. Also not good.

So be sure to do both.

How To Come Up From The Bottom of the Squat

Now that you’re in the bottom of the squat and we’ve covered back position, the next logical step of the bodyweight squat is to come back up.

Here’s how to do this:

  • Keep your weight on your heels

  • Push off the ground with your heel

  • Thrust your hips forward and straighten your legs

  • Once you reach the top position, squeeze your butt

Once you’ve done all that, you should be back in the starting position.

From here, you can either stop or do another rep. Totally up to you.

Congratulations! You’ve completed a single repetition of a proper bodyweight squat.

What Should I Do With My Hands?

Honestly? Anything.

There aren’t any rules of what you should do with your hands when you squat without weights. The most important thing is to maintain your balance during the movement. So you can pretty much do whatever you want with your hands in order to stay balanced.

And there you have it. How to squat without weights. It’s actually pretty straightforward so try not to overthink it.

If you need a more visual representation of the steps outlined in this guide, you can check out a video tutorial I made a while back. Yes, I totally dressed up as Spider-Man. I mean, if you’re not having fun, why even bother?

But otherwise, if you enjoyed this guide, share it with a friend, subscribe to the mailing list (for weekly fitness tips) and follow me on social media using the links below!

I’m a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer and StrongFirst Bodyweight Instructor based in West Los Angeles and Santa Monica. I offer 1-on-1 personal training, group/couples training, and online fitness coaching!

If you’re interested in working with me or have any questions, feel free to reach out!