You've Been Doing Squats Wrong This Entire Time

Squats are a staple exercise in nearly every workout, and with good reason. This simple move is great for working multiple muscles at once, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abs, and hip flexors, according to SELF. But for all their benefit, they're also an easy move to perform wrong, which can lead to injury.

Kaley Hatfield, certified personal fitness trainer and professional dancer, spoke with Health Digest about problems with squat form and how to overcome them. "The biggest mistakes I see people make are lifting your heels off the ground, arching your back, dropping your chest and not keeping your knees tracked over your toes," she said.

That may sound like a lot to focus on, but they're important elements to avoiding injury. To keep from getting overwhelmed and skipping squats entirely, Hatfield says to focus on a couple specific things. First, she explained, "Roll your shoulders back and down so your spine is straight and lock your core in tight." And second, she noted, "Start to drop your hips to the floor, with your weight into your heels and your knees pointing in the same direction as your toes."

Different squats work different muscle groups

Once you've got the basic move down, you can modify a few small portions of it to focus on different muscles. Hatfield noted that when your toes are pointed straight ahead, you're working on the muscles on the front of your legs. A slight adjustment will build a better booty. "If they're turned out about 45 degrees you're working more of your glutes and inner thighs," she said. Women have an especially tough time building inner and outer thigh muscles, according to Women's Health, so this modification can be a great exercise to shape those upper legs.

Throughout the move, Hatfield urges people to maintain focus on their heels. She explained, "No matter where your toes are pointed you always want to remember good posture, tight core, and drive through your heels as you stand up." Concentrating your weight here allows for proper weight distribution and fires up all the muscles on the back of your legs.

Don't be afraid of doing squats wrong and skip them entirely. Just focus on one element at a time and take your time moving through the range of motion. Pretty soon you may find out this is your favorite exercise of all.