How Much Should I Squat?

woman doing a squat without weight

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Exercise enthusiasts and social media influencers often showcase the effects of squat workouts. After all, squats are known to get results. Not only does the squat build strength in your glutes and legs, but when performed consistently the exercise can also tone your lower body.

These results do not come easy, though. You need to follow correct squat form, increase weight in increments, and set attainable fitness goals. Doing too much too soon can cause injuries, create sore muscles, and derail future workouts. To get you squatting properly, here is what you need to know.

Determine Your Goals

You should begin your squatting workouts by determining your “why.” In other words, think about the reason or reasons why you want to incorporate squats into your workout and what you hope to accomplish.

Knowing your goals can keep you from quitting and provide a high level of satisfaction to your workouts. Pin down your why by writing it out with pen to paper, typing it up, or discussing it with an exercise partner. If you need help thinking of your why, here are a few common goals.

Improve Fitness

If you want to get in better shape, following a high-intensity aerobic and high-load resistance training is preferable to all other exercise methods for gaining cardiorespiratory fitness, according to a recent meta-analysis. It also has been shown to improve lean body mass and decrease abdominal fat.

Using more than 6,000 articles, researchers found that although any type of exercise is beneficial, you do need two types for optimal effectiveness. Thus, workouts combining running or stepping on a Stairmaster followed by squatting with weights could help you improve your fitness goals.

Increase Muscle Size

Perhaps your goal for squatting is to increase muscle mass to help improve your running skills or even to be able to move with less pain in your daily life. If this the case, a workout regimen incorporating full squats can help you achieve this goal.

Just be sure to do a full squat rather than a half a squat if you can—especially since research indicates a full squat is more effective. In one study, males were assigned to a full squat group or a half squat group. They did two squat workouts per week for 10 weeks. Researchers discovered that a full squat better developed lower limb muscles.

Gain Strength

If your goal is to gain strength, setting up resistance routines will help you stay on track to reach your objectives. You even might want to consider joining a gym.

In fact, researchers found that regular fitness center attendance was associated with higher goal achievements. As an added bonus, most gym options already have the equipment you need for squatting and personal trainers to help with form and spotting.  

How to Determine the Ideal Weight For You

When you’re starting out, you need to learn proper form before you determine the amount of weight to use. Then, once you can perform a squat with perfect form, you can begin adding weight to make the movement harder.

Determining the ideal weight to squat is often based on your one-repetition maximum. In fact, research indicates that your one-repetition maximum is a valuable test to use in finding your muscular strength. This calculation can apply to all age groups, genders, and on any strength exercise.

To determine your one-repetition maximum, you would begin by squatting the highest amount you can without losing form. For example, if you can squat 100 pounds with perfect form, but going to a higher weight causes you to lose balance, your one-repetition maximum is 100 pounds and 80% of that is 80 pounds.

If your goal is to increase muscle mass, you want to do 100% of your one-repetition maximum. And if your goal is to gain strength, you should use 80% of your one-repetition maximum.

Check Your Form

Proper squat form is challenging to explain because it is not a “one size fits all” movement. According to Jonathan Ho, CPT, of JHo Fitness, no optimal squat stance exists because everyone’s hip, knee, and ankle anatomy differs.

You need to find the correct stance for your body. You also need to master your form before adding weight. He provides steps that you can follow to ensure your form is as best as possible.

  1. Start in standing position with hips shoulder-width apart.
  2. Use a mirror to help you position your back and legs appropriately.
  3. Maintain a natural curve of the spine to keep the back safe. Ho says to imagine a rod running from the base of your skull down to your glutes.
  4. Send your hips slowly back to your glutes, as your hips will drive the squat.
  5. Let your knees pass the toes, which is essential for proper biomechanics and to effectively load quads.
  6. Move back up to where you started, slowly.
  7. Continue this movement without weights for 10 reps.

Use the Mirror

Check your form in the mirror regularly and make any corrections immediately so that you do not develop bad habits.

When to Increase Weight

Increasing weight is a vital part of squatting and helps you build your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, abdominals, and calves. But you need to progress gradually to prevent injury and ensure you do not have any mobility issues that prevent higher weight.

“A good rule of thumb is the 10% rule,” says Ho. In other words, do not increase your sets, repetitions, and load by more than 10% per week.

Safety and Precautions

Safety is the most important element of a workout. To help you avoid injuries when squatting, make sure to warm up with light weight and avoid jumping into heavy sets, says Jesse Feder, CPT, RD, CSCS. He also says to only increase weight if you can maintain proper form with every single rep.

“Improper squat form can lead to knee pain, back pain, or other knee issues," adds says Melissa Morris, ACSM-certified exercise physiologist and ISSN-certified sports nutritionist. "It could also lead to muscle imbalances or a limited range of motion for those joints,”

When you get into high weights, having a spotter behind you can help keep you safe. They can help lift the weight if you are struggling as well as provide support to keep you from falling.

A Word from Verywell

Adding squats to your resistance training routine can boost your leg, glute, ab, and hip flexor strength, as this powerful move works your entire lower body. And if you do them consistently, you can achieve compelling results.

As with any workout, make sure you warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of cardio and with light weights before moving on to heavier weights. This can help you avoid painful and even costly injuries. And be sure to speak with a healthcare provider before doing squats on a regular basis, particularly if you are new to exercise.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should you squat your bodyweight?

    Being able to squat your bodyweight depends on your fitness goals. Regardless of your weight choice, you should squat what you can while maintaining proper form. If you can build up your strength to be able to squat your bodyweight with perfect form, then you can go for it. But it is not necessary and you should not judge yourself against what others can do.

  • How much can the average person squat?

    It is difficult to determine what an average person can squat. The amount the a person squats will depend on weight, gender, and fitness levels.

  • How often should you squat?

    You can decide how often to squat based on your fitness goals and what works for your body. In a scientific study on squats published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found fitness and strength gains in participants who implemented a squatting workout of two times per week.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Kubo K, Ikebukuro T, Yata H. Effects of squat training with different depths on lower limb muscle volumesEur J Appl Physiol. 2019;119(9):1933-1942. doi:10.1007/s00421-019-04181-y

  3. Riseth L, Lund Nilsen TI, Hatlen Nøst T, Steinsbekk A. Fitness center use and subsequent achievement of exercise goals. A prospective study on long-term fitness center membersBMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2022;14(1):9. doi:10.1186/s13102-022-00400-w

  4. Grgic J, Lazinica B, Schoenfeld BJ, Pedisic Z. Test-retest reliability of the one-repetition maximum (1rm) strength assessment: a systematic reviewSports Med Open. 2020;6(1):31. doi:10.1186/s40798-020-00260-z

  5. National Academy of Sports Medicine. Built to order: Strength and size considerations.

By Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, CPT
Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, is a certified personal trainer, freelance writer, and author of "Growth Mindset for Athletes, Coaches and Trainers."