why air squats are the ultimate lower body move

from our Bustle feature

Read below on Sarah’s insights on adding squats to your workout routine! Check out the Bustle article here.

Let’s start with a definition:

An air squat is an unresisted, bodyweight squat in a neutral, hip-distance or shoulder-distance stance. You can think of it as the building block of all other squat exercises! If you wanted to do any other kind of squat, you’d vary your foot placement or add weights in some form.

What are the benefits of air squats?

Air squats are an essential lower body exercise! Your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps work the most in a squat repetition, but your core + calves also help out to keep you balanced and in proper alignment. 


Air squats are beneficial for everyone— you’re never too advanced to perfect your squat form! However, air squats are particularly helpful for fitness beginners who may need to work on their mechanics before moving onto other squat variations.

Let’s walk through how to do an air squat:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart and your toes pointing directly forward.
  • Bend your knees and hinge your hips backward while keeping your lower back neutral.
  • At the bottom of your squat, you should feel a natural balancing point where the weight of your shoulders moving forward counteracts the weight of your hips moving backwards.
  • Under your feet, you should feel your weight distributed through the center of each arch— being wary not to shift too far into your heels or your toes.
  •  To come back up to standing, simultaneously extend your knees and bring your hips back underneath you! 

Reps and sets will vary greatly based on your fitness level and what the rest of your workout looks like!

  • For beginners, try 3 sets of 10 to nail down your form.
  • For advanced squatters, you can add 1-2 sets of 15 as part of your warm-up routine! 

How can I modify an air squat? 

A great way to modify your air squats is to hold onto something in front of you— like a ballet barre— so that your upper body can help out if your legs start feeling fatigued. 

If you want to make air squats more challenging, play with your arm placement, repetition speed, and range of motion! For example: 

  • Try squatting with your arms overhead, or in “prisoner” position (hands behind your head).
  • Slowly descend into your squat for 3 counts, then stand up tall in one fast count!
  • Add pulses at the bottom of your squat to rachet up the intensity.

Avoid making these common mistakes:

One of the most common form mistakes in an air squat is losing the vertical tracking of the hip, knee and ankle. If you’re looking at yourself straight-on in the mirror, your hip, knee and ankle should remain stacked throughout the entire squat repetition. If you’re having trouble keeping yourself aligned, double check that your stance is truly shoulder-distance with your toes pointing forward.

Another form mistake I frequently see is executing air squats without recruiting your abdominals. At the deepest point of your squat, your torso should not be resting on your thighs. Instead, maintain a bit of core engagement the entire time— your lower back will thank you! The more your hold your abs in front of you, the less likely you are to over-extend your lower back. 

Depending on each person’s unique proportions, strength, mobility, and flexibility, they may or may not be able to descend into an air squat where their hips drop below their knees. However, the majority of people need to work in a less-deep air squat at first.

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