Few of us take the time to squat regularly. "The majority of my clients come to me with limited squat mobility — back squatting below parallel, with as perfect form as possible is an achievement," says Jon-Erik Kawamoto, a Strength and Conditioning Coach based in St. John’s Newfoundland. "Which means we have to spend months improving either shoulder, hip or ankle mobility". That work is worth it: Squatting benefits core, back, and leg strength, and is a great test of overall fitness. So how much should you be able to squat? According to Kawamoto, if you're "35-45 year-olds, back squatting your bodyweight with full range of motion is an excellent target." You can scale down (or up) from there with age.
But even a bodyweight equivalent squat can be an ordeal, especially if you lack the flexibility and mobility to have good form. As Tim DiFrancesco, Physiotherapist and Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Los Angeles Lakers points out, lifting heavy weights is a skill that requires repetition and practice. "To groove your squat pattern and mobility", says DiFrancesco, "a great place to start is with the dumbbell goblet squat (where you hold the weight in front of you). Use a 50 pound dumbbell and work your way over 6-8 weeks up to 100 pounds. A 100 pound goblet squat may not get you highlighted in any bodybuilding newsletters, but it’s good enough to show that you’re stronger than the average gym rat." Shoot for an ultimate goal of 3-5 sets of 5-6 reps using a 100 pound dumbbell.
The goblet squat serves as a good stepping stone to other squat variations, including the barbell back squat. Here's how to work your way up to squatting your weight.
Your Bodyweight Squat Game Plan
Week 1 to 6:
Goblet Squat twice weekly. 5×5 @ 50lbs, increasing weight by 5lbs each workout.
Week 7 and on:
Barbell back squat, starting with a warmup set using the empty bar, and 5 or 10 pound plates on either side. Load the weight to equal your top end set with goblet squats, and perform 5 sets of 5 reps. Begin progressing week to week with 5-10 pound increases weekly. Continue until your bodyweight equivalent is reached for 5 reps.