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May 07, 2021 9 min read

Ask any fitness professional and they will tell you the squat is one of the best exercises for you, regardless of your fitness goal is to lose weight or gain muscle.

With one simple movement, you work out most of the major muscle groups within the body. When you add dumbbells or  barbells for added weight, you could argue that they work out every muscle group at once. That’s a lot of gains from one exercise!

With that being said, it should be no surprise why knowing how much you can squat is important to your fitness goals. It will give you a great starting point so that you can set reasonable goals for yourself. Before we deep squat into how to find out how much you can squat, let’s take a moment to talk more about the benefits of squats.

Professional athlete squats with a barbell

Got Buns, Hun?

There is no doubt that squats are great for your glutes; however, squats have many benefits that are often overlooked. Below you will find 5 of our favorite benefits of squats:

1. You’re made to squat:  Humans have been squatting (crouching) since the caveman days. There have been many scientific arguments about the squat actually being a natural body position. However, the body is not made to necessarily squat repeatedly which is why you “feel the burn” when performing them.

2. Compound movement:  Executing a squat is a compound movement, meaning it activates multiple muscle groups and joints. The large use of muscle groups signals the body to produce more anabolic hormones thus helping you lose fat and build muscle faster.

3. Feel it in your core:  The squat is actually a great exercise to engage your core as well. Your core is how your body stabilizes itself while you are performing the movement which is why squats are popular among those looking to increase their stability.

4. Improved mobility and flexibility:  Since squats work the joints as well as the muscles, you will notice your range of motion improves after consistently doing squats. This will also help with improving your posture. 

5. Burn fat fast:  The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Seeing as how squats engage so many muscle groups at once, you can guarantee you are burning fat faster too. This happens because the body has to work harder to provide the energy necessary to complete the squat.

6. Prevent injury:  Performing squats regularly will help you prevent injury because you are improving your joints and building up your strength; all of which means you are less likely to end up hurt at the gym. 

How To: Determine How Much You Can Squat

When first getting started, determining how much you should be able to lift can be confusing. With that being said, the squat is one of the best indicators of your overall strength level. Knowing how much you can lift will prevent you from starting too heavy leading to injury or the opposite could happen.

You could be using weights that are too low, you will see results very slowly. To keep you from making one of these mistakes, let’s discuss how you can determine how much you are capable of squatting.

First and foremost, it is important to keep in mind that the average man does not know how to lift weights and is typically overweight, meaning the method discussed is to provide an estimate, not an exact number. According to data collected by the CDC, the average American man weighs 197 pounds and is 5’8 equalling a BMI of 30.

The CDC considers a BMI of 25 - 30 to be overweight and a BMI of 30 or more equals obese. In addition, there are many other factors at play when it comes to strength training factors such as your age and skill level. The type of exercise you are performing can also change how much you can lift.

For example, a lot of lifters can back squat more than they can front squat. These are all examples of why you should use the results for how much you should be able to squat with a grain of salt. Use it as a starting point and adjust properly from there.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into the good stuff! To calculate how much you can squat we will need to first find what your one-rep max is. Sometimes abbreviated as 1RM, your one-rep max is the maximum weight you are capable of lifting for just one rep.

How To: Calculate Your 1RM

For the purpose of this article, we will be using this chart from ExRx, who has been deeply researching how much people can lift for over seventy years! When using the chart, double-check that you selected “squat” for the category.

To start, you will need to know your body weight. Find the number closest to your actual body weight on the chart and use the number that you find under your appropriate skill level. That is the number you should use as your starting point.

For example, if you weigh 181 pounds and are a beginner, the ExRx chart states you should be able to squat approximately 205 pounds. On the contrary, if you weigh 220 pounds and are at a more advanced level, the chart states you should be able to squat around 410 pounds.

Remember, the weight you are lifting should be a challenge for you. If it feels too easy, you should swap them out for heavier weights. Once you find a weight that is comfortable for you to perform a squat for up to 10 continuous repetitions, this weight will be how much you can squat.

You can then use the chart to set realistic goals as you progress through your fitness journey. For example, the beginner who weighs 181 pounds should be aiming to reach the intermediate weight listed on the chart, which is 270 pounds.

Once he can squat 270 pounds for a minimum of 10 reps, he can begin his next goal of being able to squat 370 pounds to achieve an advanced skill level. Utilizing the chart will help you keep yourself on track and prevent you from overtraining by lifting more than you need to be. 

Lastly, please keep in mind that the numbers are different based on the exercise you are performing. In general, if you are training using a front squat, you should adjust your numbers by 25%.

Also, depending on your fitness goals, if you are looking to build muscle specifically, you will want to keep your repetition ranges in the middle, meaning 8-12 reps. If you are unsure how much you should be lifting for different exercises, simply start with what you can normally squat and adjust from there.

Form Matters

Now that you have an idea of how much you can squat, keeping proper form while performing them is key to your success. When it comes to squats, one of the biggest mistakes people make is they are not squatting deep enough. While you are squatting, your thighs should be parallel with the ground, bringing your hip joints below the knee.

By not squatting all the way (which is actually a different exercise known as a partial squat), you are placing all of your pressure on your knees. By squatting lower, you engage your hamstrings and actually relieve pressure from the knees. Some other common mistakes people make while squatting include:

  • Leaning too far forward
  • Allowing the knees to come out of alignment with your toes
  • Rounding your back and/or shoulders
  • Not engaging the core
  • Keeping too much weight on the heels
  • Skipping your warm-up and cool down

How To: Properly Perform A Basic Squat

For the most part, when people think of a squat, they picture what is known as a barbell back squat; however, it is important that you can properly execute a basic squat before introducing barbells or dumbbells to your workout.

To master the basic squat, most strength coaches recommending being able to perform a minimum of 25-50 basic squats consecutively with good form, meanwhile, keeping 100 or more continuous reps as your ultimate goal.

To execute a basic bodyweight squat, begin with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your head up and look forward as you lift your arms up and out straight in front of you so they are parallel to the floor.

Inhale as your break at the hips and push the butt back as if you are going to sit in a chair. Remember to squat down until your hip joint is lower than your knees. Exhale and push into your feet to return to the starting position. That is one rep. See, it’s simple. 

Pro tip: If you feel as though you may not be squatting deep enough, it’s very likely that you are not, so go ahead, push deeper. You can always record yourself or watch yourself in a mirror to check your form and correct any errors.

Mix It Up With Squat Variations

One of the glorious features of the squat that it is a great exercise by itself, but when you add free weights such as dumbbells or a barbell, it can do even more greatness for the body! For this reason, we highly recommend mixing up your exercises by training with multiple squat variations. Below you will find how to perform some of our favorite squat variations:

Barbell Back Squat

As we mentioned just a moment ago, this is the most known version of a squat throughout the fitness industry. To perform a barbell back squat, begin facing the bar. Step under the bar and place your hands on both sides of you. The width of your grip will vary based on your flexibility.

The main objective is that you do what feels best for you and work towards achieving a narrower grip as you progress.  With the weight of the barbell resting on your shoulders, stand with your feet slightly more than hip-width apart and your toes pointing outward just a tad.

Continue by engaging your core and glutes to lower your butt down into your (deep) squatting position and powerfully, yet slowly, return to standing. That completes one rep. 

Goblet Squat

To perform a Goblet Squat, you will need a dumbbell. Begin by standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and holding the dumbbell vertically (as if you are drinking out of a goblet, get it?).

Proceed to hold the dumbbell at chest level as you lower into your squat (remember, you can probably squat lower than you think you can). Breathe and return to your starting position. That completes your first rep. Note: This exercise can also be done using a kettlebell.

Athletic woman doing squats on box as part of exercise routine

Box Squat

If you are having trouble sinking deep into your squat, the box squat is a great way to help you deepen your squat. It is equally greater for those who have bad knees or can’t perform a squat without knee or back pain. First, you will need a box or a chair that is the appropriate height.

You need to be able to sit on it so that you are parallel with the floor. Milk crates are usually great for this! Typically, the lower the box, the more it will help you. Once you have found the perfect box, stand with the box behind you. The box should be close enough for you to actually sit on it without falling backward.

Proceed with a bodyweight or dumbbell squat until your butt touches the box. As soon as you reach the box, drive into the ground with your heels and squeeze the core to return to your starting position. That is all it takes for one repetition.

When it comes to determining how many repetitions you should complete, the number you decide on should be based on your fitness goals. If you are training for endurance, aim for 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps. On the other hand, if your main fitness goal is to build muscle, choose to perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.

Lastly, for those who are into strength training, keep your reps shorter (2-4 sets of 6-8 reps) but use heavier weights to build up your strength.

When Do You Add More Weight?

Regardless of your workout plan, you will eventually reach a plateau. In order to overcome this dreaded plateau, follow the “2 by 2 rule.” The 2 by 2 rule means if you can execute 2 additional reps of squats per set for 2 sessions you are ready to increase how much you squat.

When it comes to increasing how much you lift, most bodybuilders and fitness trainers recommend increasing by 5-10 percent. Again, the percentages are just estimates so use your best judgement when making changes to your routine or the equipment you use.

Remember to avoid anything that is too strenuous as it can very quickly lead to injury.

How Much Can YOU Squat?

Now that you know the many benefits of performing squats, how to properly perform a few different versions of a squat (with good form), and how to calculate how much you should be able to weigh, take a moment to tell us how much can you squat?

As usual, when performing any exercise, it is always vital that you are hydrated and take the proper supplements to get the best, healthy results. Talk to you soon over on the ‘Gram!