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March 09, 2023 10 min read

If you're looking for an effective and easy way to get in a good workout, air squats may be just the exercise for you. Not only do air squats require no equipment, but they can also provide a variety of health benefits for overall wellness.

In this article, we'll explain how to do air squats, discuss the benefits of incorporating them into your fitness routine, and provide some tips to help you get the most out of this simple exercise.

So, whether you're new to exercise or a seasoned pro, read on to learn more about air squats and how to incorporate them into your workout!

Research has demonstrated that doing bodyweight squats can boost the power, strength, and stamina of the lower body muscles. Furthermore, this type of exercise can increase core strength, reduce the risk of injury, and improve mobility.

What's more, you can do it anywhere since no equipment is necessary.

It is essential to be aware of the biomechanics, good technique, and advantages of doing bodyweight exercises like air squats if you want to achieve your fitness objectives and move on to weighted squats.

Muscles Targeted by Air Squats

Air squats are a multi-joint and multi-muscle exercise. Squats work almost all the muscles in your lower body in a short amount of time, as well as being a functional exercise.

Air Squat Muscles Targeted - Image from Shutterstock

The primary muscles activated during air squats are:

1. Core

The muscles of the midsection, collectively referred to as the core, offer support and stability to the lower back while performing air squats. Since these squats are done without any weights, the involvement of the core is limited. Key muscles in the core include the rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, and erector spinae.

2. Hamstrings

Located at the back of your thighs, the hamstrings are composed of three muscles: the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris. These muscles assist in flexing the knees and extending the hips, while also becoming more engaged with deeper air squat movements.

3. Quadriceps

The quads, located on the front of your thighs, are the muscles you'll likely feel most when doing air squats. They are responsible for straightening your legs and are composed of four muscles: the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris.

4. Gastrocnemius and Soleus

The triceps surae, which are composed of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, are commonly referred to as the calves. When performing air squats, these muscles assist in providing stability at the ankles.

5. Gluteus Maximus

The glutes, or gluteus maximus, is the biggest muscle in the human body. Working alongside the hamstring muscles, the glutes help extend the hips. Essentially, the glutes are the muscles that make up the buttocks. To activate this muscle group, doing deep air squats is a great exercise.

6. Adductors

The three adductor muscles—the adductor longus, brevis, and magnus—are situated on the inner side of your thighs. These muscles are responsible for moving your legs inward toward the midline of your body. When doing air squats, the adductors work to prevent the knees from going in an outward direction.

7. Abductors

The abductor muscles, which consist of the gluteus medius, minimus, and tensor fascia latae, help move your leg away from the middle of your body. These muscles are situated on the outer regions of your hips and thighs. When doing air squats, the abductors work to keep the knees from collapsing inward.

Benefits of Air Squats

Air squats are an effective and versatile exercise that can benefit your overall health and fitness. It is a functional exercise for day-to-day body movement patterns. They are a great way to increase strength and stability in your lower body, as well as improve flexibility and range of motion.

The air squat is one of the best functional movements that you can use to increase your mobility and increase your strength.

Here are some more key benefits of incorporating air squats into your workout routine:

  • Improve overall strength: Air squats target the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles, helping to build strength throughout the entire body.

  • Improve balance and coordination: Air squats require balance and coordination to maintain proper form, making them a great way to improve these skills.

  • Improve flexibility: Air squats are a great way to increase flexibility in the hips, hamstrings, and other lower body muscles.

  • Increase range of motion: Air squats help to increase the range of motion in the hips, knees, and ankles, helping to improve mobility and reduce the risk of injury.

  • Improve posture: Regularly performing air squats can help to improve posture by strengthening the core muscles, which are essential for proper posture.

  • Burn calories: Air squats can help to burn calories, which can help with weight loss and overall health.

  • Low-impact exercise: Air squats are low-impact, which makes them a great option for people who may not be able to do more intense exercises.

Proper Form for Air Squats

Maintaining proper form when doing an air squat is essential, as an incorrect technique could lead to knee or back discomfort. Even though this exercise does not require the use of weights, it is vital to maintain the correct form. Performing a squat with improper form can cause knee or back pain.

To maintain proper squat form throughout the entirety of the exercise, keep these cues in mind:

  • Squeeze Your Core: When doing any exercise, such as a back squat, tense your abdominal muscles as if someone were aiming to land a punch in your gut. This will take the pressure off your lower back, reducing the risk of injury.

  • Roll Your Shoulders Back and Down: To get into the correct posture for a squat, your upper body plays a significant role. Start by shrugging your shoulders up toward your ears. Then, push your shoulder blades back, as if you were pressing them against a wall, and finally, let them drop as far as possible. Make sure to keep your chest pushed out, avoiding any hunching forward, which can lead to potential back injuries.

  • Keep Your Knees Pointed Outward: Avoid letting your knees cave inwards when in an air squat position. As you move from a squat to a standing posture, make sure your glutes are activated and your knees are facing outwards to prevent any knee pain.

  • Fully engage your glutes: Activate your glutes to help avoid your knees from sagging inwards. If it is difficult for you to activate your glutes, try doing glute activation such as lunges as part of your warm-up before doing air squats. Exercises like glute bridges and clamshells can help ensure your glutes stay engaged during the whole workout.

How to Do Air Squats

Air squats have three distinct phases, starting position, descent, and ascent, each requiring specific motions.

Starting Position:

  • 1. Stand with your toes turned outward and your feet shoulder-width apart.

  • 2. Lift your chest, brace your abs, and fix your gaze straight ahead.

The Descent

  1. Put your weight on your heels and bend your knees, then push your hips back.

  2. Move down until your thighs are nearly parallel to the ground.

  3. Ensure your hips are a bit lower than the tops of your knees.

  4. Make sure you don't hunch your lower back or let your knees drift inwards; instead, keep them in line and behind your toes.

The Ascent

  1. Extend your knees and hips simultaneously to rise to a standing position.

  2. Make sure your hips do not move too quickly for your butt and shoulders.

  3. Return to the original stance and repeat.

Mastering the correct form for squats takes patience and repetition, and should be done before attempting to add weight like kettlebells or dumbbells.

Air Squats Workout

  • If you are just starting out, do 4 sets of 5 to 8 repetitions each, 3 times per week.

  • If you have more experience, aim for 4 sets of 9 to 16 reps each, 3 times per week.

  • If you are an advanced athlete, aim for 4 sets of 17 or more reps each, 3 times per week.

  • You should hit these goals after 2 to 4 weeks, and then you’ll be ready to move on to more difficult variations like goblet squats or adding a barbell or dumbbells to your squats.

The air squat is a great place to start, and you will see results quickly.

Air Squat Form - Image from Shutterstock

Common Squat Mistakes

Air squats are a great ingredient for strength training, improving posture, and boosting overall fitness. However, like any exercise, the key to getting the most out of air squats is doing them properly.

Below is a list of common mistakes that should be avoided when doing air squats:

  • Not keeping the chest up

  • Not pushing the hips back at the start of the squat

  • Not keeping the weight on the heels

  • Not going low enough in the squat

  • Allowing the knees to cave inward

  • Not pushing the knees out

  • Not engaging the core

  • Not keeping your feet flat on the ground

  • Not keeping your back straight

  • Not controlling the tempo of the squat

Avoiding these mistakes will significantly reduce injury risks.

Air Squats Variations for Leg Workout Days

Squats are an essential exercise for building strength and muscle, and an air squat is a great way to get started. This list will provide some variations to help mix up your routine and keep your workouts interesting. All of these variations are designed to help you target different parts of the body and work on your overall balance and coordination.

Sumo Squat

For a sumo squat, spread your feet double your hip width, and make sure your feet point outward and your torso stays upright. This stance helps you to target the hips and inner thighs.

Eccentric Squat

To make your body-weight squats more challenging, move more slowly on the way down, taking four counts to lower yourself toward the ground. Once you reach the bottom, pause briefly, then use one second to move back to a standing position.

Isometric Squat

This squat variation requires you to hold the bottom (most challenging) part of the squat. Hold this position for 15 seconds before standing up and as you become more comfortable, increase the duration of the hold to 30 seconds or a minute.

Prisoner Squat

Doing air squats with your hands behind your head, also known as prisoner squats, provides an extra challenge to the lower-body exercise. This variation may be more difficult than expected.

Jump Squat

To perform a jump squat, start in a normal squat position, then propel yourself off the ground with a powerful push of your feet. As you land, go straight into your next squat. Swinging your arms as you jump will help to generate momentum.

5 Ways to Make Air Squats More Challenging

Bodyweight squats can be adapted according to your fitness capabilities. Here are five methods to make an air squat more difficult, without adding weight.

1. Add a Hold or a Pause

Adding a static hold at the end of an air squat can help target several muscles, such as the quads and glutes. An isometric exercise is one where the muscles contract without moving the joints. Incorporating an isometric move into an exercise can make it more difficult by tiring out the muscles.

2. Add Instability

If you have access to a Bosu balance ball, you can make air squats more difficult by standing on the ball. This will take the exercise from being a lower body activity to a balancing act. To ensure you don't fall over, you will have to fully engage your glutes and abdominal muscles.

3. Use a Single Leg

A single-leg squat, also known as a pistol squat, offers a great challenge to your body. You must activate your core to maintain balance as your whole weight is supported by a single leg, increasing the intensity of the exercise compared to a regular bodyweight squat. Moreover, this variation of the squat targets your glutes and hamstrings more efficiently, increasing the amount of muscle recruitment.

4. Add a Jump or Hop

To increase the intensity of a bodyweight exercise, try adding a hop or jump at the peak of the movement. This will not only raise your heart rate for a cardio workout, but it will also activate your quads for strength building.

5. Add a Resistance Band

A resistance band is a great way to intensify your leg workout. Secure a hip band around your thighs, just above the knee, and do a bodyweight squat. The band will activate your glutes and help you keep your knees pointing outward during the squat.

Recovery Tips After an Air Squat Workout

If you do an intense air squat workout, you will likely experience soreness in your legs the following day. To prevent this, make sure to stretch after the routine.

When you exercise, lactic acid builds up in your muscles, leading to fatigue and soreness. Stretching helps to eliminate this lactic acid and also relaxes the muscles.

It's beneficial to do quad stretches after air squats. This can be done while standing, kneeling, lying on the stomach, or on the side.

Carry out the stretching for 5 to 10 minutes, and use a towel or foam roller for extra assistance.

Additionally, it's important to stay hydrated before, during, and after any workout, as one study found that dehydration can lead to muscle soreness.

Who Shouldn’t Do Air Squats?

Air squats may not be difficult to do, but not everyone can perform them. If you find it difficult to go into a low squat position, because of discomfort in your hip or knee joints, you should not push yourself to do the exercise. This is especially true for people who suffer from sciatica nerve pain. Before attempting the exercise, be sure to consult your doctor.

Before starting an exercise program, it is important to consult your doctor if you have a medical history. Making sure to use the right technique is key to the success and safety of the program, but you may need to adjust the exercises to your individual needs for the best outcome. It is also crucial not to progress to adding additional weights to your squats prematurely.

Conclusion

In conclusion, squat exercises, in particular air squats, can be a great addition to any fitness routine, whether you’re weightlifting or preparing for a field or track event. They are beneficial for lower body strength, improving core strength, and increasing flexibility. When performing air squats, it is important to maintain proper form by keeping the back straight, chest up, and weight in the heels.

Additionally, there are many variations of the air squat that can be used to target specific muscle groups or increase the difficulty of the exercise. With the proper technique and the guidance of a personal trainer, you can use air squats to improve your strength and fitness level, giving them an honorary place in your leg day workouts.

If you're looking for an effective and easy way to get in a good workout, air squats may be just the exercise for you. Not only do air squats require no equipment, but they can also provide a variety of health benefits for overall wellness.

In this article, we'll explain how to do air squats, discuss the benefits of incorporating them into your fitness routine, and provide some tips to help you get the most out of this simple exercise.

So, whether you're new to exercise or a seasoned pro, read on to learn more about air squats and how to incorporate them into your workout!

Research has demonstrated that doing bodyweight squats can boost the power, strength, and stamina of the lower body muscles. Furthermore, this type of exercise can increase core strength, reduce the risk of injury, and improve mobility.

What's more, you can do it anywhere since no equipment is necessary.

It is essential to be aware of the biomechanics, good technique, and advantages of doing bodyweight exercises like air squats if you want to achieve your fitness objectives and move on to weighted squats.

Muscles Targeted by Air Squats

Air squats are a multi-joint and multi-muscle exercise. Squats work almost all the muscles in your lower body in a short amount of time, as well as being a functional exercise.

Air Squat Muscles Targeted - Image from Shutterstock

The primary muscles activated during air squats are:

1. Core

The muscles of the midsection, collectively referred to as the core, offer support and stability to the lower back while performing air squats. Since these squats are done without any weights, the involvement of the core is limited. Key muscles in the core include the rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, and erector spinae.

2. Hamstrings

Located at the back of your thighs, the hamstrings are composed of three muscles: the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris. These muscles assist in flexing the knees and extending the hips, while also becoming more engaged with deeper air squat movements.

3. Quadriceps

The quads, located on the front of your thighs, are the muscles you'll likely feel most when doing air squats. They are responsible for straightening your legs and are composed of four muscles: the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris.

4. Gastrocnemius and Soleus

The triceps surae, which are composed of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, are commonly referred to as the calves. When performing air squats, these muscles assist in providing stability at the ankles.

5. Gluteus Maximus

The glutes, or gluteus maximus, is the biggest muscle in the human body. Working alongside the hamstring muscles, the glutes help extend the hips. Essentially, the glutes are the muscles that make up the buttocks. To activate this muscle group, doing deep air squats is a great exercise.

6. Adductors

The three adductor muscles—the adductor longus, brevis, and magnus—are situated on the inner side of your thighs. These muscles are responsible for moving your legs inward toward the midline of your body. When doing air squats, the adductors work to prevent the knees from going in an outward direction.

7. Abductors

The abductor muscles, which consist of the gluteus medius, minimus, and tensor fascia latae, help move your leg away from the middle of your body. These muscles are situated on the outer regions of your hips and thighs. When doing air squats, the abductors work to keep the knees from collapsing inward.

Benefits of Air Squats

Air squats are an effective and versatile exercise that can benefit your overall health and fitness. It is a functional exercise for day-to-day body movement patterns. They are a great way to increase strength and stability in your lower body, as well as improve flexibility and range of motion.

The air squat is one of the best functional movements that you can use to increase your mobility and increase your strength.

Here are some more key benefits of incorporating air squats into your workout routine:

  • Improve overall strength: Air squats target the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles, helping to build strength throughout the entire body.

  • Improve balance and coordination: Air squats require balance and coordination to maintain proper form, making them a great way to improve these skills.

  • Improve flexibility: Air squats are a great way to increase flexibility in the hips, hamstrings, and other lower body muscles.

  • Increase range of motion: Air squats help to increase the range of motion in the hips, knees, and ankles, helping to improve mobility and reduce the risk of injury.

  • Improve posture: Regularly performing air squats can help to improve posture by strengthening the core muscles, which are essential for proper posture.

  • Burn calories: Air squats can help to burn calories, which can help with weight loss and overall health.

  • Low-impact exercise: Air squats are low-impact, which makes them a great option for people who may not be able to do more intense exercises.

Proper Form for Air Squats

Maintaining proper form when doing an air squat is essential, as an incorrect technique could lead to knee or back discomfort. Even though this exercise does not require the use of weights, it is vital to maintain the correct form. Performing a squat with improper form can cause knee or back pain.

To maintain proper squat form throughout the entirety of the exercise, keep these cues in mind:

  • Squeeze Your Core: When doing any exercise, such as a back squat, tense your abdominal muscles as if someone were aiming to land a punch in your gut. This will take the pressure off your lower back, reducing the risk of injury.

  • Roll Your Shoulders Back and Down: To get into the correct posture for a squat, your upper body plays a significant role. Start by shrugging your shoulders up toward your ears. Then, push your shoulder blades back, as if you were pressing them against a wall, and finally, let them drop as far as possible. Make sure to keep your chest pushed out, avoiding any hunching forward, which can lead to potential back injuries.

  • Keep Your Knees Pointed Outward: Avoid letting your knees cave inwards when in an air squat position. As you move from a squat to a standing posture, make sure your glutes are activated and your knees are facing outwards to prevent any knee pain.

  • Fully engage your glutes: Activate your glutes to help avoid your knees from sagging inwards. If it is difficult for you to activate your glutes, try doing glute activation such as lunges as part of your warm-up before doing air squats. Exercises like glute bridges and clamshells can help ensure your glutes stay engaged during the whole workout.

How to Do Air Squats

Air squats have three distinct phases, starting position, descent, and ascent, each requiring specific motions.

Starting Position:

  • 1. Stand with your toes turned outward and your feet shoulder-width apart.

  • 2. Lift your chest, brace your abs, and fix your gaze straight ahead.

The Descent

  1. Put your weight on your heels and bend your knees, then push your hips back.

  2. Move down until your thighs are nearly parallel to the ground.

  3. Ensure your hips are a bit lower than the tops of your knees.

  4. Make sure you don't hunch your lower back or let your knees drift inwards; instead, keep them in line and behind your toes.

The Ascent

  1. Extend your knees and hips simultaneously to rise to a standing position.

  2. Make sure your hips do not move too quickly for your butt and shoulders.

  3. Return to the original stance and repeat.

Mastering the correct form for squats takes patience and repetition, and should be done before attempting to add weight like kettlebells or dumbbells.

Air Squats Workout

  • If you are just starting out, do 4 sets of 5 to 8 repetitions each, 3 times per week.

  • If you have more experience, aim for 4 sets of 9 to 16 reps each, 3 times per week.

  • If you are an advanced athlete, aim for 4 sets of 17 or more reps each, 3 times per week.

  • You should hit these goals after 2 to 4 weeks, and then you’ll be ready to move on to more difficult variations like goblet squats or adding a barbell or dumbbells to your squats.

The air squat is a great place to start, and you will see results quickly.

Air Squat Form - Image from Shutterstock

Common Squat Mistakes

Air squats are a great ingredient for strength training, improving posture, and boosting overall fitness. However, like any exercise, the key to getting the most out of air squats is doing them properly.

Below is a list of common mistakes that should be avoided when doing air squats:

  • Not keeping the chest up

  • Not pushing the hips back at the start of the squat

  • Not keeping the weight on the heels

  • Not going low enough in the squat

  • Allowing the knees to cave inward

  • Not pushing the knees out

  • Not engaging the core

  • Not keeping your feet flat on the ground

  • Not keeping your back straight

  • Not controlling the tempo of the squat

Avoiding these mistakes will significantly reduce injury risks.

Air Squats Variations for Leg Workout Days

Squats are an essential exercise for building strength and muscle, and an air squat is a great way to get started. This list will provide some variations to help mix up your routine and keep your workouts interesting. All of these variations are designed to help you target different parts of the body and work on your overall balance and coordination.

Sumo Squat

For a sumo squat, spread your feet double your hip width, and make sure your feet point outward and your torso stays upright. This stance helps you to target the hips and inner thighs.

Eccentric Squat

To make your body-weight squats more challenging, move more slowly on the way down, taking four counts to lower yourself toward the ground. Once you reach the bottom, pause briefly, then use one second to move back to a standing position.

Isometric Squat

This squat variation requires you to hold the bottom (most challenging) part of the squat. Hold this position for 15 seconds before standing up and as you become more comfortable, increase the duration of the hold to 30 seconds or a minute.

Prisoner Squat

Doing air squats with your hands behind your head, also known as prisoner squats, provides an extra challenge to the lower-body exercise. This variation may be more difficult than expected.

Jump Squat

To perform a jump squat, start in a normal squat position, then propel yourself off the ground with a powerful push of your feet. As you land, go straight into your next squat. Swinging your arms as you jump will help to generate momentum.

5 Ways to Make Air Squats More Challenging

Bodyweight squats can be adapted according to your fitness capabilities. Here are five methods to make an air squat more difficult, without adding weight.

1. Add a Hold or a Pause

Adding a static hold at the end of an air squat can help target several muscles, such as the quads and glutes. An isometric exercise is one where the muscles contract without moving the joints. Incorporating an isometric move into an exercise can make it more difficult by tiring out the muscles.

2. Add Instability

If you have access to a Bosu balance ball, you can make air squats more difficult by standing on the ball. This will take the exercise from being a lower body activity to a balancing act. To ensure you don't fall over, you will have to fully engage your glutes and abdominal muscles.

3. Use a Single Leg

A single-leg squat, also known as a pistol squat, offers a great challenge to your body. You must activate your core to maintain balance as your whole weight is supported by a single leg, increasing the intensity of the exercise compared to a regular bodyweight squat. Moreover, this variation of the squat targets your glutes and hamstrings more efficiently, increasing the amount of muscle recruitment.

4. Add a Jump or Hop

To increase the intensity of a bodyweight exercise, try adding a hop or jump at the peak of the movement. This will not only raise your heart rate for a cardio workout, but it will also activate your quads for strength building.

5. Add a Resistance Band

A resistance band is a great way to intensify your leg workout. Secure a hip band around your thighs, just above the knee, and do a bodyweight squat. The band will activate your glutes and help you keep your knees pointing outward during the squat.

Recovery Tips After an Air Squat Workout

If you do an intense air squat workout, you will likely experience soreness in your legs the following day. To prevent this, make sure to stretch after the routine.

When you exercise, lactic acid builds up in your muscles, leading to fatigue and soreness. Stretching helps to eliminate this lactic acid and also relaxes the muscles.

It's beneficial to do quad stretches after air squats. This can be done while standing, kneeling, lying on the stomach, or on the side.

Carry out the stretching for 5 to 10 minutes, and use a towel or foam roller for extra assistance.

Additionally, it's important to stay hydrated before, during, and after any workout, as one study found that dehydration can lead to muscle soreness.

Who Shouldn’t Do Air Squats?

Air squats may not be difficult to do, but not everyone can perform them. If you find it difficult to go into a low squat position, because of discomfort in your hip or knee joints, you should not push yourself to do the exercise. This is especially true for people who suffer from sciatica nerve pain. Before attempting the exercise, be sure to consult your doctor.

Before starting an exercise program, it is important to consult your doctor if you have a medical history. Making sure to use the right technique is key to the success and safety of the program, but you may need to adjust the exercises to your individual needs for the best outcome. It is also crucial not to progress to adding additional weights to your squats prematurely.

Conclusion

In conclusion, squat exercises, in particular air squats, can be a great addition to any fitness routine, whether you’re weightlifting or preparing for a field or track event. They are beneficial for lower body strength, improving core strength, and increasing flexibility. When performing air squats, it is important to maintain proper form by keeping the back straight, chest up, and weight in the heels.

Additionally, there are many variations of the air squat that can be used to target specific muscle groups or increase the difficulty of the exercise. With the proper technique and the guidance of a personal trainer, you can use air squats to improve your strength and fitness level, giving them an honorary place in your leg day workouts.