How to Do Air Squats » The Complete Guide

How to Air Squat

Get the lowdown on air squats

Air squats are also known as bodyweight squats and are common in a number of training programs and workout routines, like CrossFit. They differ from other types of squats because you are using just your bodyweight to perform them, no other additional weights. It works out all kinds of muscles but especially is great for your glutes and your thighs. Have an air squat routine included in your leg workout and you will soon notice improvement. They are easy enough to learn and master, if you pay attention to the details. Whether you are using air squat CrossFit to specifically work on your glutes or you just want to improve your strength and endurance in the muscles in those areas, air squats are great.

An additional bonus to air squats over those with weights is that you can do an air squat workout at home too. From children to seniors the squat movement is one we use in everyday life too, it is not just about working out. Lifting boxes or heavy items, picking up your child, getting your food shopping and more. To be able to squat correctly and safely is useful for more than air squat CrossFit gym routines. It can help you in everyday life to avoid injury and to be healthy and free from pain.

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What are air squats

What are air squats?

If you want to know more about what air squats are then here is an outline. These are especially good for beginners working out the quadriceps, glutes and from there you can move on to more complex squat types and other leg exercises. They are great for building your core strength and for improving your balance. When considering what are air squats they are essentially a great place to build your core and lower body strength from.

The basic air squat has you with your feet shoulder-width apart with toes pointing straight out. As you squat down your hips should move down and back while still maintaining your lumbar curve, and keeping your heels flat on the floor. As your hips descend, they go lower than your knees. This is not always the case with a weighted squat. Then you have to go as low as you can while maintaining the proper form which may or may not go lower than the knees. Then, you have the rising motion where you drive up pushing through your heels and using your glutes to move back into your standing or beginning position.

Air Squat Benefits Explained

Air squat benefits

There are so many benefits of air squats being included in your exercise routine whether you are including weight training as part of that workout or not. When you have mastered air squats you can move on to weighted squats with less chance of injury and with less time needed to learn the correct form. Some of the air squats exercise benefits are included below;

  • Building a solid strength foundation especially in your lower body.
  • Improving your balance which is great for all kinds of exercises.
  • Working on your glutes, thighs, hamstrings and quadriceps in particular and adding muscle mass.
  • Better engaging your core.
  • Making your legs more powerful means you do better at other strength-based exercises but the benefits of air squats means they also increase the power behind your cardio workouts too.
  • Air squats are also perfect for weight loss or fat burning. But as usual it should be combined with a healthy CrossFit diet if weight loss is your goal.

You can soon see these benefits of 10 air squats a day just make sure you are not experiencing any pain when you do them and if you feel lightheaded or dizzy, then stop.

How to air squat properly – Step by step guide

How to Air Squat Properly

Before you start doing any air squats make sure you have warmed up correctly. It is also a good idea to have a trainer help you learn them, so they can watch you for your form and help you do it right and avoid injury. Here is an easy-to-follow guide on how to air squat properly;

  1. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and stand so that your toes point just slightly out but mostly straight.
  2. Pull your shoulder blades together a little so your chest pushes out and prepare your core muscles. To keep your chest lifted, fix your eyes on a point directly before you.
  3. Think of it as if you are about to sit down. So squat back and make sure your heels stay flat and your weight is on them not forwards. If you find you are pitching forwards it is because your weight is not back on your heels enough.
  4. You do not want your knees to go past your toes. As you move your hips should move down and then back when you are looking at how to air squat.
  5. You should still have a curve on your lower back, it should not be rounded, and your hips should come down lower than your knees. Eventually, you will be able to have the back of your calves touch your glutes. In how to do air squats your upper body stays still and the lower body does the work.
  6. Hold this position for several seconds then lift up, pushing through your heels and using your glutes to move back to your starting point.

Your glutes and thighs are doing the work. If you feel pain anywhere else, then your form is not right. When learning how to air squat properly have a coach or trainer help you. It is easier to learn the right way from the start than having to unlearn bad habits.

Air squat CrossFit YouTube

If you are looking for an air squat video take a look here to see what it looks like when you do it right.

Keep in mind there are times when you should not try air squats, if you have sciatica, for example, you should certainly talk to your physio first.

Why air squat form is important

It is very important to follow the correct air squat form. The proper form means you are able to perform air squats safely without injury. Incorrect form means that injury is a lot more likely and that can impact not just your squats but the rest of your workout as well as your daily life. It is estimated that a well-performed squat actually uses over 200 muscles in the body working together. With the right air squat form, you can even change the range of motion and use them in a rehabilitation scenario.

  1. If you have knee joint pain when you are trying to achieve the proper air squat form then you are likely going too far down or that form is not quite right. Knee pain is very often from putting more weight forwards on your toes rather than back on your heels where it is meant to be.
  2. If you have pain in your feet this could be from not having your feet at the right angle. Point them forwards then move to a slight angle. It is that slight angle that people forget and can lead to pain.
  3. If you have back pain you do not have the correct air squat form, probably your chest is leaning forwards too much as you perform each squat. This then puts a strain on your lower back.

Remember to give yourself at least one day a week where you take a break from squats and give those muscles a chance to heal.

The lowdown on air squat technique
As mentioned there is a proper technique or form to use when you are doing air squats. This is true of all exercises, and what is also true is that to get the full health benefits, and to avoid injury learning that technique is essential. Taking shortcuts is not a good idea. Key points to the correct air squat technique are;

  • At your starting position you should have your arms extended, your feet shoulder-width apart, your feet straight out and then at a very slight angle and your eyes looking straight ahead.
  • As you lower down your arms should stay straight, air squat technique for back free injuries means not leaning forwards, feet stay in position with heels on the ground and knees stay in line with your feet.
  • Follow the proper air squats technique video displayed above for guidance and talk to an expert trainer.

Air squats vs squats: What’s the difference?

Looking at the difference between air squats and squats it really comes down to the fact that with air squats there are no weights. Often a beginner to squats, whether as part of CrossFit or another workout routine, starts with air squats and then moves on to the more complex and different weighted ones. As you look to make your workout more intense, air squats might not be enough. It does not mean that air squats become completely redundant, you or your trainer might want to look at introducing more challenging squats with weights.

Before you start looking at air squats vs squats make sure you have the best technique and form covered. As the saying goes ‘do not run before you can walk’! Squats are great for building power in your legs, you can jump higher, run further and faster, improve your mobility, strengthen your core and reduce problems with joint pain. The difference between air squats and squats with no equipment needed means you can better include them in your workouts at home.

Other types of squats explained

You likely are now more aware of how squats are great for building up lower body strength. But there are different kinds of squats to play with once you have the basics, so here are some of those options and what they look like.

  • Goblet squat – Great for beginners moving on from the air squat this involves holding a kettlebell to your chest as you squat.
  • Zercher squat – Holding a barbell in the crook of your elbow and then doing your squats is a Zercher squat. It challenges you because you have weight to support without it causing you to stoop or lean over. Start light first and build up to a heavier weight!
  • Barbell front squat – The barbell is held on your shoulders. Round your shoulders first then shrug them to create a shelf for the bar.
  • Overhead squat – The overhead is a tricky squat so make sure you are properly ready for it otherwise it can lead to injuries. It is a move weightlifters need to learn though holding the bar overhead as you squat.
  • Pistol Squat – This squat requires good leg strength as you need to balance in a crouch on one leg with arms and the other leg stretched out in front to keep your balance. Starting out it is a good idea to use a bench to help until you are ready to move on. You can also add weight to make it more challenging once you have it mastered.
  • Jumping squat – If you do a squat and then jump off the ground that is a jumping squat. If you do a squat and then jump but also spin and land facing the other direction that is a 180 squat jump.
  • Dumbbell squat – Do a regular air squat but hold one or two dumbbells too.

What muscles do air squats work

A large number of muscles are activated when looking at what does air squats work. You will feel it most in your glutes and your thighs. If you are looking to tone up and power up in those areas, then these air squats are going to really help. If you are feeling strain or pain in your knees, back, or even feet, that is a sign not of those muscles being worked but that your form needs working on. As well as considering air squats muscles worked there is also the fact that it improves the core and boosts your flexibility, your endurance, and your circulatory system too.

Who holds the air squat world record?

If you are looking at who did the most squats in one hour and holds the squat record it is Joe Reverdes from the US and he did 25,000! If you are looking at the squat record for most in one minute then for men that is Ben Gerard with 49 squats and Kara Webb at 42 squats.

Air Squat World Record
Image: Joe Reverdes

Beginners guide on air squats with weights

Squatting works multiple muscles in one exercise. Body weight air squats are your beginning squat to learn and master. You can work on your mobility, your flexibility, your strength and increase your metabolic rate. Weight air squats are where you go on from there as you add in squat variations. The key is to find the right variations to start with. Avoid starting with too much weight, avoid anything too complex. You should look at weighted air squats with a trainer so that you do not injure yourself.

There are many different types of air squats with weights, it is not just about carrying a barbell on your back. Just as there is a proper form with your body weight air squats so there is proper form to follow for all the others. Use barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and jumping and turns and more! Work on it two to three times a week and do not go too hard too quickly!

How to air squat safely to avoid injuries

Squats are an important exercise and that movement carries into everyday life as well as improving your performance in sports, CrossFit or any workout. How to air squat safely is covered above in how form is so important, but being safe as you work out is important so it is worth stressing! The best way for a beginner to avoid air squats injury is to find a trainer or coach. If you are at a CrossFit gym like CrossFit Revenant your coach will introduce you to air squats and teaches you how to do them safely. If you need to know how to squat because you want to move on to weight training, again have an expert show you.

If you are not able to get to a gym right now you can look at the guide and the video, but you might also want to look into the option of personal training. As mentioned air squats are great for home because they do not require a lot of gym equipment so you could take this approach to look at how not to air squat.

Remember heels stay flat, knees should not fall inwards, look straight with your chest out, point your feet slightly outwards. Do not add weights or other squats until you have that down every time you squat. When people wonder why air squats is dangerous it is nearly always because they have not learned them properly, or have not maintained the correct form throughout.


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