Can you pass the squat test?

Before you load squats with barbells, kettlebells, or other tools, it’s important to assess form and mobility.

After all, when you perform the squat incorrectly, it shifts more of the workload to your knees. “Ninety percent of the people who feel pain during squats have mobility issues,” says Justin Jacobs, London-based Tier X program manager for the U.K. “Because we don’t move as much as we age, we become stiff in our ankles and hips and wobbly in the spine, which makes it tough to squat properly.”

To pinpoint mobility restrictions and eventually challenge your body with weighted squats, you need to pass this test, Jacobs says.

The Squat Test

Stand with your feet just wider than shoulder-width, toes turned slightly out. Bend your elbows and clasp your hands in front of your chest. Keeping your back neutral, chest up, core braced, and weight in your heels, sit back and bend your knees until thighs are just below parallel to the floor. Pause, then rise up to the starting position.

If you were able to squat that low without your knees caving in toward each other, you’re cleared to do externally loaded squats. If not, work on this basic movement, and exercises two through four in this workout, before adding weight.