How to Do a Mini Squat: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a mini squat to help with lower body strength and balance, plus modifications to make it easier or harder.

Published Date: Aug 30, 2023
Table of Contents

Think that squats are an exercise reserved for higher-intensity workouts? Guess again. It’s true that you can make squats more challenging by adding heavy weights or trying a “deep” version. But no matter your fitness level, squatting can be a very effective way to build strength and manage joint pain. The mini squat, in particular, can be a great “movement snack” to incorporate into your day. 

Here, learn more about the benefits of mini squats, plus how you can modify this functional exercise to meet your needs. 

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Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

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What Is a Mini Squat?

A mini squat, also referred to as a partial squat or half squat, is a modified version of the traditional squat exercise. Instead of lowering your body all the way down until your thighs are parallel to the ground (as in a full squat), you only go part of the way down in a mini squat.

What Muscles Does the Mini Squat Work? 

Similar to a full squat, the mini squat primarily targets the muscles of the lower body, including the: 

  • Quadriceps, which are located on the front of the thigh. These muscles are responsible for extending your knee. When you rise from the mini squat position, your quadriceps are actively engaged.

  • Hamstrings, which are at the back of the thigh. These muscles play a role in bending your knee and extending your hip joint. They work in conjunction with the quadriceps to provide stability when you squat and do similar movements in daily life (like sitting down in a chair). 

  • Glutes, or butt muscles. The gluteus maximus in particular helps with hip extension. As you stand up from the squat, your glutes are actively engaged.

  • Adductors, or inner thigh muscles. These muscles help stabilize your legs and control the movement of your thighs toward the midline of your body.

  • Erector spinae (lower back). While these muscles aren't the primary movers in a squat, they play a crucial role in stabilizing your spine and maintaining an upright posture.

  • Core muscles (including the rectus abdominis and obliques). Just like the erector spinae, these muscles aren't the primary movers but are essential for stabilizing the spine and maintaining balance.

  • Calves (gastrocnemius and soleus). These assist in stabilizing the ankle joint during the squat movement.

The range and depth of the mini squat can influence which muscles are activated to a greater degree. For instance, a shallower squat might emphasize the quadriceps more, while going slightly deeper (though still not a full squat) could involve the glutes and hamstrings more prominently. Regardless of how deep you squat, this exercise can be very beneficial to the muscles of your lower body. 

Mini Squat Benefits

Squatting is a fundamental human movement. You squat when you sit down in a chair, pick something up from the ground, or lower yourself to interact with a child or pet. Strengthening the muscles involved in the squatting motion through mini squats makes these daily activities easier and more efficient.

Mini squats can help maintain and even improve the range of motion in your hips, knees, and ankles and also lubricate your joints for easier movement. Better joint mobility can aid in movements like climbing stairs, getting in and out of a car, and transitioning from sitting to standing. 

Squats can also help improve balance because they engage stabilizer muscles in the legs and core. This can enhance balance and coordination, which is especially beneficial for older adults or those at risk of falls.

Incorporating mini squats into a regular movement routine can ensure that the muscles and joints associated with squatting motions are conditioned and ready for the various tasks we encounter daily. Whether it's lifting groceries, playing with children, or simply transitioning from sitting to standing, the benefits of mini squats can make these activities easier and safer.

Mini Squat: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Mini Squat

Mini Squat

Mini Squat

Mini Squat

To do a mini squat: 

  • Start by standing with your feet a comfortable distance apart. 

  • Move your hips back while slightly bending your knees, as if you are just starting to sit into a chair. 

  • Squeeze your thigh muscles as you hold this position. 

  • Push through your feet to return to a standing position. 

  • You may feel your thigh, leg, and hip muscles working with each rep you do. 

Mini Squat Modifications

Mini Squat Modifications

Mini Squat Modifications

Mini Squat Modifications

To make a mini squat easier:  

  • Place your hands on a table while you squat for more support. 

  • You can also adjust your range of motion so you limit how far down you squat.  

To make a mini squat harder: 

  • Increase your range of motion, bending through your knees more to move deeper into the squat. 

  • You could also hold weight, such as dumbbells, a stack of books, or a gallon of water, while performing the mini squat. 

You can apply one of the above modifications to make the exercise easier or harder, or multiple modifications at once. 

How Hinge Health Can Help 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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  1. Yoshiko, A., & Watanabe, K. (2021). Impact of home-based squat training with two-depths on lower limb muscle parameters and physical functional tests in older adults. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 6855. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-86030-7

  2. Myer, G. D., Kushner, A. M., Brent, J. L., Schoenfeld, B. J., Hugentobler, J., Lloyd, R. S., Vermeil, A., Chu, D. A., Harbin, J., & McGill, S. M. (2014). The Back Squat. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 36(6), 4–27. doi:10.1519/ssc.0000000000000103

  3. Takai, Y., Fukunaga, Y., Fujita, E., Mori, H., Yoshimoto, T., Yamamoto, M., & Kanehisa, H. (2013). Effects of body mass-based squat training in adolescent boys. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 12(1), 60-65.