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Photo: Instagram/@theashleygraham

More and more ladies have been taking over the weight room at the gym, and for good reason: Lifting heavy weights not only creates a toned body with shape and definition but also prevents osteoporosis, reduces pain, and even helps fight depression. The only problem? It can be a tiny bit (okay, very!) intimidating to start the habit.

Model Ashley Graham recently took to Instagram to show off her box squats—which is part of her impressive weight-lifting workout—at New York City’s the DogPound in a session with her trainer, Dara Hart—and you can channel her powerful vibes too. You just have to start slow, Hart said.

⛓🏋🏻‍♀️⛓ @dara__hart @dogpound @alala @enellsportsbras

A post shared by A S H L E Y G R A H A M (@theashleygraham) on

To (eventually!) get on Graham’s level, Hart told me your first step should be perfecting the box squat: “Squatting, sitting down, and standing up again is a foundational movement that we all do,” she said, adding that it’s best to start with a simple routine and then add on as you start to feel comfortable.

“So many people jump into more advanced exercises or workouts without taking their own bodies, limitations, or imbalances in consideration. Knowing and practicing good form is important to ensure safe training and optimal benefits.” —Dara Hart, the DogPound trainer

While the benefits of using heavy weights are known, nothing comes before safety—and building a foundation of muscle and proper form is a totally necessary prerequisite to lifting the big stuff. “So many people jump into more advanced exercises or workouts without taking their own bodies, limitations, or imbalances in consideration,” Hart said. “Before clients start advancing and adding weight to their squat, we make sure they have created a solid foundation to work and build upon.”

First, start with bodyweight-only box squats: Sit to stand, then stand to sit. Then add weight—your dog could work!—and sit to stand, then stand to sit. Last, advance to the barbell—AKA back squats—like Graham is doing in the video above. (FYI: She’s using a safety squat bar, which is more comfortable and easier to hold onto, Hart said.)

Once you conquer correctly doing the most challenging version of the box squat, Hart says it’s time to advance in your heavy weight-lifting routine. So grab a friend, hit the gym, and tell the boys to step aside.

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