Squatting is a great exercise for building strength and muscle. It requires a strong core, good mobility at the hips and ankles, and a lot of focus on proper form.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to squatting, but there are some common mistakes that can prevent you from getting the most out of this move.
1. Keep Your Knees in Line With Your Feet
Keeping your knees in line with your feet is one of the most crucial tips for perfect squats. This is especially true for barbell squats.
As you lower the barbell, the load is directly over your hips and knees, which means there’s little shear force. But as your knees move forward past your toes, the horizontal distance between your knee and the barbell increases, which results in increased shear force on your hips.
This is why many people say that your knees shouldn’t go over your toes during a squat, and it has even been used as a general rule for group exercise.
The truth is that squatting with your knees over your toes can be dangerous, especially if you have a lack of mobility or are suffering from an injury or other limitation. So it’s best to save these cues for athletes who are already conditioned to squat and are taking precautions by getting expert instruction and practicing the exercise in a safe and progressive manner.
2. Keep Your Hips Sitted Back
Keeping your hips satted back will help you maintain an optimal seat position. This is important when squatting down.
It’s also important to keep your weight in your heels while you’re squatting down. This helps you avoid tipping forward, which can lead to an imbalanced movement pattern or even injury.
If you’re looking to get a good feeling for how far your weight can sink into your heels, try standing with the balls of your feet on a curb or step. You may find that you’re able to sink a bit further than you think you can, but aim to add a little more each day.
Long stretches of time sitting can constrict your hip flexors, so it’s crucial to stretch them out on the reg to help you perform all your activities and exercise goals. Luckily, there are plenty of seated hip stretches you can do without having to leave your chair.
3. Keep Your Weight in Your Heels
Squatting is one of the most important exercises you can do for your lower body, so it’s a good idea to make sure your form is as perfect as possible. And one of the most common mistakes people make in this movement is shifting their weight onto their toes instead of squatting on their heels.
The reason people shift their weight is often because they’re trying to keep their heels on the ground but aren’t squatting down deep enough to get into a proper squat position. But if you’re struggling with this, there are a few quick tricks to try.
First, flaring your toes is a great way to help lessen the angle that your ankle needs to go through while squatting. Next, work on your calf flexibility. Finally, start incorporating static stretching into your routine. These simple tricks will make a huge difference in your ability to have great squats.
4. Breathe Deep
Breathing deeply during squats is a crucial step that can help you stay safe and effective throughout the exercise. When you breathe deeply, you create intra-abdominal pressure and create stiffness and strength in your torso.
To breathe deeply during squats, you should take in a deep breath before lowering down to the ground, and then exhale forcefully as you push up from the bottom of the rep. This technique will keep your core stable and prevent side stitches, which are a common injury during squats, according to kinesiologist Dean Somerset, C.S.C.S.
Performing squats with the proper breathing technique can also help you avoid hernias. Squat University recommends holding your breath during the downward movement of a squat, and then exhaling only when you’re fully upright, but it’s best used for sets of five reps or fewer.
5. Keep Your Arms Straight
Keeping your arms straight is a must for perfect squats. It’s a simple way to help you keep your chest up, which helps prevent your upper back from rounding.
It also keeps your wrists straight, which prevents wrist pain and elbow pain on Squats.
You can achieve this by squeezing your shoulder blades and raising your chest before you unrack the bar.
Once you’ve done that, take a big breath before you Squat down and keep it tight.
This will keep your upper back from rounding and you won’t lean forward like you usually do.
This is also an important tip for Squats because your thighs need to be low enough to break parallel. If your thighs are parallel to the floor, they’re not low enough and you won’t get down deep enough.
6. Keep Your Back Straight
Keeping your back straight is a must for perfect squats. This helps keep your spine in a neutral position and prevents back pain from developing.
If you’re hunched over for long periods of time, such as when you work at a desk, this can be detrimental to your back. Instead, sit with your knees and hips level on the ground or use a footrest to support your body when you’re seated.
When you’re squatting, bend your knees and hips at the same time, not just the knees. This will help your lower back stay neutral while breaking parallel and building strength.
7. Don’t Lock Your Knees
Squatting with your knees locked out can place too much stress on your knee joints. This can cause damage to your cartilage or ligaments and can lead to injury.
While some people are comfortable with locking their knees while squatting, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before making this decision. This is especially true if you have knee pain or joint problems.
Locking your knees during squats can also make it difficult to maintain proper form, which may cause you to slip or fall. Additionally, it can put unnecessary stress on your back and hips, which can lead to injury.
To prevent this, try to keep your knees stacked over your ankles instead of extending them beyond your toes. This will help minimize any issues with your lower back and hips, says Giamo.