In this blog, I want to address some common squatting flaws (“faults”) I see ALL the time. I’m going to present the top three squat errors I see, and then give you some tips on how to correct them. Let’s dive right in!
Squat Fault #1: Initiating the descent (eccentric portion of the lift) with the knees
You should never initiate the squat with your knees. This puts too much shear force on the knee joint and will eventually lead to injury.
The Fix: You should always start your squat with a slight hip hinge before you start to bring your hips down to proper depth. Also, don’t just throw more weight on the bar for no reason. You need to make sure you can correctly perform the squat movement pattern with the bar before adding weight. So if you need to start with box squats with just the bar, then DO IT. Don’t add weight just because someone tells you to!
Squat Fault #2: Doing the “Stripper Squat”
The “stripper squat” looks like it sounds. During the concentric (positive) part of the squat, the person shoot the hips up and back first, causing the torso to be forced into a more forward lean position. This puts the bar path completely out of place. This type of squatting will always lead to injury down the line, particularly a lower back injury.
Most of the time, the culprit is not a lack of core stability or strength, but rather a balance/coordination issue. When the body fatigues or can’t handle the load, we resort to an unbalanced position in order to get the weight up by any means. This usually means the hips rise too fast (stripper squat).
The Fix: When coming out of the hole during the squat (starting the concentric portion of the lift), ALWAYS make sure your hips and shoulders are rising together. This goes for those who squat high bar and low bar.
When you feel like your hips are rising too fast, think about driving your hips forward under the bar. This should keep your chest from falling forward and keep you in a balanced position to help you create the most strength and power.
A good exercise to help correct this is the “1½ squats.” This means performing a squat to depth, then coming up about halfway, going back into the bottom of the squat, and finishing by performing the full concentric part of the squat. Make sure you have proper technique as discussed above!
Squat Fault #3: Doing the “Instagram Model Squat” (excessive anterior pelvic tilt)
The “Instagram model squat” involves a hyper-extended lower back position throughout the lift. The person looks as if she’s trying to push her butt out as far as possible when attempting to do the squat; this basically means an exaggerated anterior pelvic tilt.
This type of squatting error places harmful forces on the muscles and structures of the lower back and will eventually lead to injury. This position actually can make you more prone to cave your knees during the squat as well.
The Fix: Make sure you always have a braced, neutral spine. I have a breathing and bracing blog up if you need a refresher on that (read the article here). If you brace your core properly, you won’t be able to hyper-extend the lower back, and your entire core should feel solid. A small arch in the lower back is not dangerous, but it’s important that it’s not excessive.
You can video tape yourself squatting from the side to see how well you maintain a braced core position. I also like to add in 20-second plank intervals as part of my warm-up to turn on those deep core muscles in preparation for squatting.
Another reason why the excessive anterior pelvic tilt happens is due to tight hip flexors. Tight hip flexors can shut off your glutes, causing you to rely on the lower back to lift the weight. Make sure to stretch the hip flexors every day – (refer to my hip mobility articles: Hip Pointers Part 1 and Part 2 – and do some light glute activation exercises before you squat as well.
Bonus Tip! When you squat, you should NOT be following a set of “rules.” There’s no set rule for bar position, feet width, hip width, toe angle, depth, etc. Every person’s biomechanics are different, with different leverages, so each individual squat will be different.
For example, someone with longer legs will have a more inclined chest to keep the bar path over the middle of the foot for proper stability, whereas someone with shorter legs would have a more upright torso.
Ever heard someone say, “Don’t let your knees go past your toes during the squat?” Well, they are 100 percent wrong. It solely depends on the person’s biomechanics and ankle dorsiflexion as to whether the knees will go past the toes during a squat.
If you’re not sure if you’re doing your squat properly, hire a coach. I highly suggest you hire someone who either has a degree in exercise science (or something related) or someone with an advanced degree (such as a CSCS) who also has experience coaching.
Happy squatting, JYM Girls!