If you really think about it, squats don’t just show up in your workouts; they’re happening all the time in your daily life! Getting up from your bed, sitting in your office chair, getting down to cuddle your dog – it’s all a squat! When it comes to fitness, squats are often called “the king of exercises.”
“It’s a fundamental and functional exercise that strengthens and aids all the muscles,” explains Nikki Kimbrough, one of the top fitness experts in the US and Daily Burn 365 trainer. “It’s not just about your quads and glutes. Squats assist in strengthening your core, and the stronger your core, the better your balance and more power and to your legs and your arms.”
As well as being a foundational move in almost every workout, squats are also commonly done with incorrect form. You could be wasting your time at the gym or even worse, injuring yourself, without even knowing it. Not to worry! We are here to help you get the most out of your squats by avoiding eight seemingly harmless mistakes.
Not reaching proper depth
Many people do not go deep enough into the movement and squat above a parallel position. Keeping squats shallow limits your range of motion, leads to improper leg and glute muscle activation and can cause knee injury. Your aim is to keep your thighs parallel to the ground (or lower) to ensure you have all the right muscles engaged. If you can’t get down that low, focus on improving your hip mobility by relaxing and stretching your hamstrings and glutes.
Don’t allow your knees to go beyond where your toes end. Letting your knees go too far forward in a squat is bad for the joints, and also brings the risk of losing involvement from the hips as you’re favoring knee movement. To make sure you’re sitting back enough, squat using a mirror or try putting your toes up against the wall.
Knees rolling inwards
Always point your knees in the same direction as your toes and never let them collapse in as you squat. It stresses the knees and can damage the ligaments. A great way to support proper form is to place a band just above the knees so your legs will fight against the resistance and activate the correct muscles to keep your knees in alignment.
A lot of people lift their heels when doing a squat. Instead, you should be lowering your weight into your heels, not away from them. Having your heels off the ground puts more strain on joints and knees and increases the chances of hurting your lower back. For a quick fix, curl your toes upward when squatting to force you to place your weight in your heels, or place weight plates under the heels. Also, add some ankle mobility exercises to your warm-up because rising heels could signal tight ankles.
Rounding your back
When sitting back in a squat, it can be tempting to lean forward. However, you should maintain a straight back and a flat, neutral spine. If you round your lower back, you might put dangerous stress on your lumbar spine. Try to do the squat next to a wall. Stand facing the wall with your feet 6-18 inches away from it, place your hands on it, and focus on the position of your back.
Not using your glutes
Make sure that your glutes muscles are engaged when you squat! As you drive up from the bottom of the squat, imagine spreading the ground apart with your feet to activate your glutes and increase your strength. At the finish, squeeze your glutes to completely extend your hips.
Raising your hips too fast
From the bottom of the squat position, many people have a habit to lift their hips faster than their shoulders. This move can stress your lumbar spine as you extend with your lower back. Instead, hips and shoulders should be raised at the same time. Plus, don’t forget to make sure that you’re coming up to your full height and hip extension.
Lack of focus
To maintain proper form, you have to focus, even if it means moving slower at first. Keep your head, neck and spine in a neutral position with your eyes straight ahead. Squatting in front of a mirror and taking a video from the side is an extremely helpful to stay on top of your form.
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