Wednesday Workout: You Can't Squat With Us!

Squatting is one of the most functional, diverse, and well-known leg exercises, not only working several major muscles in your lower body, but also providing strength and stability to other aspects of the body. With many variations of the squat, from body weight squats to back squats, from goblet squats to pistol squats; each one of these exercises possesses their own benefits. It is the diversity of this exercise, which allows for it to be incorporated into workouts from week to week without feeling as though you have succumbed to the same old routine. If done right, the squat can be your greatest ally.
If done wrong, the consequences can be severe. It is the loss of form or lack of, in some cases, which makes up the majority of mistakes made when squatting. By understanding some of the most basic mistakes made when squatting, the odds of you making those mistakes decreases, while your ability to self-correct increases. Using the body squat as the example, since its form will be very similar to other types of squats; there are several key factors: hips are back, chest and head is up, stomach is drawn in and tight and back is relatively straight, and feet flat.
Here are some of the most common mistakes made when squatting.

1. Knee Positioning

Two of the most common mistakes during a squat involves the positioning of the knee. During a squat, you knees should stay within the plan of your feet. To put it simply, as you squat down you knees should not pass far over your toes (it will slightly go over though) or come over the sides of your feet (where knees are coming together). Many times when your knees pass far over your toes it is due to your hips coming too far forward and not far enough back. Focus on keeping your knees within the boundaries of your feet and your hips back. This will allow for your body weight (and any additional weight) to have a direct path through your feet, alleviating any unnecessary strain on your knees.  It is important to understand that the lower you squat the more forward movement in the knee; If you notice that your knees are passing over your toes, but your hips and back are in good position, then that is ok.

2. Hip Position

The movement of your body during a squat should be similar to sitting in a seat or stool. If your hips are too far forward when you sit in a chair, the odds are you will fall off the chair. The same applies to a squat, but instead of missing your seat and falling, you increase your risk of exercise-induced injury. If you have trouble keeping your hips back while squatting, or find that they come forward the lower you get, then using a chair or a bench would be the best and safest way for you to practice. You can then lower the seat as your form improves, until you have reached your ideal position.

3. Heel Positioning

It is not uncommon for individuals’ heels to lift off the ground as they squat lower. In many cases this is due to poor hip mobility and the inability to keep one’s body weight back, there by compensating and putting their weight into their toes. This can be dangerous especially when lifting heavy weight.  If this is the case, then it may be a good idea to give your heel a little elevation, through the use of a lifting shoe, heel insert, or simply a higher heeled work out shoe.

4. Back Positioning

It is very important to keep a relatively flat back throughout the squat, while still focusing on keeping one’s chest up and stomach tight. There should be a little arch in the lower back, but it is not uncommon for people to extend too much in an attempt to keep their back straight and chest up. This can then lead to pain in the lower back when squatting. The same can be said for rounding the back, causing a slight hunch in the back, this occurs most often when one becomes tired dropping their head and chest.

Scroll through the gallery to see correct form and common mistakes.

Whether you are an experienced lifter or are starting out, it is of the utmost importance to always keep form in mind. For those starting, perfect your form first with a body squat, before moving on to more advanced squats. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you feel you need help, and above all practice, but practice right.

Story & images by fitness instructor Mike Habersaat. Check back every week for more moves to get you looking and feeling fantastic! 

Done with squats? Work on your abs with these physio ball moves that will get you even closer to a six pack!

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