5 Squat Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Take a look at these 5 common mistakes that active people make while doing squats and how you can avoid them next time you work out!

5 Squat Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Photo by Sven Mieke / Unsplash
María Rubio María Rubio
5 min read

When it comes to staple gym exercises for strength training, squats are usually top of the list. This compound movement primarily targets your lower body muscles along with your core, strengthening them and helping you burn a ton of calories simultaneously – and you can make it full-body by adding some weight!

However, just because it’s considered an entry-level exercise doesn’t mean you’ll be able to perform it flawlessly from the get-go. In fact, many intermediate to advanced lifters still struggle to achieve a proper squat form and perform it correctly – but this is crucial if you’re serious about your goals!

To help you get the most out of this killer exercise, we’ll show you how to squat properly by going over some of the most common squat mistakes and how to avoid them. This way, you’ll be able to take your gains to the next level while keeping the risk of injury at a minimum.

Tucking in your pelvis

Also known as butt wink, this common form mistake when you approach the bottom of your squat can mess with your exercise entirely. The butt wink refers to the tucking of the pelvis underneath your torso once you’re in a full squat position, rounding your lower spine in the process.

As you may already know, rounding your spine is a no-no when it comes to strength training, especially if there are weights involved since you’re putting unnecessary stress on a vulnerable area. When you accidentally perform the butt wink, all the tension that’s supposed to be on your legs and core shifts to your lower back, risking an injury.

How to avoid it

Poor ankle mobility is what usually prevents you from driving your knees forward as much as you should, causing your pelvis to tuck in. To fix this, perform ankle mobility exercises such as elevated calf raises and toe-elevated squats, stretch before your workouts, and pay extra attention to your spine to make sure it’s straight at all times.

Another possible cause for this squat mistake is not bracing your core properly as you lower your body. Your core is at the center of your body and it provides you with stability throughout the exercise, so make sure to perform plenty of core strengthening exercises, and check our guide on how to properly engage your core for better workouts!

Raising your hips faster than your shoulders

If you only perform bodyweight squats, then this problem might not sound too familiar, but it can be a common issue for those who perform barbell squats such as back and front squats. Because of the load on your upper body, you might raise your hips faster than your shoulders, which in turn can cause a few issues.

When raising your hips faster as you come up from the squat, you put additional stress on your lumbar area, including your spine. This unnecessary strain on your spine and lower back can make the exercise uncomfortable and eventually result in an injury.

How to avoid it

When performing squats, you need to make sure that you’re raising both your hips and shoulders at the same time in a single motion. If you feel your hips shooting up before your shoulders, consider using a lighter weight that doesn’t restrict your movement too much during this part of the exercise.

This issue can also be caused by weak or disengaged quadriceps, as your quads play a crucial part in helping you come up from the squat position, so implementing paused squats might help you solve it. Simply pause at the bottom of the exercise, and then pause again when you’re halfway up, keeping your quads engaged at all times.

Not going deep enough

To get the most out of a squat, you need to go deep enough into the exercise so that your legs, hips, and core get a good burn. However, a lot of people tend to stop before the ideal depth, in which your thighs should be parallel or near parallel to the floor.

By limiting the range of motion and stopping the squat before reaching the parallel, you’re not only losing potential gains but also putting more strain on your knee joints as the weight doesn’t shift to your lower body until you’re low enough. This is particularly important if you’re using a barbell since the stress on your knees will be greater.

How to avoid it

Naturally, the way to avoid this is by lowering your body until your thighs are around parallel to the floor, but if you’re not able to go as deep then you might have hip mobility issues. Exercises such as the butterfly hip stretch and the piriformis stretch are great for loosening your hips and making them more flexible.

Additionally, if you’re squatting with a barbell, you can change things up and move to an easier squat variation such as the goblet squat. This variation helps you go deeper into the squat by allowing you to drop into your natural center of gravity since you’re holding the weight in front of you, helping you balance yourself.

Raising your heels

During the squatting-down portion of the movement, you might find yourself raising your heels to lower yourself as much as you can. Unfortunately, doing so will put a lot of unnecessary stress on your ankles by disengaging your leg and hip muscles.

Remember, your lower-body muscles are supposed to be the heavy movers during your squat workouts. This means that shifting the tension from your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and hip muscles to your ankle joints will not only prevent you from making gains but can also cause an injury.

How to avoid it

This is yet another case of poor ankle mobility. Your ankles play a huge role during squats, as you need them to properly lower yourself into the bottom position, so make sure to perform flexibility exercises for your ankles as well as stretch properly before your workouts, just like we mentioned before.

On top of ankle flexibility, focus on keeping your heels on the ground at all times – you still might raise them by mistake even with enough ankle mobility! A good trick to keep your heels grounded is to raise your toes as you lower yourself, forcing you to use your heels to keep your stability.

Letting your knees go past your toes

As you might have noticed from this list, shifting the weight to where it doesn’t belong such as your joints or your spine is one of the main mistakes that active people make during squats – and pushing your knees too far forward is another cause for this!

When squatting, many people will accidentally let their knees go past their toes to get as low as possible. However, this can cause you to lose balance, which can be dangerous if you’re lifting a barbell, and it will also shift all the weight forward and put stress on your ankles and even your lower back.

How to avoid it

Be careful when beginning to go down into a squat, making sure you’re lowering yourself in a straight line instead of leaning forward at the knees. If you need to, slow down the movement until you can keep it fully controlled.

Keep in mind that, because everyone is different and we all have different anatomies, some people might be able to let their knees past their toes by a little bit without losing their balance or straining their ankles or spine. As a rule of thumb, you should always keep them above your toes – if you go past them and it doesn’t feel right, fix your form!

Anyone with serious fitness goals knows that you need a healthy body to achieve those goals – and this doesn’t just mean not getting sick! Injuries can get in the way between you and your dreams, and keeping your muscles, joints, and spine healthy should always be a priority. So make sure to keep proper squat form at all times!

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