The squat is probably my favorite exercise and most of our clients are performing some variation of it. This is because it works a ton of muscle, which means big caloric burn, and it is very functional – most of us squat at some point during the day. There are also many variations that can be tailored to fit almost any client’s goal.
Today, I want to go over two common mistakes that often occur during this exercise and possible fixes for those problems.
The first mistake is failing to keep the knees pushed out. When you descend into a squat and rise out of the bottom you need to be actively thinking about shoving your knees out. In an ideal squat pattern the knees, hips, and toes will point in a straight line (see video and picture below).
If you are having trouble with this try placing a small band around your knees. This will give you something to push out against and will help you feel the muscles we are trying to target.
One final point is that I want you to make sure to keep your foot flat on the floor when you are doing this. Some people will push their knees out so hard they roll onto the outside of their foot. This is incorrect. Make sure to keep the inside ball of your foot on the floor when pushing your knees out.
The second mistake is allowing your weight to get too far forward onto your toes. During a squat you want to think about sitting back and down. Many people initiate the squat by breaking at the knees and coming onto the toes. This puts unwanted stress on the knees and fails to target the glutes and muscles on the back of the legs, which are often underdeveloped in most trainees.
Instead of breaking at the knees you want to think about pushing your butt back, pushing your knees out (see above), and sitting between your legs.
If you are having trouble with this try squatting to a box and/or using a counterbalance such as a weight held in front of you.
One of the first squatting variations I have my clients perform is a plate or goblet squat to a box. This helps you sit back because you have a counterweight in front of you.
Here is great video on how to properly perform a squat to a box.
Cues to help you squat more effectively:
-Begin with “soft knees”.
-Initiate the movement by pushing your hips back and knees out. Think about sitting between your legs.
-Pull shoulders back to get chest out.
-If you have a hard time pushing your knees out you may consider buying a small band to wrap around your knees. As I mentioned above, the band will give you something to push out against and will help you feel the muscles on the outside of your hips we are trying to get you to activate.
A final point I want to make is that not everyone should be squatting initially. Squatting a great exercise, but if you lack the core strength and alignment this exercise may not be the best for you.
At IFAST, we determine if someone is ready to squat based on our assessment. So if you are unsure as to whether you should be squatting get signed up for an IFAST assessment and we will show you how:)
Have a great week!
Great article! In the second video, where Mike and Eric are demonstrating the chair squat, would you use this teaching progression if the client’s goal is to be able to perform a full clean? The torso, shin position, and depth with the chair or box squat are very different from that of the receiving position of a clean.
Thanks for your comment. You are right that the squat in the video and the receiving position of a clean a very different so I would not use this as a teaching tool for the clean. We mainly use the squat to a box/chair to teach clients to sit back and load their hamstrings and glutes in a squat. If a client’s goal is to clean and they have adequate mobility and stability then I may not have them squat to a box. It largely depends on the person- their weak points and goals.
Hope that helps!