3 Most Common Squat Mistakes
Are you finding yourself in mild to severe pain after performing squats? You're not alone. The underlying cause of most pain when performing any exercise is bad technique. When performing a squat, here are the top three most common mistakes.
One of the most common mistakes when people squat is not keeping a braced core and neutral spine. When you're back is rounded during a squat, it causes unnecessary pressure on your spine and decreases the efficiency of the lift. A rounded back can be caused by a spinal condition, or in most peoples cases, just weak or underworked core muscles and a lack of proper breathing technique. Focus on training your core muscles more often with your accessory workouts. Also, when breathing in during a squat, most people simply breathe into their chest which is not an efficient way of helping to brace for a squat. A simple trick to help with this is to take a breath "into your stomach". Although the air is still going into your lungs, this will help recruit your diaphragm, this increases your intra-abdominal cavity volume. When this breathing technique is combined with bracing of the core muscles (as if someone were about to punch you), this greatly increases your stability when squatting.
Another issue commonly seen when performing a squat is caving knees. As a general rule of thumb, we ideally want to keep our knees in direct alignment with our feet. Any side to side deviation, or shaking knees, can cause a decrease in efficiency of the lift, as well as an increase in injury risk. Caving knees, also known as knee valgus, is when an athletes knees cave inward during the ascent portion of the squat. This is typically caused by unactivated or weak lateral glute muscles (glute medius). One great way to combat this issue is to use glute activation bands to "activate" the lateral glute muscles prior to squatting. Simply place the exercise band around your legs, slightly above the knees, and perform a squat. When doing so, focus on pushing your knees outward and "activating" your glutes. Perform this motion several times until you feel your hips and glutes are warm and ready to begin your workout!
Incorrect Bar Placement
Perhaps one of the most over-looked aspects to barbell squats is bar placement. There are two bar placements that most athletes use when performing barbell squats, high-bar and low-bar. Regardless of choice, there is always a correct and an incorrect bar position on your back. Ideally, you want to pull your shoulder blades together, creating a "shelf" with your upper back muscles. The bar should be positioned at the top of this shelf when using the high-bar squat technique. For low-bar, the position is just about 2-3 inches lower on your back. When performed correctly, you shouldn't feel any pain on your upper back or neck area. Failing to do so can cause tightness and pain in those areas, that can last several days.