The Back Squat is one of the key movements in any weight lifting program. It is an essential lower body exercise that builds strength and muscle in the glutes, calves and quads. This movement also engages the upper body including your back and core to steady and support the weight.
Back Squats look easy to the untrained eye. The athlete puts the bar on their back - For a High Bar Back Squat (popular among Olympic weightlifters and Crossfitters) it is placed on the traps at the base of the neck, for a Low Bar Back Squat (popular among Powerlifters) it is placed further down on the rear deltoids. The athlete then squats down and stands back up. Easy, right? But poor technique while performing the back squat can cause incorrect movement patterns and lead to all kinds of leg and back injuries.
The following four squat mistakes are very common technique flaws that even seasoned weightlifters may be guilty of. Fix these technique issues and you’ll most likely see and feel an improvement in your back squat. If you’re unsure about how to squat correctly, we recommend seeking help from a personal trainer or coach.
Squat Mistake #1 Over-bending at the knees.
There should be a slight bend in the knees with the knees tracking towards the toes. Imagine that there’s a line traveling from the tip of the toes straight up the body. The knees should only ever touch that line. If the knees are over-bending past the toes too much strain can be put on the knee joint and this can lead to injury.
Squat Mistake#2 Not bending far enough.
While this mistake isn’t likely to cause an injury, it is likely to stall your progress and make squatting ineffectual. At the bottom of a squat, the hips should be below the knee crease, with the thighs parallel or below parallel to the floor. If this squat depth is not achievable then working on hip and ankle mobility will help. The athlete may need to decrease the weight on the bartemporarily to ensure full range of motion. It’s tempting to just pile on the weights but at the end of the day, no one is impressed with a 100kg quarter squat…
Squat Mistake#3 Eyes wandering.
The best place to look while squatting is straight ahead. Don’t look up at the ceiling – this will cause curving of the spine and increases chance of injury significantly. Don’t look down at the ground either – this will cause the spine to round and torso to lean forward too far. If there is a mirror in front of the squat rack, the athlete should be able to see themselves throughout the entire movement