7 Common Squat Mistakes and How to Fix Them

The Squat is a cornerstone exercise for improving strength and should be an essential part of every Crossfitter’s training. Let's get back to the basics and make sure your technique is perfect.

A powerful full body compound exercise, Squatting will significantly increase your mental toughness, build muscle and fortify your tendons and ligaments, moving you much closer to completing your Crossfit goals.

You need a rack, a bar and weight to squat. Also, the addition of knee sleeves can be a great way to add confidence to your mindset, support the natural movements of your body and prevent injury. With anatomically shaped designs that don’t restrict movement, this additional edge can often be a strong factor in taking your PRs to the next level!

A video posted by Rehband (@rehband) on

Despite all these benefits, the Squat is often still done badly, throughout Crossfit and Weightlifting. This is a problem because holding a heavy weight on your back can be deadly if you don’t move it properly. Here are 7 common Squat mistakes that occur all the time, and how they can be fixed.

7. SHALLOW SQUATS

Just by the fact that you are reading this article shows that you are committed to paying attention to lifting technique and correcting any Squat mistakes. You want to achieve more than the average Joe or Jane, and so you make sure that your squats are deep. This is why shallow Squats are first on the list because they are so common!

‘The squat will make you strong: Simple as that.’

But in Crossfit, with Cleans, Snatches and Clean & Jerks being so widely used, a strong catching or rack position is vital. To perform these lifts well, you need the strength and mobility to support the weight during this part of the movement. Squatting low, right down to this position, will prepare you for the necessary depth required from these other lifts. It will also increase the stress of the squat, making it more beneficial in the long run, and allow your body to practice standing up out of the ‘hole’.

SOLUTION:

  1. Don’t aim for parallel, go lower. Go as low as possible. As we discussed above, not only will this help your strength gains from the squat itself, but it will prepare your body for various parts of other lifts such as the Clean or Snatch.
  2. Shallow Squats often occur if the Athlete does not feel sure that they have the strength to bring the weight back up from the base of the movement. Knee sleeves can be useful here, as they give you confidence to go low and add strength to your natural movement. This gives you the psychological boost to attack each Squat with everything you have!
rich froning crossfit corrects squat mistakes
Rich Froning powering through the exercise

6. NOT ENOUGH REST BETWEEN SETS

This problem can be ignored if you are deliberately choosing to take short rest periods between sets because of the structure and conditions of a Wod, or because you are working towards a specific training aim. Otherwise, allow yourself decent resting periods between sets.

‘The correctly performed Squat is an extremely taxing exercise, which is also (unsurprisingly) why it is so beneficial.’

SOLUTION:

Attack each set in a prepared and focused way, then you will be much more likely to succeed. Powering through just for the sake of it might work for Push Ups or Wall Balls, but when you Squat, take the time to do everything properly and begin each set when you are 100% mentally focused and physically ready.

Knee sleeves work in a similar way to compression gear, and keep your knees warm between sets so if you are taking longer pauses (testing 1 Rep Maxes for example) then you can be sure that you stay warm in the right place and don’t lose any efficiency.

Rich froning overhead lunge midline stability
Dedicating time to perfect your Squat technique will help you to improve many other exercises as well.

5. SPINAL OVEREXTENSION

This refers to the position that some people adopt when they set up for the squat and push the pelvis too far back. This exaggerates the curve of the spine and causes the upper body to learn further forward. It also places tremendous stress on the lower back and can be the cause for the infamous ‘butt wink’ as well.

‘Overextension is also often an attempt to compensate for core instability.’

SOLUTION:

  1. Practice bracing yourself and keep a neutral spinal position. Film yourself performing a squat session so that you can observe your own movements personally. This will help you to understand exactly where you are going wrong, so this problem can be remedied and overcome.
  2. Additional core work
  3. Lower the weight for the Squat and build it back up again over time with better technique

4. LOOKING TOO FAR UPWARDS

In general human movements, we normally look in the direction that we would like to travel. With Chest-to-bar Pull Ups, for example, I bet you look at the bar and the space above – and not the floor below – when you perform the exercise. With the Squat, it is important to look forwards.

If your gaze is turned too far upwards, you may put huge amounts of pressure on your upper back by curving the cervical portion of the spine. This also puts unnecessary pressure on your neck as you crane upwards to watch a fixed point above your eye level.

SOLUTION:

  1. Ideally, you want to establish a neutral position for your back, which can be achieved by looking forwards. This will help to keep the upper back tight and prevent you from buckling under the weight.
rich Froning back squat in crossfit box
Rich Froning demonstrates correct Back Squat form

3. NOT SETTING UP CORRECTLY

Often an athlete can be far too quick to get themselves into position and plunge into the Squat without setting their body up properly for the movement. When you watch an athlete with excellent Squat technique, you will notice how controlled and focused they appear throughout the whole movement.

SOLUTION:

Staying tight with the bar already racked on your shoulders, follow this short sequence to prepare your body for the Squat.

  1. Squeeze your glutes together. This is going to set your pelvis in the correct position that you need to support the weight.
  2. Pull the rib cage down by flexing your core while still squeezing the glutes. This ensures that your back is not overextended and that the mid line is engaged.
  3. Take a big breath in from that tightness you’ve created by flexing the core and pulling the rib cage down.

2. UNCONTROLLED BREATHING

‘Breathing correctly is also a vital part of the set up, and is important throughout the full movement of the exercise.’

If an athlete set up properly, yet fails to breathe correctly, they run the risk of losing the tightness they have managed to create, and the lift will suffer as a result.

If they exhale too quickly, or breathe deeply using the abs and not the diaphragm, then the abs may become relaxed during the lift itself. This in turn releases the tightness and control on the spine and core, and the athlete may lean forward and increase pressure on the spine as a result. Both of which are not good things during the squat!

SOLUTION:

  1. Once you have the barbell braced on your shoulders, breathe in deeply with your diaphragm so that you can keep your abdominals contracted throughout the entire movement and stabilize your spine. You will notice if you are doing this correctly because during the last part of the inward breathe you will feel your chest rise.
  2. Hold your breath on the way down, and then exhale slowly on the way up, through pursed lips. This will ensure that you don’t exhale all at once, and can still keep your core tight as you come up from the bottom of the squat position.

1. SQUAT MISTAKES: KNEES TRACKING INWARDS

This is a common mistake which is often caused by an overly ambitious athlete putting too much weight on the barbell. If this is a problem that you notice even when the weight is not challenging, poor hip mobility may also be a factor.

SOLUTION:

rich froning correcting squat mistakes in crossfit
Knees should never fall inwards, but should remain firm and strong

Make sure that the hips are warmed up and stretched out, mobility work prior to the Squat routine is very important to ensure that you can open up your hips properly during the Squat itself.

  • Lower the weight
  • Concentrate on pressing your knees outwards during the movement. Don’t over exaggerate the movement; simply put this into practice on a few lighter sets, until it becomes second nature during your lifts.
  • Knee sleeves can give you more control and strength, confidence, and they are anatomically shaped not to restrict movement. Perfect for naturally supporting your knees and helping to counter poor form.

Taking the time to squat effectively, with great form and a fire inside you that burns for new PRs, you will achieve the results you want. It will be hard, but then you are not someone that ever takes the easy way out. In the words of the legendary English Powerlifter Andy Bolton, a man with a Squat PR of 550 kg / 1213 lbs:

‘When you are in the hole on the squat, with your max on your back, you have to drive that bar back to the start position like your life depends on it.’


All Media and Images © Rehband

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About The Author

Editor-In-Chief at BOXROX. I come from a background of rugby and weightlifting. Growing up in the English Lake District, I spent a great deal of time swimming in its stunning lakes and rivers. In 2015 my brothers and I became the first people to swim the 145km length of the River Eden, from source to mouth, in 9 days. We also swam the Corryvreckan whirlpool, the third largest in the world, and Crossfit is a huge part of my training for these events.

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