5 Common Squat Problems and How to Fix Them

Dr. Jason Williams, DC

Cary, North Carolina, United States

Chiropractic Medicine, Acupuncture, Injury rehabilitation, dry needling

A simple squat is one of the most effective exercises for building muscle, and also incredibly functional in how it translates to our daily living. Despite its relevance, it definitely takes detailed work on form, and sometimes instruction, to perfect it.

 

Correct squatting keeps us from getting injured and is the first step in a number of complex weight lifting exercises like thrusters. Let's take a look at the common squat problems followed by easy fixes you can use to start correcting these problems.

 

 

Squat Problem 1: Your Knees Cave to the Inside

First things first—letting your knees cave in towards each other during a squat is a no-no.

This is probably the most common problem for beginners but persists in those that ignore it and continue to progress their load and frequency of squatting.

 

If you find one or both of your knees caves in right away, or midway through your squat, you need to fix this movement. If you continue your knee caving ways you're risking MCL and meniscus damage to your knees as well as hip issues.

 

The Fix: Use a loop band around your knees and focus on keeping your knees out during your squat. Work on squatting with no weight until you build enough strength in your outside hip muscles to keep your knees from caving in.

 

 

Squat Problem 2: Your Arches Cave In

This may be something you notice during other exercises, or even when you're just standing or walking. The hollow arch space on the insides of your feet may be shallow or nonexistent. This leaves your feet flush with the ground and shifts your weight towards the inside of your ankles.

 

If you notice this during other exercises, squatting is likely to accentuate this problem. In fact, you're probably going to have problem 1 if you have problem 2. Your feet are your base and if you're caving inside with your feet, your knees will typically follow suit and cave as well.

 

The Fix: Do some banded foot inversion exercises to keep the inside of your foot from dropping. Strengthening the muscles that invert the ankle will help build some ankle muscle endurance to keep your feet in the right spot.

 

 

Squat Problem 3: Your Weight Is On Your Toes

Squats are primarily for building your glutes and hamstrings, not your quadriceps. If you're shifting your weight toward the front of your foot you're going to feel squats more in your quads. What else? Your heels are going to come off the ground, uh oh.

 

 

You'll never increase your capacity if you're lifting your heels off the ground, and this needs to be fixed as soon as possible. When squatting you want to have the majority of weight in your heels, this keeps your knees behind your feet and saves your knees as well.

 

The Fix: Unload, again, and work on sitting back into your heels, like you're putting your butt into a chair. In fact, use a chair and do some chair taps. When you're squatting down, tap your butt on a chair then rise up. The chair will keep you from falling down onto your butt. Get comfortable putting weight in your heels and sitting back in your squat.

 

 

Squat Problem 4: Leaning Before Hip Hinging

The moment you lean forward, you're immediately burdening your low back. That's not its job. For goodness sake save your back, or your squatting days will be over before they started. If you're leaning forward first, you're missing step one, the hip hinge.

 

The first move of a squat is pushing your butt back and hinging at the hips. This does a couple of important things for your squats. It keeps your weight centered and balanced and it builds your glutes and not your low back.

 

The Fix: Use a resistance band around your waist and tied behind you to a rig or something sturdy. With tension on the band, practice sticking your butt back like you're starting a Romanian deadlift, the resistance band should basically pull your butt back for you.

 

Then, use your hips and thrust your pelvis forward against the resistance of the band. This activates your glute muscles and gets you familiar with initiating a hip hinge first.

 

 

Squat Problem 5: Shallow Squat Depth

How low can you go? Nobody wants to be shallow, in any way. If you're squatting and you're not hitting 90 degrees so your thighs are parallel, you're cheating yourself. Depth in a squat is what builds functional strength.

 

Do know that squat depth comes with mobility, repetition, and time. If you're a beginner you may not have great depth initially, but you will eventually. Don't even think about increasing load until you're getting good depth. If you can't perform a deep and full squat, that should be your first goal.

 

The Fix: Spend some time in a low squat without weight, some call it squat therapy. You can also use easy, or no weight, and do pause squats—pausing at the bottom for 1-2 seconds before you start your ascent. It's "oh, so painful, but oh, so good."

 

 

Fix Your Issues Now

One of these problems may resonate with you, or you may even find a few of these problems in your squat now that you're aware of them. If you do recognize these problems, take the time and start fixing them now.

 

You'll be surprised how incorporating these little fixes to correct your squat will allow you to increase your weight and squatting frequency.

 

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