Common Squat Mistakes

Squatting can be bad for you if done improperly. Poor mechanics, mobility issues and lack of technique can cause injuries short term and long term. It is important that squats are done properly to reduce the risk of injury. When done right, squats can build overall strength. Here are some common squat mistakes.

1) Knees Cave in (Knee Valgus)

Knee cave (also called Knee Valgus or knock knee) can create serious problems at the knee joint and sometimes in the hips and low back. When this happens in the squat, the knee joints are put in an unstable and unwanted position. Knee valgus can be seen in men, but it is typically more common in females due to a larger hip to knee angle (Q angle).

Valgus at the knees may be caused by a few things:

  • Weak Hips (Especially Glute Medius)

  • Weak Quads

  • Poor Technique

  • Poor Mobility

  • Flat Feet

Try adding these into your training to help fix your knee valgus.

  • Strengthen abductors and hip external rotator

o Lateral Band Walk

o Clam Shell

  • Strengthen quads

o Bulgarian Split Squat

o Lateral Step Down

  • Improve Technique

o Banded Squats (Bands around knees)

o Eccentric Squats

  • Improve Ankle Mobility

o Calf Smash

o Banded Heel Cord

Improve Hip Flexion

o Single Leg Flexion with External Rotation

o Hip Flexion External Rotation with Flexion

o Hip Capsule Mobilization

Flat Feet

This can cause pain in the ankles, knees and hips. It is important to have arches in both feet as it acts as a shock absorber. A collapsed foot adds unnecessary stress and compensation in the knees and hips that causes injury overtime.

Some causes of flat feet are; genetics (born with it), poor mechanics, unstable joints and weak muscles.

To fix this problem, strengthen muscles that help support the arches of the feet, loosen up tight muscles, and learn proper squat technique.

  • Plantar Flexion with inversion

  • Foot activation

  • Ball smash (Foot and Peroneal)

2) Good morning Squat

This mistake usually happens when you push your hips too far back, weak quads and leaning too far forward. When this happens during a squat you will put a lot of stress in the low back.

Why good morning squats happen:

  • Squatting too deep

o This tends to lose tension at the bottom of the squat and causes you to be off balance

  • Pushing hips back

o Instead of unlocking the hips and knees at the same time at the beginning of the squat, a good morning squat happens when your weight is too far back on your heels because you pushed your hips back first. When this happens, your knees tend to push forward going down and it pushes your hips back as you come back up

  • Torso position

o Like pushing your hips back first in the squat, when your torso is leaning forward too much, you balance shifts towards your toes. Also, when you push your chest up as you lock out it takes the tension out from the hips which makes it difficult to finish the lift.

Try implementing these variations into your training to help fix you squat.

Weakness in the quads can also cause problems. To help strengthen the quads here are a few exercises.

3) Butt Wink

A butt wink happens during the squats when your hips goes from a neutral position into a posterior tilt at the bottom of the squat. This creates tension at the bottom of the spine around the L4, L5 & S1. Excessive movement at this location creates stress in the intervertebral disc that loosens up the fibers that help contain the nucleus. When these fibers are not intact it can lead to a herniated disc. Dr. Stuart McGill explains this in this video.

What causes butt wink:

  • Hip Anatomy

o Unfortunately, this is something that can not be fixed. Our hips are not created equal, some may have more range of motion at the hips than others.

When your hips reach this end range it pulls your pelvis under which creates that posterior pelvic tilt at the bottom of your squat. In this case, some butt wink in some people may be seen.

  • Ankle Mobility

o A limited ankle mobility creates compensation and excessive movement at the hip joint. By improving ankle mobility, it allows your body to sit deeper and reduce movement at the hip joint.

  • Hip Flexion Mobility

o Lack of hip flexion can pull your hips under you that leads to a posterior pelvic tilt.

o Fix (Hip capsule range of motion)

  • Technique

o The beginning of the squat is important to assess when you have a butt wink. Disengaging the glutes while pushing the hips back decreases the hip angle early. When this happens, you hit the end range of your hips early which causes your pelvis to pull under into a posterior tilt and back to an anterior tilt as you come back up.

  • Squatting Too Low

o When you squat too low your hips may not be built to squat that low as mentioned above. A butt wink at the bottom of the squat could also be due to technique where you lose core tension or disengage the glutes too early as previously mentioned.

Fixing the Butt Wink

  • Ankle Mobility

o Calf Smash

o Banded Heel Cord

  • Hip Flexion

o Single Leg Flexion with External Rotation

o Hip Flexion External Rotation with Flexion

o Hip Capsule Mobilization

  • Technique

o Eccentric Squats

o Paused Squats

o Box Squats

4) Back hyper-extending

Hyper-extension at the lumbar spine happens when you push your hips back instead of hinging at the start of the squat. By hyper-extending, you are lengthening your anterior core (I.E. Abs) and put unnecessary stress in your low back. No tension in the core and not hinging properly usually causes hyper-extension. Proper cues and technique can help fix this problem

Common causes:

  • Looking too far up

  • Anterior Pelvic Tilt

  • Little to no brace in the core

  • Poor hinging mechanics

To Fixing this learn how to brace before, during and after the movement and proper hinging pattern, but you also want to assess your mobility just in case you have an anterior pelvic tilt.

Try These out to improve your squat:

  • Improve movement pattern

o Dowel Squat

  • Fix anterior pelvic tilt

o Couch Stretch w/ internal rotation

o Quad Smash Mobilization

o LAX Glute bridge

o Foot Lock Curl up

o Bird Dog

5) Heels elevate

When your heels elevate you tend to lose balance and lose proper bar path. Ifyour bar path is too far forward there is too much weight on the front of your foot which can cause your heels to elevate during the squat.

Ankle mobility has been the biggest reason why most people have their heels come off the ground as they squat. I see this mostly on newer and beginner clients.

Assess and improve your ankle mobility to eliminate this problem and keep in mind your bar path as you squat.

Fixing your ankles:

6) Bracing/ Core Tension

One of the most biggest mistake a lot of people make during the squat is not being able to brace properly or keep tension in their core during the squat.

Practicing how to breathe and brace with and without weight on your back is important. When you are able to keep your mid section solid, not only will you protect your spine, you will keep the kinetic chain intact and reduce the chances of a "power leak".

When a link is broken in a chain, that movement is only as strong as the weakest link, most of the time the weakest link is the core. Without proper tension you can throw out your back, create problems in your squat (Goodmorning squat, hyper-extending, butt wink and more).

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