THE 11 MOST COMMON MISTAKES OF THE SQUAT

steve2022-04-05

The squat is the most forgotten and badly executed exercise in all commercial gyms around the country. Most of the commercial gym trainers will say that the squat is not good; it’s dangerous for your back/knees/hip and blablabla. These trainers have no clue on how to squat. If they did, they would say the opposite.

The squat is the most common movement of the body and we do it at a very young age. WE DO IT EVERY DAY! Below, you have the description. Even if this is a funny picture, the squat is perfect. As we get older, we have a tendency to lose our squat position because we do not squat on a regular basis. We sit around most of the day and the yard work, we leave it to either the landlord or the landscape pro, so we lose our ability to squat and get lazy doing it. So instead of just saying: I’m too lazy to squat, we find excuses like: no time for squat; the set up is too long; my knees hurt; my lower back hurts; and so on. THE REAL REASON IS, YOU ARE TOO LAZY TO DO IT!

I was reading a very interesting article by Dave Tate on the subject, and after, I tried his way of squatting. I can tell you it works! So here it is. So let’s analyse the 11 mistakes that one does during the squat.

1-Too much weight

2-Improper set up

3-Not having the knees out

4-Letting your chest down

5-Hamstring too weak

6-Tight rotator cuff

7-Weak hip

8-Poor flexibility

9-No specialty bars

10-Bad range of motion

11-Not enough speed

1-TOO MUCH WEIGHT

Every time I go to the gym and see those asparagus kids trying to put 140 kg on the bar and the spotter is doing all the work, it makes my eyes bleed. First off, your client should be tested for 2 things: The weight and the flaws in his motion. If you have too much weight, you’re form will be bad and the risk of injuries increases.

Like this guy says on this picture: ‘’too much is too much“!! Make sure you can lift with good form. If there’s one thing I’m very strict about, it’s the quality of the movement, not how much you take. You have to learn to walk before you can run. This applies to all the exercises in the gym. So technique first, then comes the load.

2-IMPROPER SET UP

You must have a squat rack. Sounds stupid but over my 20 years of experience, I saw all kinds of squat devices. The best one is the Atlantis Poliquin approved power rack or the Monolift created by EliteFTS. Most people place the G hook too high, sothey un-rack the bar on the tip of their toes. Again, there is a very high risk of injury. They put the main squat rack against a wall!!!  You need space to get around. If you buy you’re squat rack at Walmart, you will have everything for cheap even you’re results.

So here on your left, you have the ‘’no comment rack“ (How can you squat with that? It said in the brochure: bench, and squat… all in one, uh????)  On your right, there is the Monolift. Tell me which one you trust most??

3-NOT HAVING THE KNEES OUT

Plain and simple, if you put you knees straight or inside, you will lose strength and put yourself at risk. Spread your feet at a 5 to 10 degree angle. See the pictures below:

From right to left; the bad, the ugly and the good. As you can see on the pic on your right, the knees are good. But you can go wider and make sure your butt is lower than the knees. Always make sure the posture is good, otherwise work on you technique, it’s the key to success.

4-LETTING YOUR CHEST DOWN

Ok people, this is simple, keep your chest up, look forward, and keep elbows under the bar. Simple no? If you can’t do this, here are the main reasons: the shoulders and the spinal erectors are too tight. I can go on like that for a long list. So chest out, look in front of you and squat.

5-HAMSTRING TOO WEAK

If you have a weak hamstring, you will not be able to lift properly. Most of the squats involve the hamstring. It’s a mistake not to work your hamstring. The stronger they are, the better you will squat. Look at the pictures below and see who will be better for a squat:

Any questions?  Next point.

6-TIGHT ROTATOR CUFF

The rotator cuff is made of 4 major muscles located inside the shoulder. They rotate externally the arms in different positions and they hold the scapula. So yes, you have to work them out. But, make sure they are flexible.

If you have a tight rotator cuff, you will not get the elbows under the bar. If so, the torso will bent over and you won’t be able to keep you’re back straight. This is a simple explanation. It’s so common to see elbows out of range; they lean away from the bar without even un-racking it and the torso is bent over.

7-WEAK HIP

Like Stewart McGill said: ‘’the hip is the center of motion for the legs, not you’re back, not your chest, so work them! “. Make sure that you do assistance work at least twice a week for the hips. It can be simple, just do it! It’s important and you will see your squat improve fast and you will reduce the risk of injuries at the same time.

8-POOR FLEXIBILITY

By that, I mean, if you do a half squat, you must work on you’re range of motion. So get some ART or Trigenics on the leg muscle. The better the range of motion, the better the results. My advice is, don’t waste your time on the 1975 era stretching, go see a specialist.

9-NO SPECIALTY BAR.

What is a specialty bar, well, here it is:

You will need these different types of barbells. They will change the strength curl and they will make you work in different angles never seen before. The more you change, the better you’re squat will become.

10-BAD RANGE OF MOTION

Every now and then, I go to gym and in the legs section I hear: ‘’come on man, you can do it, you are strong, you can lift’’.  My curiosity tells me to go see that. 9 times out of 10, there is that skinny 135 lbs guy surrounded by his friend. The lifter has 140 kilo on the bar, knees are strapped, he has the belt and gloves (ugh! gloves WTF I tell myself) He gets under the bar and he starts his motion. At about 1/3 of the motion, he gets back up, racks the bar and I hear: ‘’YEAH MAN! I DID IT MAN! YEAH!’’ … and it goes on and on for about 5 minutes. Bragging about his new record. I thought he injured himself and had to rack the bar. But no, HE SQUATTED!!!!!.

You get the point? Yes! We sometimes squat on a box, but do it for about 2 workouts no more. Then, we go full range, and then, we do half squats but never go more than 2-3 workouts top with the same motion. Most of the time, we do full squats.

11-NOT ENOUGH SPEED

 You need speed if you want to get stronger. You need strength if you want to be faster.They WORK TOGETHER. In the real world of strength training, you should have at least 1-2 days per week of speed and strength, then, you must do accommodation exercises that will help work on all levels of your strength curve and help you gain strength.

If you always lift the bar slow, you will not get strong. This is the main reason why people suck a being strong. For speed, one should work in the range of 35% to 47% of one’s 1RM (rep max). If you don’t have any muscular mass, it will be hard to get strong. So pack on some meat on that frame!

FINAL NOTE

Always test your athletes or advance clients for their 1RM. If not, how can you work with percentage?  You will probably tell me: ‘’I assume that my 1RM is about 100 kg on the squat’’ and my answer will be: ‘’so I assume that you will have a big squat’’ DUH! To all you out there, fail to prepare… prepare to fail. So, get some measures and the results will add up.  

 And if this happens to you, you know you went all the way down or your shorts are too tight for you!

Be strong!

Steve Dubé. Is a PICP 3 certified strength coach a high level of certification provided by the Poliquin strength institute in Rhode Island USA and a Certified online level 1 CrossFit coach. Steve is currently training people from all walks of life as well as athletes in football and hockey and is the owner of SSP Fitness and CrossFit Civitas in québec Canada