In a new video on the Athlean-X channel, strength coach Jeff Cavaliere C.S.C.S. lists the most frequent mistakes that people tend to make when doing the back squat, and how to correct them.
Firstly, he explains, a lot of people start out with the wrong stance, making it either too narrow or too wide. But there's an easy way to find the right stance for you: Simply lie on your back with your knees raised, and then move your legs apart to find the point of maximum hip flexion where you're not also rounding your back. Once you've found that sweet spot, line your feet up with your femurs and then stand up.
Foot placement is another area where a small adjustment can lead to big improvements. "It's pretty generally accepted that a little bit of outward rotation of the foot is going to create more room inside the hip joint when you go deeper, and also get a better job of recruiting the adductors at the bottom of the squat to help you power back up," says Cavaliere. "But if you forget to move the rest of your leg in addition to your foot, you're asking for problems... you're creating torque issues at the knee... Stop worrying about rotating your feet, and start rotating your knees. If you move your knees out, your foot will come with it, as will the hip."
Another common misconception, Cavaliere adds, is the idea that your knees should never go over your feet during a squat, something which many people take to heart, meaning they don't go as deep as they can in the movement.
It's also important to keep the chest and pelvis linked at all times in a squat. "It becomes most challenging at the bottom of the squat, where there's a tendency to let the hips move first, breaking the link," says Cavaliere. "But if you do this and do it right, it will lead to a more efficient squat and a straighter bar path." A lot of people also forget to tighten their lats while squatting, which can cause rounding and caving of the chest. "It maintains that lateral support needed to create that rigid torso," he adds.
Cavaliere also takes issue with people using padding on the bar while doing squats; while ostensibly there to make the movement more comfortable, this actually creates far fewer opportunities for the bar to sit comfortably on the shoulders. It only really naturally fits right on the last cervical vertibrae, but it won't stay comfortable for long. "If you ditch this and put the bar on your back, you'll find a more optimal position without the downsides that come along with that pad," he says.
He goes on to suggest incorporating complementary unilateral exercises like the Bulgarian split squat, lunge, or step-up into your workout as a way of identifying and working on imbalances in your strength.
Failing to sufficiently warm up is another common error. Just as dangerous is piling on the weight and rushing to get a big lift total before your body is ready. "If you're looking to get your body ready to perform something like a squat, you've got to make sure you take at least some time to prepare your body to do it," says Cavaliere.
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