The barbell squat is a popular compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core. However, it is a complex movement that requires proper technique and form to avoid injuries and maximise results. Here are five common mistakes to avoid when doing a barbell squat:
One of the most common mistakes when performing a barbell squat is having poor form. This includes rounding the back, leaning too far forward, and not squatting low enough. To avoid this, it’s important to maintain a neutral spine, keep the chest up, and squat to parallel to the ground or slightly below parallel.
This ensures that you’re working the full range of motion for your lower body, including your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. This helps build strength and stability in these muscle groups, which can improve your overall athleticism and prevent injury. Second, squatting parallel to the ground helps maintain proper form and alignment, which reduces the risk of back, hip, and knee pain. Finally, squatting to parallel or below also engages your core muscles, which helps stabilise your spine and improve overall posture. So, when it comes to squats, it’s essential to prioritise proper form and full range of motion to maximise the benefits and minimise the risks.
Improper foot positioning
Another mistake is having improper foot positioning. This includes having your feet too close together, too far apart, or turned out too much. The feet should be shoulder-width apart with toes slightly turned out to allow for proper hip and knee alignment.
Lifting too heavy
Many people make the mistake of lifting too heavy too soon, which can lead to injury and hinder progress.
One key sign that you may be lifting too heavy is if you’re struggling to maintain proper form. This can include arching your back, rounding your shoulders, or using momentum to lift the weight. Other signs include feeling pain or discomfort during or after your workout, or being unable to complete your reps or sets with good form. To prevent injury, it’s essential to start with lighter weights and focus on mastering proper form before gradually increasing the weight. As you progress, pay attention to your body’s signals and make adjustments as needed to ensure safe and effective workouts.
If you’re a beginner, it’s important to start with a weight that you can lift with proper form to get your body used to the movement and gradually increase the weight over time.
Neglecting warm-up and mobility
A common mistake is neglecting warm-up and mobility exercises or alternatives if you lack the mobility or flexibility. This includes people with extremely tight muscles. This can lead to even more tightness and decreased range of motion, which can increase your risk of injury.
One great mobility exercise for squats is the squat-to-stand movement. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart and lower yourself into a deep squat position. Hold this position for a few seconds, then slowly raise yourself up into a standing position, reaching your arms overhead. Repeat this movement for several reps, focusing on keeping your heels flat on the ground and your knees in line with your toes. Another great mobility exercise for squats is the hip flexor stretch, which helps improve hip flexibility and range of motion. With these exercises and consistent practice, you’ll be on your way to mastering the squat with proper form and increased mobility.
If you fall under one of the categories above, it’s important to perform dynamic warm-up exercises and mobility drills before squatting.
Not engaging the core
Finally, not engaging the core can lead to poor squat form and increased risk of injury. It’s important to brace the core before starting the squat and maintain core engagement throughout the movement, especially if you’re squatting heavy weights.
To engage your core, start by standing tall with your feet hip-width apart and your shoulders relaxed. Take a deep breath and imagine drawing your belly button towards your spine. This will activate your deep abdominal muscles and help stabilise your spine. As you perform exercises such as squats, lunges, or overhead presses, focus on keeping your core engaged and your back straight. With consistent practice, engaging your core will become second nature, and you’ll see improved posture, stability, and strength in your workouts.
By avoiding these common mistakes and practicing proper form and technique, you can safely and effectively perform barbell squats to build strength and muscle mass in your lower body.
Not sure if you’re performing your lifts properly? Book a consultation with one of our expert trainers to assess your form and to optimise your current approach to programming to better hit your fitness goals.
Click here to find out if you should be doing front or back squats.