The squat - common issues and how to fix them

A competitive powerlifter squatting

A competitive powerlifter squatting


The squat – common issues and how to fix them

The squat is rightly called the "King of all exercises" it trains the entire body with the focus on thighs and glutes, our power center. From the strength that we can build up with the squat, every other exercise also benefits. The squat is just strong!
With the advantages, however, the complexity of a movement usually increases as well, and so you can observe incorrectly executed back squats in every gym. This, in the worst case, involves the risk of injury, but in any case, it will lead to a waste of strength potential and a lack of progress. We take a look at the 3 most common causes of deficient squat techniques and show simple solutions.
#1: Limited hip mobility
An inadequate mobility of the hip joint is the number one among the squat problems. On one hand, our genetics plays a role - for example, the depth of the hip joint socket or the angle atwhich the thigh bone meets the hip - but also our sedentary lifestyle can cause great damage. Regardless of its impositions, however, any healthy adult should be able to perform an airsquat in the complete radius of movement.
The hip flexor - a muscle, centrally located at the anterior thigh, where it connects the legs to the pelvis - can be shortened by the permanent flexion during sitting. This restricts our hip mobility which is indicated by the classic "forward fall of the ches" in the squat: The upper body leans forward, up to a horizontal position. The load is redistributed from the legs to the lower back. This is not only inefficient, but also extremely unhealthy for the lumbar region.
As long as these shortenings exist in the hip, the squat should not be performed to full depth (“ass to grass”). Squat only to the point where you feel the flipping of the upper body to start. The good news: Everyone can work on his hip mobility! This begins with a more active everyday life. Of course, sitting is not always avoidable, hours of staying on the office chair should be alternated with regular small walk breaks. Also, the standing desk is a great option for every desk worker.
In addition, there are various mobility exercises that stretch the hip flexor effectively. Especially useful is the so-called "Saddle Pos": Sit on your heels, with closed toes and wide open knees. Now lean back as far as you can. Perhaps you can lie completely on your back, maybe only to your supporting fore arms. Both versions stretch the hip flexors noticeably and should be held for at least 1 - 3 minutes.
Also make use of mobility tools, for example the lacrosse ball. Take a few minutes before exercising to get rid of your thigh muscles and fascia fiber.

#2: Limited ankle range of motion
The squat also dependents on well-moving ankles. You can determine your ankle mobility by a simple screening test: Place a foot in front of a wall, the knee at a right angle, the toes about 12.5 cm from the wall. Now press the knee with your hand as far forward as possible. Do not lift the heel from the ground! If the knee touches the wall, your ankle flexibility is satisfactory. If a contact is not possible, you have some mobility homework to do.
For example, you can have a pull-pull band (it should provide a strong resistance) around a stationary item, e.g. the rig or a table leg. Now place your foot in the sling, it should lie just above the foot´s arches. Bring the band under tension by pressing the knee actively forward, working against the bands resistant. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds on each side. Alternatively, the additional pressure can be created by placing a heavy kettlebell (20 kg and above) on your knee.
By the way: The myth that the knee should not pass the toes during the squat is as old as wrong. It is correct that the squat is not initiated by pushing the knees forward, but by pushing back the hip. However, in order to keep the centre of gravity - the weight of the barbell - in an ideal position, a compensating movement in the form of the knee feed is
necessary with increasing depth. Depending on your body proportions, this may mean that the knees will end up in front of your toes. When performed technically sound, this is not harmful for the joints at all.


#3: Lacking usage of the butt
The more we use our butt, the more weight we can squat - after all, our gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the entire body. However, many athletes leave the work to their thighs or even the lower back and thereby give away potential.
The reasons lie, as previously written, in mobility restrictions or in fault technique. Stretching and working with the foam roller or other mobility tools can be a first step to involve the butt more.
With regard to the technique, it often already helps to extend the standing width simply. Also, make sure that your knees are always in line with your toes and do not fall inward - this recruits the adductors (the inner thigh muscles) mainly, although they can generate far less power than the large butt muscle.
Improve your so-called mind-muscle connection before each squatting session by activation exercises. Example: Sit in front of a bench with the legs raised at a right angle. Now lie down with the shoulder blades on the bench and press your hip to the ceiling, until the body is in one line and as straight as possible. Hold this position with your butt squeezed for a few seconds. You can make the exercise more intense by putting a short barbell or kettlebell in your lap. This is only of many activation exercises – google it!