By Evan Midford, Website & Social Media Coordinator
The squat exercise has become very popular recently, and it is used in many strength and rehabilitation training programs, helping individuals improve their physical performance and health. Squatting can also help in your daily life. Whether it is getting out of a chair, climbing stairs or lifting heavy boxes, squats help to build the strength and muscle power necessary for everyday activities.
However, some may find that they experience functional deficits or injuries from squatting, which can cause improper squat technique. Some common squatting mistakes include depth issues, such as not keeping the thighs parallel to the ground, heels lifting during descent or a knee-focused form instead of hip-focused. Incorrect squat form can be caused by several factors, including joint immobility. Identifying these deficits and correcting them with proper mobility exercises are essential for performing a safe squat.
Here are some mobility exercises that can help to correct common squatting mistakes.
Standing Leg Swings
Standing leg swings are a great mobility movement, especially people who experience knee valgus or a knee-focused strategy during their squats.
- Start in a standing position and hold onto an object such as the wall or a chair to aid with balance if needed
- Swing one leg laterally from side to side in front of your body
- Stand tall and keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement to stay balanced
- Try to isolate the movement to be at the hips only
- Repeat the same movement on the opposite leg
Hamstring to Squat Stretch
This stretch relieves tight hips and hamstrings while optimizing lower limb range of motion, deep hip flexion and external rotation.
- Start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart
- Reach down and grab the tips of your toes
- Try to keep your legs straight as you reach down, with knees only slightly bent
- Once in this position, descend into a deep squat, trying to get as deep as possible without lifting the heels
- Your knees should be outside of your arms in the deep squat position
- Ascend back into the hamstring stretch position without letting go of your toes
Front Foot Elevated Split Squat
This exercise is great for those that want to build strong quads and increase knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion, which is needed for proper squat depth.
- Have one foot elevated on a low platform, such as a stack of weighted plates, a bench or a plyometric box.
- Take a wide step back with your other foot so that when you bend down, your back heel will need to lift off the floor
- Descend from this position as you slightly lean into the elevated front foot
- Try your best not to let your front heel elevate or leave the platform
- Pause at the bottom of the split squat and ascend using mainly your quads to bring you up
- Repeat this movement for the opposite foot
Core exercises help correct hip positioning issues such as anterior pelvic tilt, or the arching of the back during the squat exercise. The bird dog exercise can bring awareness to and correct poor stability of the core.
- Start in a tabletop position
- Ensure that your knees are placed under your hips and your hands are placed under your shoulders
- Keep your back flat, ensuring it is not arched or rounded
- Raise your left arm and right leg at the same time, keeping your shoulders and hips parallel to the floor as you raise your limbs
- Return to the tabletop position and repeat with the right arm and left leg
- Remember to engage your core throughout this movement to stay balanced!