Learn about 5 common squat problems, with 5 easy fixes, to help FIX YOUR SQUAT! Squats come in all shapes and sizes, next time you’re at the gym look around and you’ll see what I mean. A simple squat is one of the most effective exercises for building muscle, and also incredibly functional in how it translates to our daily living.
Despite the fact we all intuitively learn how to squat as a child, it definitely takes detailed work on form and sometimes instruction to perfect it in the gym. Correct squatting keeps us from getting injured and is the first step in a number of complex weight lifting exercises like thrusters. Let’s take a look at the common squat problems followed by easy fixes you can use to start correcting these problems.
Problem 1: Your Knees are Caving to the Inside
First things first. Letting your knees cave in towards each other during a squat is a no-no.
This is probably the most common problem in beginners but persists in those that ignore it and continue to progress their load and frequency of squatting. If you’re finding one or both of your knees caving in right away, or midway through your squat, you need to fix this movement. If you continue your knee caving ways you’re risking MCL and meniscus damage to your knees as well as hip issues.
The Fix: Use a loop band around your knees and focus on keeping your knees out during your squat. Work on squatting with no weight until you build enough strength in your outside hip muscles to keep your knees from caving in.
Anyone who is a CrossFit athlete, weight lifting, or simply lives an active lifestyle should have a set of loop resistance bands. I like the cloth ones because they’re easier to get on and off. These are the ones I use in the office.
Problem 2: The Arches in Your Feet are Caving
This may be something you notice during other exercises, or even when you’re just standing or walking. The hollow arch space on the insides of your feet may be shallow or nonexistent. This leaves your feet flush with the ground and shifts your weight towards the inside of your ankles.
If you notice this during other exercises, squatting is likely to accentuate this problem. In fact, you’re probably going to have Problem 1 if you have Problem 2. The feet are your base and if you’re caving inside with your feet, your knees will typically follow suit and cave as well.
The Fix: Do some banded foot inversion exercises to keep the inside of your foot from dropping. Strengthening the muscles that invert the ankle will help build some ankle muscle endurance to keep your feet in the right spot.
You can do these with loop bands, but I like to have long elastic Therabands for them too, they double as good resistance for tons of other exercises. These are the ones I use in the office.
Problem 3: You’re Weight Shifting into the Ball of Your Foot and Toes
Squats are primarily for building your glutes, although there are obviously tons of hamstring and quadriceps involvement too. If you’re shifting your weight towards the front of your foot you’re going to some of the benefits and you may lose your balance! What else? Your heels are going to come off the ground, uh oh.
You’ll never increase your capacity if you’re lifting your heels off the ground and this needs to be fixed as soon as possible. When squatting you want to have the majority of weight in your heels, this keeps your knees behind your feet and saves your knees as well.
The Fix: Unload, again, and work on sitting back into your heels, like you’re putting your but into a chair. In fact, use a chair and do some but taps. When you’re squatting down, tap your but on a chair, and rise up. The chair will keep you from falling backward. Get comfortable putting weight in your heels and sitting back in your squat.
Problem 4: You’re Leaning Before Hip Hinging
The moment you lean forward, you’re immediately burdening your low back. That’s definitely not a good thing for most of us. For goodness sake save your back, or your squatting days will miserable because of the low back pain. If you’re leaning forward first, you’re missing step one, the hip hinge.
The first move of a squat is pushing your but back, and hinging at the hips. This does a couple of important things for your squats. It keeps your weight centered and balanced and it builds your glutes and not the low back.
The Fix: Use a resistance band around your waist and tied behind you to a rig or something sturdy. With tension on the band, practice sticking your but back like you’re starting an RDL, the resistance band should basically pull your but back for you. Then, use your hips and thrust your pelvis forward against the resistance of the band. This activates your glute muscles and gets you familiar with initiating a hip hinge first.
The Theraband resistance bands are great for this fix.
Problem 5: Your Squat Depth is Shallow
How low can you go? Nobody wants to be shallow, in any way. If you’re squatting and you’re not hitting 90 degrees so your thighs are parallel to the floor, you’re cheating yourself. Depth in a squat is a huge part of building functional strength.
Know that squat depth comes with mobility, repetition, and time. If you’re a beginner you may not have great depth initially, but you will eventually. Don’t even think about increasing load until you’re getting good depth. If you can’t perform a deep and full squat, that should be your first goal.
The Fix: Spend some time in a low squat without weight, some call it squat therapy. You can also use an easy (or no weight) and do pause squats, pausing at the bottom for 1-2 seconds before you start your ascent. It’s “oh so painful, but oh so good.”
Why do I have Pain with Squats?
One of these problems may resonate with you, or you may even find a few of these problems in your squat now that you’re aware of them. If you do recognize these problems, take the time and start fixing them now. You’ll be surprised how incorporating these little fixes to correct your squat will allow you to increase your weight and squatting frequency. They also help prevent back and hip pain that may develop from squat exercises.
If you’re already having low back or hip pain when you squat, there’s a lot of things you can do to relieve it and correct the problem. We assess your squat in our office and help get you out of pain. Services we offer at our office to relieve your back and hip pain include chiropractic adjustments, rehab exercises, Graston Technique IASTM, and dry needling.
If you have questions about back pain, hip pain, pain during squatting or anything else related to your muscles and joints feel free to schedule a free consultation with one of our Cary, NC chiropractors.
Dr. Jason Williams DC is a chiropractic physician practicing at AccessHealth Chiropractic in Cary, NC. He treats neuromusculoskeletal pain and injuries using chiropractic manipulation, dry needling, acupuncture, rehab exercise strategies, and other supportive therapies. Primary areas of focus include back pain, neck pain, muscular pain, extremity pain, and orthopedic injuries. Dr. Williams is experienced in treating athletes, especially those in the CrossFit, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and MMA community.
If you’re interested in whether he or another AccessHealth provider can help you, navigate to our contact page or follow this link to request an appointment.