“3 quick fixes to bad squat form”
By Ian Smalley
When a lifter is first learning correct squat form, there is often some confusion as to the many nuances of the movement relative to the different weaknesses the lifter brings to the table. Most lifters have limited hip flexibility, improper bar position, quad to hip strength imbalance, and whole host of other things that can make learning the squat more complicated than it needs to be. Here are three cues that cover the primary mistakes made with the squat that will fix 90% of a beginners form issues.
- Squeeze the bar. Most lifters new to the sport have no clue what “tightness” is. Gym rats with some bodybuilding experience are always in for a rude awakening the first time they try to do any powerlifting movement because as soon as the weight gets heavy they fall apart. The best way to illustrate tightness is to clench your fists as hard as you can for a 5 count. Do you notice how your whole body immediately tightens up. This is the same thing we want to happen on the squat. Before you get your air and step out of the rack, squeeze the hell out of the bar and don’t stop squeezing until you re-rack the weight. This simple solution works on all the lifts, but is a great way to get a new squatter to understand how to get tight and optimize proper squat form.
- Arch your upper back. A problem many lifters face is collapsing near the bottom of the lift, meaning that their chest will fall, there hips will rise, and they will be forced to do a good morning to get the weight back up. The simple fix is to squeeze your upper back together as hard as possible. You will notice that this creates an arch in the lower back as well as making the chest come up and forward. Similar to the proper starting position in the bench press. Focusing on keeping your upper back locked together as you descend will keep your chest and head up at the bottom. You can then use your hip and leg strength to drive out of the hole and not your lower back.
- Sit back/ ass down. Most lifters’ idea of squatting is some type of horrible bodybuilding hybrid move where the bar is high on their back, they only go down halfway ( to keep tension on the muscles), they push off their toes, and their ass is a mile high. Basically the complete opposite of proper form , and it’s usually REALLY painful to watch. I’ve seen guys do three and 4 plates this way and was just cringing the whole time. The easiest way to teach the concept of sitting back is to position the lifter facing a wall, with their toes 1inch away from the wall. Now squat down to parallel without you knees touching the wall. Most guys either have their knees hit the wall after 3 inches down or just fall over backward. To do this simple move correctly you must first push the glutes backward while you start your descent, then open up your hips and push your knees outward, all while keeping your back arched and your chest up. It usually takes a couple of sessions for them to get it right, but it’s the easiest way to learn proper squat form in terms of body positioning. We don’t even let new guys train with a bar on the squat until they can do this.