The benefits of group fitness

Improving your squat

Improving your squat

7 June 21

The squat – Three common mistakes to avoid

It’s one of the most frequently seen moves around the gym or in a group fitness class, but do you know the common squat mistakes to look out for and how to avoid them?

Mistake #1: Excessive shoulder protraction

What is it?
The shoulder is one of the largest and most complex joints in the body. The shoulder joint is formed from the humerus fitting into the scapula, creating a ball and socket joint.
A lack of stabilisation through the shoulder joint, can lead to the scapula protraction, which causes a rounding of the shoulder joint.
What is it caused by?
Excessive shoulder protraction is typically caused by poor posture habits, muscular imbalances, lack of active stabilisation and prioritising anterior strength work over posterior strength work.
Not activating your posterior chain (back muscles) when squatting may potentially disrupt how the muscles in the neck, back and shoulders normally function, which places increased stress on the shoulder joints and can cause pain around the neck and upper back. Lack of stability infers increasing instability, a reduction in neural control thus a decrease in performance.
What to do instead:
Increasing shoulder stability in a squat, no matter what type, through the activation of stabilising muscles such as serratus anterior (shoulder blade control), rhomboids, and trapezius can improve postural imbalances, prevent unwanted injuries and enhance movement technique.

Mistake #2: Excessive knee valgus

What is it?
The knee is a hinge joint stuck between two more mobile joints of the hip and ankle. Knee valgus is where the knees cave in towards each other during a squat. Sometimes a lack of knee control can be obvious and sometimes more subtle, regardless it has the ability to cause frustrating knee pain and lack of performance increases.
What is it caused by?
Knee valgus can occur for different reasons, they most common ones being poor coordination, poor hip/ankle mobility, weak stabilising muscles, or the weight being too heavy. When using corrective exercises it is important to understand why this is occurring for you.
What to do instead:
If we think of the knee as a door hinge, when is has been pulled off its axis, it won’t be as smooth to open or close. The same can be thought about the knee when squatting and moving away from alignment. Prolonged uneven force may cause the smooth lining to deteriorate resulting in long term pain and frustration, so focus on keeping the alignment straight and the force even throughout your squat.

Mistake #3:The “butt wink”

What is it?
The “butt wink” is a posterior tilt of the pelvis when in the bottom position of a squat, and occurs when the lumbar spine goes into flexion. When the spine is in neutral it can handle large amounts of compressive forces, however when excessive butt wink occurs, these compressive forces are not well handled.
Over repetitive movements excessive butt wink may result in increased and perhaps exceeded demands of the sacroiliac and surrounding joints. This in turn causes pain, along with a decreased utilisation of larger muscles that will negatively affect performance and load tolerance.
What causes it?
One of the most common reasons is tight hamstrings, but the truth is it’s not that simple. The hamstrings are biarticulate, meaning they cross two joints, therefore when there is equal hip and knee flexion there is no change in hamstring length.
Other causes include stability or mobility issues, particularly in relation to hip and ankle mobility.
Hip and ankle mobility may prevent deep squat patterns, and result in the compensating mechanism of a posterior pelvic tilt.
What to do instead:
Increasing hip flexion and internal/external rotations, along with ankle dorsiflexion may help increase squat depth preventing the butt wink.
If mobility if is already good, then improving hip and ankle stability, increasing neural control through balance, and improving coordination and proprioception become more important, especially when attempting to increase squat weight.

Need help?

If you’re concerned about your shoulder positioning, need to improve your knee stability or simply want some more information on how to improve your squat, chat to one of our expert gym instructors next time you're at Lords and they be able to help you out!

– Written by gym instructor Shannon

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