The squat is the king of all exercises. Squats work the largest muscles in the body and provide a systematic metabolic stimulation that builds up the entire body. It should be the cornerstone of your training regimen. If you don’t squat, you won’t build enough muscle, it’s that simple.
Here are 5 common squat problems and what you need to do to fix them…
#1- Poor Form
Often people don’t know how to perform the exercise properly. When squats are performed incorrectly, the leg muscles don’t gain the necessary size and strength to increase the weight and push even further. It is common to find people at the gym with incorrect squatting form.
To Fix This:
To squat, rest the bar on your traps and NOT your neck. Your feet should be shoulder width apart with your feet facing out at a 30 degree angle. Make sure you are squeezing your core and keeping your entire body tight. This will help provide stability to your core, supporting the back flexion. When squatting, imagine you are sitting down on a seat and keep all the weight on your heels. Too many people put more of their weight on their quads and lean forward. Always keep it on your heels and sit back. You should always aim to squat down til your thighs are parallel to the floor. Many people squat below parallel, but this creates excess pressure on the knees and overextends the body. At the lowest point of the of the squat motion, drive the hips upward. The power comes from the hips, not the knees. Make sure to inhale on the way down and exhale when exploding up.
#2- Weak Core
A strong core is necessary for completing heavy squats. Squats depend on the ability of the core to stabilize the body throughout a full range of motion. An increased range of motion means a decrease in injury and pain.
You know when you feel all that heavy weight on your body when you’re about to squat? All that force is generated to your core and it’s the core that feeds off this and keeps the weight stable.
To Fix This:
You need to train your core with heavy weight. Think of the core as any other muscle. Would you do 50 reps at once when squatting over and over again? It’s obviously good to do stuff like this once in a while. However, keep it at a lower rep range. Your core is just like any other muscle. You need proper weight resistance to build the strength of the core and abdominal muscles. Try weighted sit-ups or a weight crunch machine, in addition to doing exercises like planks for endurance purposes.
#3- Poor Hip Mobility
If you have problems squatting to parallel, you may have some hip mobility limitations. It may take some time getting your hips ready for a deep squat. Most people simply don’t stretch enough and they can’t just do a magical warm-up set to correct this limitation. Unstable or immobile hip joints won’t keep your core stabilized while you squat. When your hip joints move this causes your hips to point downward, shifting the strain of your squatting movement from your legs and rear to your lower back. This can result in lower back injury and limit your full range of motion when squatting.
To Fix This:
Your hip flexors allow you to lift your knees and bend at the waist. They are located on your upper thighs, just below your hipbones. To stretch and work your hip flexors, try this stretch:
Kneel on one of your knees and keep your other knee in front of you.
Keep your back straight and abdominal muscles tight. Avoid bending at the waist.
Lean forward and shift more of your body weight onto your front leg. You’ll feel the stretch in your thigh.
Switch legs and repeat.
#4- Too Much Weight
Let’s face it. We all want people in the gym to admire how much we squat. The more you squat, the more people respect you in the gym. It’s a sad reality. Yet, it’s a reality that may get you injured and actually hinder muscle growth. Forget about that. I think you’d earn more respect if you were a muscular machine and if you have the proper functional strength. It’s difficult to sculpt your body when you’re lifting an excessive amount of weight to properly stimulate the muscle fibers.
When squatting, form should always come first. Chances are you really won’t feel your legs properly stimulated when lifting too much weight. You’ll feel it in your lower back. This is a big no no. If you cut the weight and focus more on your form, you’ll see better results. I can guarantee it. Not to mention, you are saving yourself from injury. If you keep lifting too heavy, you will get injured because you will lack the proper form to get the weight up. Don’t be a statistic. Do it well and do it right.
To Fix This:
Do the proper squat form as illustrated above. Try to get all different rep ranges. Go for 4-6 reps for strength all the way to 12-15 reps for muscular and cardiovascular endurance. Even do more reps, like 40-50 reps at once, doing so once in a while to shock your muscles to new growth. Be creative in the rep ranges for your squats. Your muscles should never adapt to one type of rep range.
#5- Lack of Sleep
If you don’t get enough sleep, your legs (and the rest of your body) won’t properly grow like it should. Research confirms that your body functions the best with approximately 8 hours of sleep. Besides overall health, sleep is essential for muscle growth. Sleep is so important because growth hormone (HGH) rises during sleep, which often begins about 30-45 minutes after falling asleep. To build muscle, we need more HGH in our bodies. Human growth hormone is a necessary component for tissue growth and regenerative tissue repair in muscles as well as other tissue types of the body. In addition, tissue growth and maintenance occurs during stage 3 and 4 sleep (deep sleep), and the harder your train, you more deep sleep you need since microtrauma needs reparation. If you aren’t getting enough deep sleep, then your brain will forgo the deep sleep necessary for muscle growth and recovery in favor of resting your mind. In other words, your muscles will grow and recover more with the proper amount of sleep. When you’re struggling to get that weight up, it may be as simple as needing that extra hour of sleep.
To Fix This:
Shoot for 8-9 hours of sleep per night.
So the next time you’re about to squat, use these tips. They will make a difference between properly squatting light and properly squatting heavy. We all want to squat heavy and effectively. Train smart. Train safe. Shut up and squat!