Use Your Hamstrings & Not your Quads!
Proper form is critical with squats and this may be missing if you feel this exercise more in your quads than you do in your glutes and hamstrings. If you are doing squats wrong then you will not get the benefits that this exercise can offer and any strength and size increases will not be as noticeable. Squats require a great deal of mobility in several areas of the body including the lower back, hips, and legs. If you are not using the proper form when you squat then you will not target the hamstrings and glutes, and could be targeting the quads instead, and you could also increase your risk of injury or pain due to the improper form that is used.
10 tips that can help you properly perform squats so that the right muscle groups are targeted include:
1. Point the toes outward during the squat. This will help place the focus on your hamstrings and less emphasis will be put on the quads. This position with an athletic stance will also provide better stability during the routine.
2. Make sure you hinge your hips during the squat, A common mistake is to move the butt downward without moving it backwards and this can cause the wrong muscles to get the workout. As you begin the squat make sure that your hips hinge and the butt goes back as well as down. This requires balance and flexibility and keeps your body in the correct position. Make sure that you feel pressure on the heels of your feet instead of on your toes because this will show that you are using the right form during the exercise. For all but the tallest individuals this will also keep your knees in line and prevent the joints from sticking out past the toes, and that will help prevent knee pain or injury from frequent squatting.
3. Get professional advice if you think you are not performing your squats correctly. Have a trainer at the gym or an experienced physical fitness expert or lifting professional watch while you squat. They can point out any flaws in your technique and offer further suggestions on how you can improve this exercise.
4. Make sure that your back stays flat or slightly arched during the squat to minimize the risk of injury and ensure that the right muscle groups are targeted. Your lumbar spine should have a small arch to it during the squat but if you allow too much of an arch you could end up injuring or even rupturing the discs in your lower back. This arch should be held throughout the entire squat movement for the best results.
5. Your flexibility will determine the depth that you can squat to, and if you are not very flexible then you may not develop the hip hinge needed to squat properly. For most individuals the ideal depth is at least the point where your hamstrings are positioned parallel to the floor in order to maximize the workout intensity and results. Experienced powerlifters may be able to go much lower but most people do not require this depth in order to focus on the glutes and hamstrings. If you experience severe pain in the knee joints or leg tissues then you should stop.
6. Maintain the head straight and eyes front position when squatting. A common mistake is to look down at the ground or to round your neck during this exercise. A rounded neck will cause alignment problems in the spine and can affect the muscles affected by the squats performed. Make sure that your neck and head stay straight and you look forward rather than down as you squat. This will make sure that you are properly positioned for this type of workout.
7. Use the right amount of weight while squatting is critical. If you try to squat with too much weight this will through off your form and the required movement, shifting the focus of the exercise. You should never lift more than your knees can safely handle.
8. Use a wider stance when you squat. Widening up your stance during the workout will help place more focus on your hamstrings, hips, and glutes, and target the quads less. This will improve the workout results and provide more flexibility.
9. When you reach the parallel position during the squat then try to stop and hold this position as long as possible. The act of stopping and holding the squat will provide a more effective workout and force your hamstrings and glutes to become more involved in the exercise.
10. Keep your shoulders back and push your chest out during the entire squat motion. This helps provide the proper spine alignment during the exercise and will help involve the proper muscle groups during the session.