Mastering Proper Squat Form for Women: Common Mistakes and Corrections
Squats are a fundamental exercise that need to be a part of everyone’s fitness routine. Squats target a wide range of muscle groups, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes and low back. The type of squat and the positioning of the feet will determine which muscle group we are focusing on.
It’s important to think about proper squat form in order to get the most bang for your buck in terms of time efficiency, but also to prevent injury. It doesn’t make sense to spend 5 minutes doing 50 squats if your form sucks and you’re not getting anything beneficial out of it, right?
Before we dive into common mistakes and their corrections, let's list out the key components of proper squat form:
For a standard squat:
Stance: Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. This stance provides stability and comfort while ensuring your knees track in the right direction.
Posture: Maintain a straight back and neutral spine throughout the movement. Engage your core to support your lower back.
Depth: Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground or go slightly deeper if your mobility allows. Avoid excessive depth that may compromise your form or cause strain.
Knee Position: Keep your knees in line with your toes, ensuring they don't cave inwards or move too far forward over your toes.
Hip Hinge: Initiate the movement by pushing your hips back before bending your knees. This helps prevent excessive forward knee movement and engages your glutes.
Breathing: Inhale as you lower yourself, and exhale as you push back up. Controlled breathing helps maintain stability and power during the squat.
Common Mistakes and Corrections
Knees Over Toes: Mistake: Allowing your knees to travel too far forward over your toes can stress the knee joint and lead to discomfort or injury. Correction: Focus on pushing your hips back first while keeping your weight on your heels. Imagine sitting back into an imaginary chair to maintain proper knee alignment. Your heels need to remain on the floor. If you have trouble getting down low enough due to ankle flexibility, it’s recommended that you work on your ankle mobility. In the meantime, you can still do your squats, but put a large textbook under your heels for support. (a scrap 2x4 works also).
Rounded Back: Mistake: A rounded back can lead to poor posture and lower back strain. Correction: Maintain a neutral spine by keeping your chest up and your shoulders back. Engage your core to support your back throughout the movement.
Inadequate Depth: Mistake: Failing to squat to an appropriate depth limits the effectiveness of the exercise. Correction: Aim to reach parallel or slightly below, but never compromise your form. Work on your mobility and flexibility to achieve the desired depth over time.
Leaning Forward: Mistake: Leaning too far forward can place undue stress on your lower back and knees. Correction: Keep your torso upright and your weight centered over your heels. It may help to practice squats while holding onto a stable surface, like a pole or wall, to improve balance and form.
Valgus Collapse (Knees Caving In): Mistake: Allowing your knees to cave inwards places excessive stress on the knee joint and can lead to injury. Correction: Focus on pushing your knees out, in line with your toes, during the squat. Strengthening your hip abductors can help prevent this collapse.
Speed and Control: Mistake: Performing squats too quickly can result in poor form and reduced effectiveness. Correction: Take your time and prioritize control over speed. A slow and controlled descent and ascent will improve your form and muscle engagement.
If you’re having trouble determining if your squat form is ok, take a video of yourself and slow it down, pause it, etc to check off all these boxes. When you notice something off, make note of it and add the date into a log. Then, next time you’re squatting, remember your mistake and focus on that correction. In time, your mobility and flexibility will improve, but the proper form will become second nature and you won’t need to think about it. It’s totally normal to have muscle imbalances and mobility challenges when you’re starting to squat, so don’t feel like you are alone with any form corrections that you need to work on.
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