Obviously, if you want strong legs you can’t skip leg day. That much is obvious. Unfortunately, though, just training your legs isn’t enough – you have to be SMART about it. If you’re someone who hits legs religiously every week but still doesn’t have the gains to show for it, it’s time to take a closer look at your squat.
Properly performed squats are non-negotiable if you’re looking to build muscle and get ripped. Heavy barbell squats work almost every muscle in the body while stimulating a ton of growth and a supercharged hormonal response. Problem is, there’s a ton of room for error when performing this essential compound movement.
Aside from just plain not doing them, here are the top 4 mistakes you’re probably making with your squat and how to right the ship for massive results.
1. You Don’t Go Parallel.
Way too many people worry about hurting their knees while squatting and, as a result, squat way above parallel. This reduces your ability to build strength and size because it limits your range of motion. In fact, it also hurts your knees more because the weight never shifts onto your hips if you don’t reach parallel.
Be sure to brace your core as you squat, ensuring that your thighs rest at a 90-degree angle to the floor (or even lower) at the bottom of the movement. If you can’t get that low, start with an easier squat variation like goblet or hack squats to keep proper posture while allowing yourself to squat lower.
2. You Lift Your Heels When You Descend.
Lifting your heels during the downward portion of the movement – a very common mistake – increases the difficulty level but also places unnecessary stress on your knees. Rather than lifting your heels, drive them into the floor (and curl your toes upward if necessary to help you). Also consider throwing some more ankle mobility exercises into your warmup since lifting your heels can be a sign of tight ankles.
3. You’re a One-Squat Wonder.
Okay, not literally one squat. But many people get so comfortable doing one particular variation – or are just so convinced it’s the best variation – that they neglect the dozens of different types of squats that can be performed. Switch up your regular back squats with goblet squats, Zercher squats, or Smith machine squats to give your muscles some variety and prevent plateaus.
4. You’re a Butt-Winker.
No, I did NOT make this up! Good form is super important when you’re squatting, but I see so many trainees tucking their butts underneath as they descend and rounding their lower backs. This is called “butt-winking” in the squat community, and it has the effect of placing dangerous stress on the lumber spine. To avoid this problem, take a deep breath and exhale as hard as possible before you start to rep. You’ll feel your ribcage drop and your pelvis point tilt upward. If you squat while maintaining that posture, you’ll feel your entire core engaged and relieve that awful pressure on your lower back.