How To Fix Common Mistakes on Lower Body Moves: Squats

November 2nd, 2010 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

I lead my bootcampers through I-am-afraid-to-count-how-many squats and lunges every day.  (Full disclosure: I do about 10% of the number they do each class!  But then again, they go home after that and I go lead another class.)

And the problems I see most often are relatively simple fixes.

I shout “90 degree angle with your front leg and 90 degree angle with your back leg” when they do lunges, and “keep your body weight in your heels” as they squat  just as often.  When they do squats, I say “keep your butt back and your weight in your heels” a lot; oh yes and “keep your knees behind your toes.” 

Yeah.  All those cues.

But sometimes it doesn’t come through and the failure to meet those simple requirements makes every move less and less efficient

When you aren’t hitting the right muscle as best as you possibly can, you aren’t getting the best workout or earning the best results as possible.  Additionally, you may place your knees at risk of injury as well by training a dysfunctional movement.

So take a minute and check out what you LOOK like, and what that FEELS like, when you do a squat correctly.  You can take a look in any full length mirror—at the gym, at your house, even in the dressing room. 

You just need to check out where your skeleton is.  You are looking at your hip joint, your knee joint, and your ankle.  You want to have as close to 90 degree angles at each of those as possible.

Keeping your chest up as you squat should help you get a 90 degree angle at your hip.  Don’t lean forward or rest your hands on your thighs until you’re sure of your form.  (It might help to keep your hands on a kitchen counter as if it were a ballet barre.) 

As for your ankle joint, you want to have your weight in both heels as you squat, and in the front heel as you lunge.  You can wiggle your toes in your shoes or face uphill so you get your toes elevated somewhat in order to get a sense of what it feels like to keep your weight in your heels.  If you let your body weight go into your toes, you will lose your good ankle angle.  By keeping your weight in your heels, your shin should stay vertical and your ankle angle will look like a 90 degree angle.

The flexibility in your calves will dictate the ankle angle, so try to stretch your calves after each workout.  Good flexibility and increased range of motion will help you feeling young and going strong.

If you can manage a 90 degree angle at your hip and at your ankle, the knee angle will come easily!  The strength and health of your knees will dictate whether you actually achieve a 90 degree angle with your knees.  But it’s worth working for!  Keep that ankle and hip angle in check and you will be well on your way to a picture-perfect, safe, effective and powerful squat.

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