We all want to possess the biggest wheels in the gym. Having tree trunk legs is a status symbol of strength and power, giving you the distinct advantage over the crew that has huge upper bodies and pencil-thin legs. And to get there, doing squats – and the type with legit weight – is a must.
Because this exercise is imperative for growth in your quads, fucking it up with stupid mistakes will hold back making any significant gains and probably end up with you hurting yourself. So be on the lookout for the following common miscues and correct them if you’re one of the guilty:
TOO WIDE OF A STANCE
Let’s start off with one that is debatable, shall we? Powerlifters will swear that everyone else but them stand way too narrow while doing squats and they do have a point. Their goal is to put up as much weight as possible and they don’t give a shit about developing muscular looking thighs with a teardrop quad sweep.
A wide stance will allow for you to load up the barbell with multiple plates on each side but other than the power and strength aspects, it will not give you the bodybuilder’s look that the majority of people are after. Using a stance just a little wider than your hips will be the best choice for both range of motion and time under tension.
LOWER BACK POSITION AND PRESSURE
This is important for proper form and preventing injury. Your lower back should be flat with a slight arch in it throughout the entire set, reason being, your lumbar spine has this shape and putting too much pressure on it can result in a herniated disc. But flattening your lower back doesn’t mean to lean your upper body forward, like when you are doing a ‘good morning’ exercise. Confused? We’ll clear it up below.
Proper squat technique means that you should have your chest out and your shoulders back and when done right, this will make the above lower back position an automatic. But sloppy form on squats usually begins with a balance issue and trying to make up for it by leaning forward. This will not fix the problem, but rather enhance it. It also may be the riskiest mistake that people make, resulting in injuries of all severities.
TOO SHALLOW OR TOO DEEP
Not going low enough on squats is something that you see every single day at the gym and the main reason for this is using more weight that can be handled. And the way you can find out for yourself is by comparing your depth on your warm-up and first few working sets to the ones after you begin slapping multiple 45-pound wheels on each side.
That’s pretty understandable, but too low? Believe it or not, that is also a mistake and one that puts added pressure on your knees without enough of a payoff for the risk. Powerlifters with their super wide stance will profess that anything less than “ass to grass” is pussying out, but even in powerlifitng meets, the criteria is to squat just below parallel, meaning that the hips are lower than the knees. This will work your quads, hamstrings and glutes just fine.
FEET AND KNEES NOT LINED UP PROPERLY
Some people will say that having your knees ahead of your toes as you decline is fine and will allow you to go deeper, but doing so throws your form off by shifting your weight from your heels to the toes. Even if you don’t hurt your knees, your balance will be affected and you will probably end up leaning too far forward. Try and be cognizant where your toes are and keep them a little bit in front of your knees or, at worst, even.