When it comes to developing size, strength, symmetry, speed — or just a butt that will fill out a pair of Wranglers like a hand fits in a glove — squats are the most important tool in your training toolbox. Squats, as ever, are king and if you are not doing them, you truly are sacrificing your strength development and athletic prowess. And because squats have such a high metabolic demand, those who squat regularly also tend to find that they gain muscle and lose fat from everywhere. Let’s look at four common squatting mistakes to avoid and outline how to fix them so you can maximize your performance on this staple lift.
1. Walk Out
Walking a squat out of the rack is not a Sunday stroll; it should be as short and efficient as possible. Instead of taking five-plus steps to set up, you should work to take just a couple.
Lift the weight off the rack, make sure the bar has settled, and then take one step on each leg to where your squat stance is. Sometimes, a third shuffle step might be required to get in your optimal stance. The benefits of squatting come from squatting; make your walkout more efficient and stop wasting energy by backtracking across the gym with a loaded barbell.
To receive the full benefits of the squat, you must use a full range of motion. This means squatting below parallel. For some, this takes work and experience but study after study has shown this to be a beneficial practice with no additional risk to your knee health. Squatting to depth can be trained over time – don’t just resign yourself to a life of shallow squats.
Squatting, like any strength movement, is a skill; master this skill by squatting to the exact same depth every single set and every single rep — from your first warm-up to your last working set. Practice does not make perfect — perfect practice makes perfect. Build your squatting skills by always squatting to the same depth, regardless of how heavy or the light the weight is you are training with and always strive for a complete range of motion.
3. Commit to the Descent Speed
We have already established that squatting is a skill. Many advanced trainees already understand the importance of developing this skill by consistently squatting to the same depth. Where many advanced trainees miss the boat is on the speed of the descent. Always squat to depth at the same speed; do not slow down or speed up your negative as weight increases or decreases on the barbell. Find a descent speed and commit to it — every set, rep and training session.
4. Staying Tight
Unlike the common mantra preached at the chrome palace gym where legitimate gains are about as likely as Rush Limbaugh putting on board shorts and competing in men’s physique, one does not breathe in on the negative and out on the positive.
You need to brace your core and get tight from head to toe — shoulders, core, glutes. Everything. Any loss of tightness is a loss of tension that could be applied to the barbell. Get tight, squat big!
With all of the recent popularity of CrossFit and other methods that promote barbell training, squatting popularity is at an all-time high and this is great. Now, our objective is to get maximum benefits from the king of all exercises. Avoid these four mistakes and watch your performance and physique gains go to the next level.