I did 30-day squat challenges all through college in hopes of a firmer, rounder bottom by spring break. I stood in front of my tiny television in my even tinier dorm room dreaming of stronger and shapelier legs. But I never saw much of a result (possibly because I only usually made it to day three before I gave up…) nor reaped any benefits from the squat.
The squat is somewhat of a holy grail of movement. We love it, we hate it but it is a foundational movement that sets the form for a wide variety of other movements in the CrossFit world. However, CrossFitters aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from wonder of a proper squat. Whether you are looking for a nicer, rounder booty or better core strength, the squat is essential.
When I began CrossFit in early 2014, I thought I knew all there was to know about squat form. I mean, it’s a pretty simple movement, right?
What I’ve learned since then is that correct squat form is actually more complex than it may seem and that many athletes and coaches take for granted explaining proper squat form to people like me who truly embodied the term “beginner” the first time I walked into a box. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time researching and discussing the proper anatomy of squat form and I now have the firm booty I dreamed about in my college days although I still struggle with my knees caving in.
Without proper squat form, you will see everything from preventable pain and injuries to poor lifting form. A better squat means a stronger lift, more stamina more consistent results.
These tips will help you make sure your squat form is on point each and every time you dip that booty below parallel.
8 Tips for Better Squat Form
1. Are you getting below parallel?
If your booty isn’t dipping below your hip hinge, you are not doing a squat. No squats means a lot of wasted energy with little to no results. Keep your feet shoulder length apart and get low.
2. Are you getting too far below parallel?
Although the phrase “ass to grass” is popular in the CrossFit world, you don’t want to get too low while squatting. We affectionately call this butt-winking at my gym and it can be just as detrimental to your squat form as not squatting low enough.
As in all lifts, you should maintain a neutral spine during a squat. When you dip too far below parallel, you lose your neutral spine. This is to say nothing of the extra time and energy you exert trying to push yourself back up.
If you notice that you fatigue extremely quickly during squats or movements such as wall balls, make sure that you are not dipping too far. If you see one of your friend’s bottoms giving you a smooth wink from across the room, be sure to point it out!
3. Are your toes pointing forward?
Although you should start with your toes pointing straight forward, most people naturally tend to turn their toes outward, especially as they lift heavier and heavier.
Make sure every time you set yourself up for a lift that your toes are pointed forward, as this maximizes your strength and keeps that posterior chain engaged.
4. Are your knees caving as you squat?
For people like me with weak hips or weak knees, our knees tend to cave in as we squat heavy. When I say “cave in”, I mean turn toward each other instead of going out over the feet, which is proper squat form.
It is imperative to fight this natural motion. You should be pushing your knees out over feet each and every single time you squat. Caving your knees not only impairs your form, but it steals your strength as well.
5. Are you driving through with the outside edges of your feet?
If you are the type of person who’s knees tend to cave as you squat, you should be driving down on the outer edges (the side with your pinky toe) of your foot. This will keep your knees locked into the proper position and will help you drive through with a strong and solid squat.
6. Where are your legs sore at the day after you squat?
I really struggled with proper squat form when I began CrossFitting. It took me months to get comfortable with putting my weight on the back of my feet. Even once I thought I was doing it correctly, I noticed that I was consistently sore in the front of my quad muscles and that I wasn’t feeling anything in my posterior chain.
Although some soreness in the front of your quads when you’re doing extensive squatting is normal, the majority of your soreness should belong to your posterior chain, as those are the muscles you’re focused on building. Your posterior chain includes your glutes and your hamstrings. If you’re experiencing pain and soreness in the front of your quad muscles, you need to see number 7.
7. Can you pick your toes up off the floor while in the squat position?
If you’re experiencing a lot of soreness in the front of your legs post-squats, it may be because you are not distributing your weight correctly. When engaging in a squat, your weight should be squarely on your heels. This means that when you are in your squat position below the parallel of your hip hinge, you should actually be able to lift your toes off the ground without losing your balance.
8. Are your legs too far apart from each other?
Sometimes, when you are lacking proper form in your squat or strength in your posterior chain, it can be tempting to widen your legs to compensate. However, this impairs your form. Proper squat form means your legs should be shoulder width apart and your toes should be pointing forward.
Achieving a proper squat is essential for proper lifting form in CrossFit and for better core strength in a variety of other sports and active movements.