NEVER DO SQUATS LIKE THIS! | 10 Most Common Mistakes!

The squat is not only considered the king of all lower body exercises, but is also one that gets performed incorrectly quite often. In this video, I’m going to show you the 10 most common mistakes when it comes to squatting and how to avoid them to make sure you perform the lift correctly every time.

Now, before you say that you can’t squat because one or more body part ails you; I am going to tell you that there is always a squat variation that you can do. Whether that’s an air squat, drop squat, Bulgarian split squat, goblet squat, or squatting to a box – there is something for everyone. Not only that, but this list will apply to each variation as well.

The first mistake when it comes to any squat tutorial, is not knowing your width, Knowing how wide your stance should be is important when it comes to squatting not only comfortably, but optimally as well. Proper stance will allow for better mechanics and overall muscle recruitment, too.

We often hear that when you squat, you should turn your toes out. Squat mistake number 2 occurs when we don’t rotate our hips to match that alignment. If you squat with your toes pointed out and your knees tracking straight ahead, you are lining yourself up for future knee pain when squatting. Simply make sure that you rotate your hips so your knees travel in the same direction of your toes when you descend into the hole.

Next, you’ve probably heard that you should never allow for your knees to travel past your toes when you squat – this fear itself is a mistake. To allow for proper dorsiflexion of the ankle and the ability to squat to proper depth, there may be a requirement for your knees to move past your toes. Being afraid can lead to compensations and shortchanges elsewhere, which will ultimately cause your squat to suffer.

The fourth common squat mistake you should avoid is that you de-couple your chest and pelvis. When you squat, your chest and pelvis should be moving together as a single unit. When ascending from the bottom of the squat, if the hips rise before the chest, you risk performing a good morning instead of a squat. This can have serious repercussions on your lower back, so remember to keep both moving together at the same time for a better squat.

This mistake might occur simply because you didn’t know the importance of this muscle when learning how to squat – losing tightness in your lats. By not engaging the lats, you lose rigidity in the upper torso which leads to rounding of the thoracic spine. This rounding will lead to weakness and inefficiency throughout the squat, which means you will sacrifice how much weight you can actually squat.

The average squat how-to might not mention this, but using a neck pad can indeed cause a problem when you squat. While designed to make the bar resting on your back more comfortable, it comes at a cost. The optimal placement of the pad is on the C7 vertebrae, which when compressed by the weight of the bar, can lead to numbness and tingling in the hands and arms. This is something you are definitely going to want avoid at all costs.

While not a mistake with the performance of the exercise, forgetting to include unilateral training is a squat mistake nonetheless. By not addressing any possible weaknesses or imbalances, you risk compensations elsewhere in the lift. These compensations have the potential to lead to injury if not addressed early, as force is not even distributed between the legs throughout concentric portion of the exercise.

When it comes to the squat, more of us make this mistake than we care to admit and that’s preparing for the squat with a proper warmup. I’m not talking about just adding a few extra sets at lower weights, but about getting our bodies prepared to get under the bar in the first place. Not properly warming up can lead to not being able to move as much weight as you potentially could, but can lead to injury as well.

One of the biggest squat mistakes you can make is adding weight to the bar without establishing a solid foundation. Albeit a slower process, making sure that you’re progressing without cracks in your base and commanding weight without compensations will allow you to squat more weight without risk of injury. Remember, there is no need to rush the process!

The final mistake on this list is one that I covered in detail in another squat form video that I will link for you below.

If you are looking for a step-by-step training program that shows you how to perform workouts without any of the guesswork, then check out our ATHLEAN-X training programs by heading to the link below.

If you are looking for more videos on how to properly perform common exercises and avoid any potential mistakes, you are going to want to subscribe to this channel here via the link below.

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45 thoughts on “NEVER DO SQUATS LIKE THIS! | 10 Most Common Mistakes!

  1. ATHLEAN-X™ says:

    THE 10th MISTAKE (Must-Watch!) –

    *NOTIFICATION SQUAD “FAST ACTION” Q&A* – Leave your most burning question about this video or any other training, PT or nutrition question within the first 2 hours of this video’s release (AS A SEPARATE COMMENT!!) and I will pick 10 to get a detailed reply from me right here in the comments. Answers will be posted within the first 24-48 hours of you leaving the question. Good luck!

  2. Ethan Lewis says:

    I literally have not been doing bar bell squats due to a very recent injury and fear of my form breaking. Needed this vid for leg day tomorrow, thank Jeff, Jesse, and all of team Athlean!

  3. Kevin Carvalho says:

    Thanks Jeff and Jessie!!!
    Definitely going to incorporate these tips into my next leg day.

  4. Emma Gleeson says:

    So helpful
    I’m always doing squats as per the trainer – basically copying their best style
    And yep, I’ll end up sore.
    Turning out my knees keeping my feet flat and powerful helped.
    I turned to a Spanish squat – having a band going straight back helped me find a style I liked.
    But lining my hips up is my key – I see (now)

    But thank you, going through all these tips

  5. James Staley says:

    Great stuff, Jeff. When I do sumo squats, I get left hip flexor pain at the top of the rep. Usually, I lighten the weight and am mindful not to fully extend. But I don’t like feeling like I can’t fully do the movement. Is there something I can do to fix this? Or is this maybe an anatomical thing for me meaning I should find an alternative to sumo squats.

    • Leonidas Karagiannis says:

      It might be that your stance is too wide for your hips or your hip rotation is off.

      Play around with tweaking these two first

  6. Sub7 Fitness says:

    You did a great job of calling out the knees over toes fallacy! For so long this notion has prevented people from understanding how leg length affects squat mechanics

    • Roderick Clerk says:

      @gbales84 did band work to help stretch the calf and the muscles and joints on the ankle. Basic dorsiflexion mobility exercises. Did them consistently for like 2 months

    • Brian D'Angelo says:

      @James Russell yes have had a few ankle sprains from playing bball in the gym over the years, from mild to severe. Minor knee sprains too. I also get squatters elbow when trying to squat. In general I don’t think I’m built for multi joint leg movements

    • James Russell says:

      @Brian D’Angelo sorry to hear that. Mine was basketball too! You might be right, that you won’t ever be pushing record breaking levels, but I wouldn’t let that put you off doing some work on it. I genuinely thought mine was screwed for life, but now it’s back to 95% of my ‘good’ ankle. The worst thing I did was try to protect it, because without any challenge it just gets weaker and less mobile. I wish you well with it. I’m quite new to proper weights training (1.5 years) and I wish I’d been doing this years ago as a lot of my niggles have become so much more manageable. I’ll never be a competitive power lifter, but I’m experiencing a lot less pain and discomfort.

  7. AmrazS says:

    Hey Jeff, Jesse, I been following you guys since beginning of this year and it really helped me get motivated (and to keep going) love the humor, the physics and the practical advice (don’t cut the carbs -entirely) it helps me going and got me out of a tough spot in life! My question is regarding mistake number 7. I’ve actually noticed this a lot in my workouts as a noobie/beginner. Many exercises I attempt either my left side or right side is ”stronger” than the other. I tend to do some extra reps with single dumbells for the weaker side. But I’m just figuring stuff out as I go, is there more effective ways to train so I don’t feel unbalance in strength in my left/right side?

    • ATHLEAN-X™ says:

      Bulgarian Split Squats are an amazing way to not only determine the degree of imbalance but also the muscles that are most affected. Perform the BSS with an upright torso with the same weight left/right and see where and how you struggle one side vs. the other. Then perform a set leaning forward more. If more of your weaknesses are revealed upright, then you likely have a quad strength imbalance. If more of your weaknesses are revealed leaning, then you likely have a glute strength imbalance. Hope this helps!

    • Esther Palenschat says:

      Oooh! Jeff that last test bit about quad versus glute weakness is awesome!! Thank you! Thank you! I feel like my whole left side is weaker..ab/glute/ foot area too(and I work on it), with limited right ankle mobility in addition. The vast difference from right to left in different parts as I started to try and do beginning of KB Turkish Half Get Ups was an eye opener also. All helpful info and tools. Been a long road trying to figure all this out for me and my croooked frame. Grateful for your P.T. professional approach. Your ankle mobe tricks are super helpful and pain relieving for my feet and calves! Gonna go try this glute vs quad test thing now! Thank you!!

    • AmrazS says:

      @ATHLEAN-X™ Thx alot for this reply Jeff!!! I worked a lot on my form because your videos made me realise how important this is but with this trick I managed to asses what I fear was the issue… my glutes are RIP. With leaning forward especially with my left leg I almost started shaking haha. I’ll reemphasize or rather keep emphasizing on my glute work development.

      I see some others have the same Issue or similar, I personally have hypermobile shoulder joints and when I do the lat pull down my right arm/shoulder overtakes the exercise in the last inches and I’m mostly just pulling with my right side. If anyone has suggestions/ideas how to fix that… lemme know, I’ll keep you guys updated if I find the fix for me!

  8. Mia says:

    Hey Jeff, as always thanks for this valuable information. Without exaggeration, your videos really have changed my life and helped me ease back into the gym after a bad car wreck that left me with hip pain and sciatic nerve damage.
    What are some of the safest squat workouts that will help strengthen without inflaming the hips or nerves for someone such as me? I would like to go further with muscle gains, but am still afraid to squat with the bar. Thanks a million Jeff Cavalier!

    • ATHLEAN-X™ says:

      Thanks as always for watching! I do believe that you CAN resume normal back squats, however the progression is key. I’m guessing that your hip pain and sciatic nerve damage has led to some of the common weaknesses that occur in the lumbar spinal muscles when those issues are present. This would make the DB Bulgarian Split Squat or even a Drop Squat a great starting point to get back in a flow and consistency with leg training. You can certainly build up a good amount of unilateral strength with dumbbells alone on the BSS. At the point where you are able to handle your heaviest dumbbells (at least stronger than the 45lbs that the bar weighs) then you can switch to the barbell squat and use a high bar position. Slowly add weight and build up your volume from there. Hope this helps Mia!

  9. Brandon Jones says:

    Oh man, the “stance finder” is exactly what I needed. Squatting tomorrow morning, so I can’t wait to see how much this helps

    • ATHLEAN-X™ says:

      You may be surprised at what your body “prefers” vs. what you thought you should be using.

  10. utkarsh chourasiya says:

    Injury took me off the gym for 3 years now. It’s golfer’s elbow in both of them.
    Since i was off training, it’s now coming back because of postural issues and weak back muscles.This is what my Physio helped me understand. I also have trigger points in the back which after sessions of releasing, are a lot better than now.
    I have developed some strength in them but if I do anything other than the resistance bands, it instantly gives me the pain again.
    I tried changing grips, it surely helps but 2/10 times I may miss out on something and cause the pain again.
    Jeff, if you could help me with a simple routine suggestion that I could follow, I’d be eternally grateful.
    My overall strength in the body has gone down and it really messes up with my head sometimes. Have been doing cardio since, mostly cycling and sometimes I do squats and lunges.

    Hope this gets considered.
    Thanks Jeff

    • Tiago Pires Abud says:

      Hey, that’s a pitty… sometimes I have golfer’s elbow as well, mainly because of doing a lot of pull ups. I’ve already had this issue a couple of times, in both arms. What I recommend you to do is: 1) Go visit a doctor (but I see you have already done this). 2) The exercise that causes the pain is often the one that is going to heal you. But you should do it with a lower intensity that doesn’t aggravate the pain (you shouldn’t feel pain by doing them, maybe only a little bit of discomfort). For example, in my case, I stopped doing pull ups (higher intensity) and focused on bodyweight rows (lower intensity). Or if you are doing weighted exercises, simply reduce the weights. 3) Do especific exercises to strengthen the forearms. I recommend doing supinated forearm curls and also hanging on a bar. Again the intensity should be low, you are not supposed to feel pain by doing them. If the hanging on the bar is too painful, try hanging on a lower bar with your feet on the ground. 4) Do especific stretching/ massage. Putting ice or hot bottle may also help. 5) Once you get better, increase the intensity slowly. And keep on doing the specific exercises. Today I’m fully recovered, but I still do specific exercises for the forearms, at least once a week. And I always warm up very well before the workouts. 6) Keep in mind that the only thing you must not do is doing nothing. You need to exercise the injuried area somehow to heal it. Hope it helps. Good luck!

    • utkarsh chourasiya says:

      @Tiago Pires Abud

      Hey man,
      Appreciate that. I see where I went wrong.
      I had started forearm training, the video that Jeff made years ago. But I never thought of reducing the intensity all that much maybe dropped the weight from 10 kg to 7.5 (about 5lbs) and lowered reps or sets sometimes.
      Least I could do is get on with this routine of yours and see how this works out.
      Thanks a lot for sharing man

  11. OneRichMofo says:

    Hi Jeff,

    One of my shoulders is higher than the other due to a tightness in a particular muscle like the traps or perhaps the lats. This becomes a problem when I deadlift as I lift the bar unevenly.

    Having a physical therapy background, what stretches/exercises would you say people with such conditions should do?

    (Edit: I have been doing dead hangs, but I feel my right shoulder blade to be much more lose and free to move than my left so the right gets a better stretch.)

    Many thanks,

  12. Connor Lisy says:

    Hey Jeff! I’m curious about your thoughts on the TRX straps and what exercises you recommend for them. Thank you for all the great videos!

  13. DDRFaQ says:

    The quality of these videos are getting even better! Great animations and muscle highlighting. Love it.

  14. indibininging man says:

    I’ve been keeping myself away from squatting at the gym due to me being insecure about my form, doing it alone etc. But I’ve decided to start having it in my training routine, and I planned on having my squatting premiere tomorrow. What a great timing, because now this video gets uploaded right the day before I was gonna start squatting! This video really helped me understand how to squat with proper technique, and it really prepared me for tomorrow’s training. I’ll keep you updated with how it went. Thanks Jeff!

    • Jay Shah says:

      It’s been 17 hours. Not sure where on the planet you are, but did you do it?

      If so, how did it go my man?

    • indibininging man says:

      @Jay Shah hey man, thanks for asking! Unfortunately I woke up with migraine today so I’m unable to go to the gym. But tomorrow it is!

  15. SantosMMAgym says:

    Ax Jeff: a lot of people train early in the morning due to their schedule, although there are concerns about the spinal discs being filled with water and more prone to injury, is it a no no to say deadlift heavy shortly after waking up? Even after a good warmup? Thanks 🙂

  16. J N says:

    Jeff is right, don’t sleep on unilateral exercises! Great leg days can be had with only dumbells doing split squats, goblet squats, and reverse lunges.

  17. James M. says:

    Just wanna say I qualified this year as a Personal Trainer and am starting at a private sector gym soon, planning to phase into a Rehabilitation Specialist role, and your content has been insanely valuable to me (and thousands of others) over the years. Thanks as always Jeff, Jesse, and the whole Athlean-X team.

  18. John Lestingi says:

    I remember the first day of my workout journey. October 1st, 2016. I found Jeff’s video “8 best bodyweight exercises”. Total newbie to a certain degree.
    I started my personal training career in 2020. In November 2021, the LA fitness I worked was ranked #1 in the nation for their personal training program.
    I’m now a personal trainer that owns a business with 20+ clients. Jeff changed a previous 3/4 a pack a day smoker, college drinker, weed smoker, who never drank water or worked out, into an award-winning personal trainer. Thanks, Jeff. You transformed me. I will be forever grateful.

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