5 common mistakes when you squat

There's a reason squats are a body-weight workout staple. A good squat routine can strengthen your whole lower body and prep you for everyday life or your next race.

The catch: You might not be getting the most out of your regimen. Squatting the wrong way can strain your joints and could lead to knee or low back injuries. Plus, it can leave out the muscles you want to target.

But have faith. You don't have to be a pro athlete to do good, safe squats.

How? Look out for these 5 common missteps. (And bonus: Learn how to correct them.)

  1. Your heels are up. Squatting on your tiptoes can stress your ankles and up the risk of knee injury. And it deprives your glutes of the workout you promised them. That's because all your weight is resting on the knees and quads, leaving your glutes untouched.

    Solution: Press through your heels. If you find it hard to keep them on the ground, it might be because your calves are tight. Time to stretch.

  2. You're leading with your knees. You've probably heard that your knees shouldn't go over your toes in a squat. That's usually true — though not always. In a deep squat, your knees will eventually have to come over your toes. But when you're at a 90-degree angle or above you want to be able to see those toes.

    Solution: Instead of sending your knees forward and bending your ankles, think about sitting back into the squat like it's a chair. Your ankles will stay straight and you'll be able to see your toes until you go into a deep squat. This gives you the right center of gravity, protecting your joints.

  3. Your knees are wobbling. When your knees start to fall toward each other or away from each other, that's extra stress on your ankle, knee and hip joints.

    Solution: Keep toes pointed forward and knees directly over your ankles. If your knees don't want to stay put, it might be because your hips or glutes need strengthening. Keep doing your squats with good form, and you're on track to correct that!

  4. You're ignoring your core. Your torso might not be the star of the show during a squat, but poor form in your upper body can be a problem. When your back is rounded, your low back is at risk of injury.

    Solution: Breathe deep and keep your gaze forward as you squat. If you notice your back bending, engaging your core muscles will help you keep it straight and protect you from injury.

  5. You need more challenge. Once you have the form down, the same old routine can get boring. If you've been at your squat regimen for a while, it might be time to up the ante.

    Solution: Challenge your body by adding weights while you squat or try single leg squats. Making it interesting for yourself will help you stick with your squat workouts long into the future.

Last Updated Nov 30, 2018

© 2024 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of Use