The squat is one of the most popular workouts among bodybuilders, powerlifters and other athletes for numerous reasons. Apart from helping you build a powerful lower body, squats will also improve your overall flexibility, while boosting hormonal release. Therefore, if you want to improve your results in the gym, then you should include squats in your workout. However, you will only enjoy the benefits that rack squats offer, if you do them the right way. Here are some beginner squat rack mistakes that you should avoid.
Poor Bar Positioning
The positioning of the bar on your back can make a significant impact on your lift. Unfortunately, most beginners rarely get the positioning right. One of the most common mistakes is setting the bar at the base of the neck or across the shoulders. If you usually perform your squats with the bar in this position, you are doing it wrong. When the bar is too high up your back, you are exerting too much force on your upper spine and back, and this may lead to injuries. Also, when the bar is in this position, your body is not as stable as it should be. For a proper, safe and solid squat, the barbell should be in line with the center of your chest or your sternum. Setting the bar in this position will give you the stability and space that you need to acquire a secure position before you move into the lift. You also need to ensure that the bar is symmetrically positioned on your back. If you shift the center of the bar towards the left or right, you will be forced to assume an unnatural position, which might lead to back injuries. Therefore, always pay attention to how you position the bar on your back.
Improper Foot Positioning
The positioning of your feet will also affect the depth and quality of your squats. If you are finding it hard to obtain proper squat depth, or you keep falling off balance whenever you are descending or ascending, there is a high chance that your stance is failing you. Placing the feet too far apart or too close to each other will definitely affect your stability. When you are performing a squat, your feet should be in line with your shoulders. They also need to be almost parallel to make sure that you can comfortably go up and down without unbalancing or twisting your knees. You should practice this stance every time you are performing squat racks. And with time, this stance will become second nature to you.
Failing to Develop Ankle Flexibility
Strong, flexible ankles, are vital to proper squat rack technique. However, most people tend to overlook them when warming up. Weak or inflexible ankles will negatively affect your squat technique. For instance, if your ankles are weak or inflexible, that impact will affect your entire positioning, leading to a rounded back. The torso will also be forced to tilt forward, thus impacting the effectiveness and efficiency of your workouts. If you are always squatting with a rounded back, you need to strengthen your ankles first, as the problem might be stemming from there. You can strengthen your ankles through exercises like standing heel raises, resisted ankle inversion and eversion, and squat jumps, just to name a few. Also, make sure you warm up your ankles properly before you start any squat rack training.
Pushing the Knees Inwards
Pushing the knees inwards too much should be avoided if you want them to remain healthy. When you push the knees inwards, you are leaving the joints vulnerable to injuries, especially when you are lifting heavyweights. In most situations, the knees will move inwards if you have weak heaps or you lack proper technical understanding of a proper squat. And that’s why this problem is usually common among beginners. To avoid this issue, you can tie some bands around the knees when you are performing a heavy squat so that you can easily activate your hips. Hip abduction exercises and banded walks will also help to remedy this problem.
Lifting the Heels
Another common squat rack mistake among beginners is lifting the heels, especially during the downward movement. If you notice that your heels are coming off the floor when you are performing a squat, you should return the bar back to its position on the rack and practice proper form first without the weight. If heels are coming off the floor, it’s a sign of a lack of structural integrity. And this can lead to problems with your muscles and joints, especially when they are loaded. Also, you will be increasing the chances of hurting your lower back and knees. Furthermore, when you lift the heels when doing a squat, your body is not properly balanced and you might not be able to use your hamstrings and glutes properly. Lifting the heels is usually accompanied by shifting the knees forward. While weightlifting shoes with a higher problem can help you to avoid this problem, this solution is not long-term. Therefore, it’s imperative to master proper squatting form and learn your center of gravity. Once you master those two vital aspects, it will be easier to perform the squats without the heels coming off the ground. As a result, you will avoid injuries and the gains will be significant.
Pushing the Knees too Forward
If you want to perform a strong, deep squat, your knees, hips, and ankles have to work together, so that they power your lift. However, you will also ample stability for the lift. Therefore, if you exaggerate your lifting position, you will definitely affect your stability, resulting in a weak squat lift, which will put a massive strain on your lower back and joints. One mistake that beginners make is pushing the knees forward too much, especially during a heavy squat. While you might feel like your squat is balanced, you have actually destabilized your hips, back, knees and ankles, among other joints that are recruited during a lift. If your knees are pushed too far forward, it will be almost impossible to attain proper squat depth. Doing some hip abductor exercises will help to make your hips flexible, which will, in turn, minimize this issue. Also, ensure you get your knees and feet in the right position every time you are descending during a squat.
You might have probably come across the phrase that says that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. However, when it comes to squatting and other weightlifting workouts, you should avoid it at all costs. While there is nothing wrong with admiring other people’s squatting techniques, it doesn’t mean that you will also succeed in using the same approach. People have different body sizes, weight categories, alignment and shapes. Also, you have your own personal milestones that you want to achieve, which might be different from the others. For instance, a powerlifter will use a different technique compared to someone who is simply lifting weights to bulk up. Therefore, when performing the squat rack, don’t try to copy what others are doing. Instead, your approach should be based on your weightlifting goals, physical capabilities, strength, endurance, and body alignment. All those factors should help you to come up with your own positioning, the weights you will lift as well as the alignment – to ensure an effective and safe workout. In short, you can admire what others are doing on the squat rack, but make sure you remain focused on yourself.
Squatting Without Proper Shoes
One of the most common squatting mistakes that beginners make is lifting without the right pair of shoes. Without the right pair of weightlifting shoes, you will struggle with form, and you might never experience any gains. If you are new to weightlifting, here are some of the factors to consider when buying shoes.
- Elevated heel: Your weightlifting shoes should have an elevated heel since it will help you to maintain proper posture throughout your squats. Heel drop will vary from type of shoe to the other. The goal is to find a pair of shoes whose heel drop allows you to squat with ease and comfort.
- Solid base: Apart from an elevated heel, your weightlifting shoes also need to provide a firm, solid base. Most shoes come with a base made of wood, hard plastics or sometimes both. When going through a squat movement, you need a solid, firm base to catch the weight on. By choosing shoes with a firm, hard base, you will feel more secure and confident throughout the lift. A hard base will also enhance your ability to maintain the right posture. Shoes with a soft base such as running shoes or tennis shoes are not ideal for compound weightlifting movements like squats.
- Support: Your ankles play an important role whenever you are doing squats. Therefore, you need to purchase a pair of lifting shoes that will support your ankles. Apart from the laces, the shoes should have an ankle strap or even two, to securely lock down your foot in position.
Just like other types of footwear, your weightlifting shoes should also fit your feet well. It will be impossible to perform squats properly if your shoes keep pinching your toes. Choose a pair of shoes that can comfortably adequate the volume and width of your feet, so that you don’t experience pain and discomfort when you are doing your workouts.
The squat rack is a powerful exercise for building strength and muscle in the gym. But just like any other workout, it’s important to get it right and do it properly. If you have just started doing the squat rack, avoiding the above mistakes will help you to reap maximum benefits from your workouts and prevent injuries.