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How to Safely and Correctly Perform a Squat

September 12, 2018

Performing squats is a staple in most people’s gym routines, it’s a fantastic exercise that can be used to work lots of different muscle groups. But as a result, it can cause a lot of injury, especially within the spine, if it’s done incorrectly. Dr David Brown, doctor of chiropractic and clinic director at our Surbiton branch, recently showed in a video for The Mirror, how to execute a squat correctly. We’ll be going through the top things to avoid, and how to do the perfect squat that will give you the best results.

Avoid an anterior tilt

One of the first things to avoid when you perform a squat, is what’s called an Anterior Tilt. This is when you drop the knees and they come far too forward. If you have tight hips or hip flexors, you may find this position one that you most commonly adopt to compensate for the tightness in your body. It’s also quite common to adopt this position to try to avoid rounding your bottom in when you’re deep into the squat. If you squat in front a mirror side-on, you may notice if you have an anterior tilt if you have an accentuated arch in the spine.


Avoid a posterior tilt

A posterior tilt, or a flat back position, occurs when the hips are too far forward in the starting position. With this position if you try to squat, you may notice the knees buckling and the lower back will round at the bottom of the squat. If you adopt this position you may find yourself off balance, and you may find it difficult to add any weight to your squat for this reason.

Doing either of these two positions will most likely result in injury if you do them repeatedly or adding weight, especially when the weight you add becomes high. The type of injury that can occur may include disc compression or bulging, damage to the nerves or pulling/straining of the muscles you’re using.


The perfect squat

Good squat technique involves activating the glute muscles. Unfortunately this is something that a lot of people may find difficult, as if you work predominantly at a desk you may find yourself with quite weak glute muscles. As soon as you start to drop into the squat, the first movement should be hinging at the waist and pushing the bum back. You’ll want to avoid putting too much pressure on the knees – and if you focus on where your weight baring is occurring as you go into a squat, you should be able to recognise if you’re putting all your weight into your knees. Squeeze your muscles as you go down into the squat, pushing the knees out to avoid them from buckling inwards, and dig your heels into the floor.


In order to practice attaining the perfect squat, you may find it beneficial to do practice motions to give you the right idea of what posture you should be adopting as you go down. There are a couple of different things you can try at home or at the gym to help prepare yourself for doing a squat correctly. Exploring the bad techniques can be extremely useful so that you know when you’re doing it right, without weights watch yourself perform a squat in the mirror and look for key identifiers, is your back arched inwards or flat? Are you putting too much pressure through the knees? Or, are you rounding your bottom too far in when you reach the bottom of the squat?


You can also practice mini-squats to mimic the first motion of the squat, practice hinging at the hips, activating your glutes and pushing your bottom back as you go, performing a shallow squat at first just to get the movement correct.  If you’re still unsure as to whether you’re performing the movement correctly and you’re a member of a gym, try asking a trainer to spot you as you perform a squat, or to adjust you as you perform the squat, so that you can recognise correct form. If you start to experience pain while doing squats, it’s important to seek the help of your local back care specialist, or a healthcare provider to check for any injuries and give you specific advice for your problem.

Last modified : September 18, 2023
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