The Two Most Common Squat Faults, and How To Fix Them

Coaches’ Corner… with Coach Andrew!

I would say that everyone at Shockoe Bottom Performance is working hard to maximize their squat. However, there are two faults that I see more common than any others and I would like to help!

Fault #1: The Knee Cave

Oh yes! The debilitating knee cave. I see this mostly in people’s front Squat and Squat Clean. Everything starts great, but on the way back up, your knees are suddenly banging together! Here is an example of a proper Squat form, and also a knee cave:

As you can see, in the first photo, my knees are tracking in line with my toes and away from each other. In the second photo, my knees are pointed towards each other and far inside my toes. This happens when the Glute and Hamstring muscles “turn off” and fail to assist in the lift. So to help fix this, we have to focus on creating external torque through our hips by pulling our knees apart through the squat. Many people lack the mind-body awareness to know when and if this is happening. Here are two cues to help you learn how to turn these muscles on.

Cue #1: Screw Your Feet

When thinking about your feet, you need to imagine screwing them into the ground before you start your lift. Glue your feet to the ground and clench your entire body as if you were trying to pull your left and right toes apart from each other. You must maintain this through the entire rep.

Cue #2: Rip The Band Apart

Using a resistance band, hip shot band or hip circle band around your legs can help train your glutes, hamstrings, and IT band to assist in your squat. I recommend starting with light resistance and working your way up. Place the band around both legs, slightly above the knees. As you squat, focus on pulling your knees as far apart as you can. This should be done under relatively light load (less than 50% of your squat max). After a few reps, you will feel the intense change in muscle contraction. Using this technique regularly in your training can lead to a much stronger squat.

Fault #2: The Forward Lean

The Forward Lean is also referred to as an “immature squat position.” This is when, as a person descends in the squat, their torso leans forward and towards the ground. In a front squat, this also leads to the elbows dropping towards the floor as well. This causes a loss in structural integrity and the barbell rolls forward.

In the first picture, you can see that my chest is pointed towards the floor, my elbows are pointed straight down, and my back is rounded forward even though you cannot see it. All of the weight of the barbell is pressing down on my wrists and upper arms. Now, with light weight, most people can muscle out of this. However, if you allow yourself to get away with this, I guarantee your body will revert to this under heavy weight.

The second picture is what we want to fight for. Both my feet are firmly planted, my hips are parallel to my knees, my torso is mostly upright with my chest pointed straight ahead, and my elbows are pointed straight ahead so the bar rests on my shoulders and not my wrists. My favorite way to train the muscle memory for this is through the Zombie Squat!

To perform the Zombie Squat, set up the bar like you would for a front squat. However, instead of gripping the bar with your hands, set the bar on your shoulders and reach your hands out in front. As you squat, continue to push your hands towards the sky. If you allow your torso to lean forward, the bar will roll off and you will lose it. This forces you to maintain a more stable squat position and can help build the necessary muscle memory to improve your front squat, back squat, and if you Clean & Snatch.

That’s all for the faults. If you ever have questions about improving your technique, you can always feel free to ask Ryan, me, or any of the coaches. There is no substitute for one-on-one coaching. I hope this information was helpful. Lift Heavy. Run Fast. Move Well. Live Happy. Be Hard To Kill.