6 Ways You've Been Doing Squats All Wrong

Squats are a truly brilliant and effective tool for strengthening and toning your lower body. If you want a round butt or strong thighs, squats are your answer. But, as with all exercises, they are only useful if you are doing them properly. Improper squats fail to engage the muscles properly and  can lead to injury. To make sure you stay healthy and get the most from your workout, look out for these common squat mistakes:

1. Letting your knees fall in

This mistake is pretty common for women due to a combination of wide hips and weak inner and outer thighs. The problem with this mistake is that when your knees move towards each other during a squat, it puts stress and pressure on the knee ligaments which can cause injury, says  exercise  physiologist Marta Montenegro, C.S.C.S. It would be great if correcting this problem was as simple as mindfully holding your knees in place but it isn't. You will have to work on strengthening your inner and outer thighs. Try lateral band walks to strengthen these muscles.

2. Not lowering to 90 degrees

If you don't lower yourself until your thighs are parallel with the floor, you will not be fully engaging your glutes and the upper part of your hamstrings. This means that you will not really be building your backside. To train your body to get all the way down, try doing squats in front of a knee high chair or bench. Lower yourself down until your butt nearly hits the seat and then come back up. squat

3. Arching your back

Our backs are naturally shaped with a slight "S." Many women don't have much lower back strength and so when they are doing squats, they arch more than they should. This puts all your weight into your lower back and causes injury, says Montenegro. To increase the strength in your lower back, try doing dumbbell straight leg deadlifts. [bctt tweet="6 Ways You've Been Doing Squats All Wrong"]

4. Doing the same squat over and over

Squats are a shockingly versatile exercise. A simple change in the position of your feet can make all the difference! If you stand with your feet closer together, it will really target your glutes. If you take a wider stance, you will work your inner thighs. One move, so many options! ag

5. Lifting too little

If you are doing your squats while holding lightweight dumbbells, your might consider kicking it up a notch. "Women tend to think that because we want to slim our legs, we should do a lot of reps with a low weight," says Montenegro. "But if you don't lift more weight, you aren't going to tone anything." Remember, the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn! Montenegro suggests adding enough weight so that you are only able to do 6 reps with proper form.

6. Going to great lengths to keep your knees behind your toes

"For so many years, it has been ingrained in our brains that the knees should never go past the toes when squatting," says American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer Jessica Matthews, assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College. Extending your knees past your toes increases the stress on them by 28%. But, trying too hard to restrict the forward movement of your knees increases the stress on your hips by 1000% according to a study from the University of Memphis. Instead of focusing on your knees and toes, Matthews suggests that you focus on pushing your hips back before lowering yourself to the floor. Doing this will take the stress off your hips and automatically restrict the forward movement of your knees.

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