The squat is one of the most popular gym exercises. Here I go through the movement fundamentals and some common errors that I see.
1. Break at the knees and hips together. The skill of squatting is maintaining balance across your foot throughout the descent and ascent. If you lead with your knees forward your hips will need to try and play catch up and your weight will be shifted forwards. If you push your hips too far back, you will have to lean further forwards with your torso and most likely lose any brace of the core, thus straining your lower back.
2. Imagine there is a crack in the floor between your feet; as you descend, try and drive this crack apart with your feet. This will drive your knees apart, allowing room for your pelvis to sit and engaging your glutes.
3. On the way back up, you should think about driving out of the squat with your glutes and getting back under the bar. You want your weight to come up evenly (shoulders and hips rising at the same time) and not hips first.
4. If you are performing a barbell back squat, the placement of the bar is often forgotten about. The bar should sit on top of your traps and not on your neck. Pull your shoulder blades together to activate these muscles and create a shelf for the bar to sit on.
5. You may have heard the term ‘butt-wink’ and wondered what it means. A butt-wink can occur at the bottom of a squat when the hips go into flexion (posterior pelvic tilt). The core disengages, placing the lower back under a lot of stress, which can be pretty dangerous when squatting with a heavy weight. You should aim to achieve your full range of motion whilst still maintaining core control and a neutral pelvic position.
If you are ever unsure on technique, filming yourself and watching it back can be helpful, or asking a Personal Trainer in your gym to check your form.