Perfecting Your Squat & Deadlift
The squat is frequently referred to as the king of all exercises. And for a good reason. It works some of the biggest muscles in the body, such as the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and core. Strengthening these muscles allows for easy movement and prevents injuries.
If the squat is king of all exercises, then the deadlift is the queen. Surprisingly, this exercise works even more muscles than the squats. It also helps maintain a good posture, strengthening your back muscles and core, and training your body to straighten up.
The squat and deadlift further translate into everyday functioning - such as when you pick heavy objects up off the floor. Yet, proper technique is crucial to reap the benefits. And unfortunately, you often see people in the gym performing these exercises incorrectly, risking injury.
So, let’s break down these 2 exercises.. Are you making any of these mistakes? Check yourself!
Common Mistakes and Fixes
- Rounding the Back
As with any exercise, keeping your back straight is a critical for proper form. You should not be rounding your back. In contrast, you shouldn’t hyperextend your low back either. These mistakes are sure-fire ways to back issues - back issues, that sometimes can become chronic or life-long problems. Keep your back neutral, with your chest up.
- Leaning Forward
This comes back to keeping your chest up and out. Leaning too far forward can also place a lot of unnecessary stress on your low back. And trust us, the last thing you want is a back pain problem on your hands.
- Knees Going Too Far Forward or Inward
Knee problems are up there with back issues. They are common and easy to do. But they are entirely preventable. Your knees shouldn’t go past your toes. If they do, you aren’t sitting far enough back. Re-adjust. Your knees should further stay relatively over top of your ankles. They shouldn’t be caving inward. If they are, try going for a lighter weight or no weight - at least until you get your form and technique down.
- Not Going Low Enough
Squat down as low as you comfortably can. Deeper squats create more activation in the hamstrings and glutes. To reach the maximum effectiveness for most exercises, you want to use your full range of motion - and the squat is no exception! Get low.
- Performing a Squat, Instead of a Deadlift
Many people mistaken the deadlift for a forward-style squat. But they are actually 2 different exercises. The deadlift focuses on a hip hinge. This means you bend at the hips, as well as slightly at the knees, to pick up the bar. Your back comes down so that it is almost parallel to the floor. As you lift the bar up, you slowly stand up straight, extending the knees. If you still aren’t sure what the difference is, watch some videos. It’s easy to pinpoint the difference visually. Check out YouTube for some good comparisons.
- Not Engaging the Back or Rounding the Back
In the deadlift, your back is engaged. You don’t want to let the bar just hang. Pinch your shoulder blades down and back. Keep your back straight - no rounding!
- Hyperextending the Back At the End of the Lift
Another common mistake is hyperextension of the back as you stand up straight. Don’t push your pelvis forward when you come up into standing. Many experts say to think of squeezing those glutes and slightly tucking your tail in - without any hyperextension. It really is all about the glutes at this part of the deadlift. Focus on ‘em! Make sure you don’t place any stress on your low back.
- Not Bending the Knees
While you don’t bend your knees as much as you do in the squat (remember, we are focused on the hip hinge in the deadlift), slight bending is necessary - especially to prevent rounding of the back. At the low part of the deadlift (when the bar is at your shins), your knees should have a slight bend. As you move the bar past your knees, you slowly extend your knees in one smooth movement.
Watch Your Form!
It matters. If you aren’t doing an exercise correctly, you risk using your muscles and joints inappropriately causing injury and pain. Use a mirror or a friend as a spotter. Find out where you are going wrong. Become strong and fit - the right way and minus injury.