Your Knees Pass Your Toes
At the bottom of your squat, your knees aren’t lining up with your toes but extending past them, so your body leans slightly forward. Your heels are actually lifting off the ground, shifting your centre of gravity forward. Not only are you missing the full backside-toning benefits of the squat, but you can also fall.
The cause: It usually traces back to poor glute activation. In other words, your quads initiate the sit-back movement instead of your glutes and hamstrings. You might also have tight calves and ankles perhaps from daily jogs, which prevent you grounding your heels.
The fix: Train your glutes to turn on during exercise by doing deadlifts and donkey kicks, and stretch your lower legs by bending alternate knees in a classic Downward Dog.
Your Lower Back Rounds
As you approach the bottom of your squat, your tailbone tucks under, creating a curve in your spine. Experts have dubbed it the butt wink (funny) – and over time, it can lead to a disc herniation (not-so funny)
The cause: Tight hip flexors prevent your pelvis going deeper, so your spine steps in to help tilt it backwards. Another common culprit: sucking in rather than bracing your abs, which throws your back into a flexed position.
The fix: Stretch your hip flexors at least twice a day: Stand and hold one knee, then the other, into your chest for one minute. For abdominal stability, practice bracing your abs through various planks, like forearm or side plank.
Your Lower Back Arches
As you deepen into your squat, your spine looks more like half of a U than a V – well beyond a natural curve in your back. The stress on your spine in this position (especially if you add weights) may also increase your risk for disc injuries.
The cause: Ugh, tight hips strike again! But this time it’s combined with tense lats, the muscles around the sides of your back. The two issues produce anterior pelvic tilt, in which your hips rotate forward, jutting out your belly and curving your spine.
The fix: At least twice a week, strengthen your core with planks and foam-roll your lats (lying on your side with a roller under your armpit, roll your body up and down).
You put more weight on one side as you settle into your squat, so your body looks a bit off balance.
The cause: You’ve probs suffered some type of aggravation or injury on the side you lean away from, whether recently (in this case, you’ll feel discomfort) or in the past (which means you’ve likely developed a muscular imbalance, where your healthier side became stronger than the other to pick up the slack). Pain or not, you’ll want to fix imbalances – your better side will only continue to get stronger until it can no longer overcompensate, which could result in injury.
The fix: See a physio to figure out what’s causing you to favour one side. After diagnosis, your physio can help you treat it.
Your Knees Collapse Inwards
Once you’ve lowered into position, your knees cave in so they align closer to your big toes than the middle of your feet. It’s a condition called valgus, and it can be both the cause and effect of knee pain and is sometimes linked to ACL injuries.
The cause: Some experts blame tight hips – from too much sitting, running (without stretching), or both. But some studies suggest that stiff ankles may also be responsible. Limited ankle dorsiflexion (a fancy term for how well you can point your foot up) causes your feet to turn in as you squat, which rotates your legs, knees included, inward.
The fix: Keep your sitting time as minimal as possible, and spend at least three minutes stretching your hips with lunges, and Pigeon Pose or Happy Baby Pose when you wake up, after a workout and before bed. Strengthening hamstrings and glutes will also help lessen stress on your hips – try three sets of 20 glute bridges four days a week. To improve ankle mobility, trace lower case Ts for a minute or so every day. Done!