1) Heels lift off the floor.
A common mistake in technique when squatting is your heels lifting off the floor. Squatting does not come naturally to some which find it hard to keep their feet planted on the floor. Is is very important to keep your feet planted to achieve a greater usage from your muscles when squatting. It is also very important as it helps to keep balance and helps to engage your core muscles.
With my clients that have this problem I use step boxes placed further behind them and ask them to try and bring their glutes to sit onto step boxes without moving their feet. This causes them to push further out with their hips which is usually the problem and the issue usually gets resolved.
However, if you still find it difficult to squat with your feet planted then this exercise does not agree with you and I would advise you to switch to another exercise which works the same muscle group e.g. Leg press.
A squat is not the ONLY exercise in the gym that can help build strong legs. If a exercise does not agree with you it can be dangerous.
2) Degree of bend.
I always come across someone in the gym doing what I call ‘knee squats”. That’s going down a inch and back up a inch with a silly amount of weight on their back. This seems to be quite a popular squatting technique. Not only is this not at all effective on your muscle it also causes enormous strain on your knee joints which WILL cause problems in the near future.
If you have long limbs your degree of bend in your squat will be different to someone with smaller legs. This is not a problem. A squat should just be performed to a parallel degree or a few inches below. However, bending below the parallel does cause strain on your lower back and it’s not necessary at all. You can squat down to a parallel and still build great legs. Especially if you have long limbs you will find it hard to bend below parallel or even perform a squat at all. You can choose an alternative exercise as mentioned before.
Although, if squatting does come natural to you and you can bend below parallel without any lower back problems then feel free to do so. ‘Ass to the grass’ I believe is what they call it. This WILL in the long run cause you lower back problems, so be warned.
3) Too much weight.
Coming to my last issue, this is usually the reason why people do ‘knee squats’. Adding too much weight onto any squat is a one way ticket to ‘crushed knee ligaments’. I don’t understand why people do it, but you CAN build muscle with a moderate weight as long as the technique is correct. TECHNIQUE and DEGREE OF ANGEL is what determines how much of your muscle is active. NOT the weight.
For the correct technique visit my video log on: http://www.youtube.com/AmiiRiazPT
When squatting I use a moderate weight but perform a greater number of reps. E.g. 15-18 reps with 35kg. I find this sufficient and have built muscle in my quads, glutes, ham and core by doing so. If you find that it’s not enough for you or you feel you have more to give after 5-6 sets; I advice to superset the exercise with lunges or stiff leg deadlift. This will ensure you get the most out of your leg workout without crushing your knees or lower back with excess weight.
This is just my advice as a fitness professional.
Below I have listed a leg routine WITHOUT using squats. Give it a try!
Plate loaded leg press: 10 reps, 5 Sets.
Stiff leg deadlift: 10 reps, 5 Sets.
Walking lunges: 12 reps, 4 Sets.
Leg curl: 12 reps, 4 Sets.
Seated calf raises: 15 reps, 5 Sets.
Single leg bulgarian lunges: 10 reps, 3 Sets.