Lower body workouts don’t get much better than squats, as they target almost all the major muscles in your lower body, including your hamstrings, glutes, quads, and core. Squats help build strength and prevent injuries, making them one of the best all-around workouts you can add to your routine. You can also do them anywhere, which makes them a great addition to both gym and at-home workout plans.

When starting any new exercise, it’s important to have proper form so you don’t get injured, and squats are no exception. In this article, we’ll go over some proper squat form tips and common bad squat form mistakes to avoid so you can keep getting reps in and stay on track for your fitness goals!


What Is A Squat?

A bodyweight squat refers to an exercise where you lower your hips from a standing position to a seated position before standing back up. They can also be performed with a barbell, where you do the same movements but have a barbell with weights on your back. Either bodyweight or barbell squats target the muscles in the legs and core. 


How Do You Do a Squat?

Though squats can be done with or without weights and have a huge amount of variations, it’s best to start with a bodyweight squat to make sure your form is correct. Learn more about how to perform a squat below:

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with your toes facing frontwards.
  • Hinge your hips and engage your core.
  • Bend your knees downwards while driving your hips backward.
  • Lower your butt towards the floor while making sure to keep your heels and toes on the ground. Keep your chest up and shoulders back. 
  • Once you’ve reached the bottom of the motion, push with your heels and keep your lower body muscles engaged.
  • Drive upwards until your hips and knees are extended, making sure not to hyperextend your back.

Proper Squat Form Tips

There are a few things that you need to make sure you’re doing correctly when performing a squat. Injuries can happen to any of the muscle groups being used when doing them, so it’s very important to use the correct form. Here are a few key factors to pay attention to when doing squats:

  • Stance: Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, and your toes should be pointing forward. If your stance is off, your knees may buckle when you get to the lowest point of the squat.
  • Setup & Weights: If you’re using a barbell in your squats, keep the bar evenly spaced on your upper back. Do not place the barbell on your neck for squats, as that’s a surefire way to injure yourself.
  • Ascent & Descent: When performing a squat, keep your chest and your back straight on the way up and down. Leaning forward can cause you to lose control and fall over. You want to be using your lower body for the entire lift.
  • Breathing: Breathing is extremely important in lifting, and it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and hold your breath while performing exercises. Before you go down into your squat position, take a deep breath and exhale as you move back upwards. 


4 Signs You Have a Bad Squat Form

Besides paying attention to the above factors that can impact your form, you should be aware of some common indicators you’re not using the right form. As you try to prevent injury and get the most out of your workout, review the main signs of a bad form and the main squatting form tips for fixing them:


1.  Knees Caving In

    • Cause: Weak or tight glutes and hips. Improper stance can also lead to your knees buckling.
    • Prevention: Strengthen and stretch your glutes and hips. Pay particular attention to where your knees are during the squat. You want them to push outwards while you’re going down, as keeping them straight may cause issues.

2.  Rounding & Overarching Lower Back

    • Cause: Tight and weak core or poor posture. Weak or tight hip flexors and hamstrings.
    • Prevention: Strengthening your core is great for proper form and all areas of your life. If you’re having back issues from squats, it might be good to work some core exercises like planks into your routine. Stretching and strengthening hamstrings and hips may also help with back problems when performing squats.

3.  Heels Lifting Off The Ground

    • Cause: Poor ankle mobility. Leaning forward too much.
    • Prevention: Stretch your ankles and calves out if your heels are coming off of the ground when doing squats. If you’re leaning forward too much, try to make sure that your torso is upright and use a wider stance if necessary.

4.  Leaning Forward Too Much

    • Cause: Weak lower back and tight hip flexors.
    • Prevention: Incorporating a lower body mobility routine into your workout will do wonders for your squat form if you catch yourself leaning forward too much. Strengthen your lower back and hips, and you’ll be squatting like a pro in no time!


4 Common Squat Injuries

Like other exercises, a variety of factors can cause people to injure themselves while performing a squat. Whether it’s overuse from too much training, putting too much weight on your back, or improper form, injuries can occur if you’re not careful. Before you do your next squat workout, find out more about the four most common squat injuries and how to prevent them below:


1.  Knees Pain

    • Cause: Improper form, muscle imbalances, and overuse.
    • Prevention: Make sure that your knees are over your toes for the entire squat. If you’re having knee pain during squats, try to strengthen the muscles around the knee, like your hamstrings, glutes, and quads, to help support the joints and muscles. Knee sleeves may also help provide additional support.

2.  Lower Back Pain

    • Cause: Poor form, weak core, and overloading.
    • Prevention: If your lower back hurts while squatting, you may be trying to lift too much too soon. Make sure that you’re staying safe and working within your limits, and really pay attention to your form. A weak core may also be the culprit, so try to do some core work to see if your pain goes away.

3.  Hip Pain

    • Cause: Tight hip flexors and muscle imbalances.
    • Prevention: Stretch the hip flexors and strengthen the muscles around them to prevent injuries. Tight hips can lead to all sorts of problems, so make sure they’re loose and strong!

4.  Ankle Pain

    • Cause: Improper foot position and low ankle mobility.
    • Prevention: If your ankles hurt, it may be due to foot placement. Make sure your feet are shoulder-length apart and pointed forward. Stretch your calves and do some ankle mobility exercises to prevent pain and injury.


Get Strong at Physiq Fitness

If you’re looking for a gym in Salem, Keizer, Albany, or Lancaster, Oregon, Physiq Fitness has you covered. Our facilities have everything you need to really nail down your squat form and get your lower body strong. If you’re interested in fitness classes, QFIT Team Training is our cutting-edge small-group fitness program that offers five different styles of HIIT classes. We also offer many larger group fitness classes to ensure beginners have a place to learn proper form and all of our members’ fitness needs are met.

Learn more about QFIT Team Training and our membership options today! With five convenient locations in the Salem area, we’d love to help you on your way to a happier, healthier lifestyle. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out and ask!



Brandon Bennett, VP of Fitness Operations at Physiq Fitness, is a passionate and results-driven professional with over 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, holding 17 certifications from NASM, Precision Nutrition, Certified Functional Strength Coach, and others. Skilled in team training environments, he excels in crafting tailored programs for optimal performance and injury prevention. He has mentored over 100 trainers throughout his career and has worked at Physiq Fitness for over 10 years.