Why Is My Squat Weak?
Either your leg muscles, glutes, or hip flexors are probably the weakest link bringing your squat down. There are so many body parts to consider when squatting. Your core may also be too weak, causing you instability. Or you may just not be squatting frequently enough, or with enough intensity.
Reasons For A Weak Squat
Being a compound movement, the squat uses a lot of different muscles. If one or more of these muscles is weak or lagging behind, they can be bringing your squat down. Your glutes or your butt are a big factor when squatting as they support you as you squat down and is also responsible for hip flexion during the movement. If you tend to tilt forward when you squat down, this could be because your glutes are lacking. This can put a lot of pressure on your back and lead to injury. If you think this may be impacting your squat, exercises like hip thrusts and Romanian dead lifts are great for strengthening them.
Your hip flexors are another main component of the squat. If you feel squats mainly in your quads rather than your hamstring and glutes, this may be your issue. There’s a test called the Thomas Test you can do to see if you have weak hip flexors. You lie on your back on a table with your glutes near the end of the table. While keeping one leg extended off the table and relaxed, use your hand to raise your other leg and pull it into your chest. If the hip of the resting leg has risen and that leg has a bend, then your hip flexors may be tight or weak.
How do you fix this? The seated butterfly stretch is a great way to stretch them and should always be done before squatting, along with other stretches. This will make your leg muscles less tight, and increase range of motion during the movement. If you’re looking to strengthen your hip flexors, try lunges, skate squats, and the hip abductor machines.
Your core muscles also play a huge factor in the squat. Weird, right? They are stabilizing your body throughout the movement. They also help keep your torso and back straight so that you don’t bend forward. If you brace your core during the movement your should feel how much they play a part in the movement. If you are using them properly, then you will feel them fatigue as you squat.
Mobility is a huge issue for many people when squatting. If you can only get halfway down before your legs or hips get tight, you are going to have issues squatting. Or you will do half reps and everyone will despise you. The best way to fix mobility is to stretch as much as possible. Take your time and do a long stretching session before you squat. This will additionally prevent you from injuring yourself.
How To Increase Your Squat
Simply squat more and train your legs more. Make sure you are hitting your legs twice a week and doing important compound movements such as the squat, front squat, deadlift, Romanian dead lifts, and hip thrusts. Train the muscle groups listed above more to make sure none of them are failing during your squat. Get your form nailed down. This ensures that you will be able to squat heavy without worrying about injury. If your form is slightly off, this could be another reason why you’re aren’t squatting as much as you could be. Check out this post for a more detailed explanation of squat form.
Throw in these exercises to improve your barbell squat form. Wall squats, where you stand close to a wall and face it while you perform a squat. The goal is to try squat as deep as possible without touching the wall, which forces good form. You cannot bend your back or lean forward, otherwise you will touch the wall. Goblet squats, where you perform the squat with a heavy dumbbell in your hands is also great. You should convert the same form from these exercises over to your barbell squat.
Pause squats. If you’ve never done these, prepare to hate me. But you’ll thank me later for the strength gains you notice on your squat. Most people struggle the most at the bottom of the movement. This is when your muscles feel the most tension and requires the most coordination. The longer you hold in this position, the more muscle breakdown occurs. Do not go heavy with these. Start with a lightweight and hold for a few seconds at the bottom. You can increase the weight as needed.
Low VS High Bar – ever heard someone mention this? These terms refer to how high the bar rests on your traps during the squat. High bar is where it is as high as possible, touching the back of your neck. This is for people with better mobility and usually taller people. Low bar is where the bar is further down the middle of your traps, which decreases the distance from the bar to your hips. This results in better leverage. Some people find this gives them more power. Play around with both and see which one assists your lift.
Squat heavy. Do a couple sets where you only go for 4-6 reps, this means the weight you’re using should cause you to fail right in that range. This will overload your muscles, causing big strength gains, resulting in a stronger squat. Squat deep. Too many people only go halfway down, robbing them of a lot of gains. The deeper you squat, the more tension and muscular damage you cause. Your glutes are activated more the lower you go as well and it strengthens your lower back.
Get motivated and pumped up. Watch a motivational video of your favorite lifter before your session. Or play your most hype songs while you are squatting. Sometimes if you’re having an off day and aren’t motivated, that can be why your lift feels weak. Take some caffeine or pre-workout to boost your performance. Check out this killer stim-free pre-workout.
Your shoes make a HUGE different to your squat. You need a flat sole so that you can properly push off the ground. If your shoes have a cushioned bottom, your ankles can move around which is very dangerous. Any flat sole shoe works or even socks. The best choice is to invest in a pair of weightlifting shoes, though. They have an elevated heel which means that your ankle isn’t put under any stress. It also helps your body maintain proper posture. Lifting shoes also have a firm base to push off against the floor with, assuring maximum power. They also have a strap and extra foot and ankle support, to prevent against injury, while keeping your foot from moving at all. Here are the cheapest ones that are still great quality that I could find. If you aren’t that big into lifting, at least use a pair of shoes with a flat sole or squat in your socks.
Think of pushing the ground away at the bottom of the squat, this will incorporate more leg drive. Grip the bar as tightly as possible with your hands. This will tighten your entire upper back and shoulders, which helps with keeping your body stable. Wear a belt. And learn how to use it properly while squatting. Before you squat, take in a deep breath that will push your abs against the belt. This will stabilize your body, which is why the abs are so important during the squat.
Make sure to never raise your heel or toes, always keep your feet planted firmly on the ground. Keep your knees inline with your toes. Drive your knees outwards as you push up. Your knees should never cave inwards. Keep your shoulder down and back. Most importantly, never lean forward or bend your back! Sometimes, filming a video of yourself squatting can do wonders. Then you can watch and see how your form looks, and what you need to improve. It’s very difficult to judge how you form is when you have a heavy barbell on your back.
Let me know if any of these tips helped you, or if you have any to add!