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5 Dumbest Squat Mistakes Sabotaging Your Leg Growth!


Posted by Scott_Herman - November 9th, 2016

When it comes to squats there are many factors that can affect your form and possibly cause a serious injury.  As a trainer for over 15 years it is my job to point out these mistakes to ensure you are training safely and always progressing.  Below are my top 5 dumbest mistakes people make when they squat that are holding back their lower body muscle growth!

Make sure you are not doing any of them!

1. No Stretching Or Mobility Work Before Squatting

If you never perform any stretching or mobility work before squatting to loosen up your shoulders and hips, this can easily lead to pain in these areas.  Most people don’t realize just how much pressure is placed in their shoulders when squatting.  Think about it, in order to get the barbell across your traps you need to really get under the bar and force your elbows back.  If your shoulders are tight, holding the barbell in this position can cause discomfort or even pain.  So if this sounds like you, it is time to work on loosening up your shoulders with various exercises such as shoulder breakers.

To perform a shoulder breaker simply grab a resistance band and pull it apart infront of your body and while keeping your elbows locked bring the band up and over your head until it touches your glutes and then go back up and over your head until the band touches your thighs.  Repeat for 12 reps and perform 2 sets before squatting.

Now if you are having a hard time squatting because your hips are too tight, a very easy warm-up you can do is supported air squats.

To perform this warm-up get as close as you can to one of the legs of the squat rack. Stand in front of it with one foot on each side of the leg of the machine and keep your chest up just as if you were about to squat normally.  Next, use your hands as support and grab the leg of the squat rack and use your arms to keep your chest upright as you squat down.  Really focus on pushing your legs out and forcing your hip mobility.  As soon as you go as low as you can, return to the starting position by once again using your hands for assistance and repeat for 12 reps and a total of 2 sets.

It is going to be very important that you continuously work on your mobility and flexibility because aside from causing pain in your shoulders and hips, if you are too tight you could actually be pushing the barbell into your neck without realizing it.  When this happens the entire weight of the barbell rests on your spine and you can possibly pinch a nerve or compress the discs in your neck.

Also, if you alter the height of the barbell to rest across your neck and not your traps, this will force you to also lean forward and push through your toes/knees to complete your reps causing flexion in your lower back which can also lead to a serious injury.

2. Stopping at 90 Degrees

For MAXIMUM development of all the muscles involved in a squat, (glutes, quads, hamstrings, etc) you need to always train in full range of motion.  Most people do not realize that the lower they go the more they will recruit glutes and hamstrings into the movement.  So what this means is that if you are bodybuilding and your goal is overall leg development, stopping halfway on a squat is not going to help you achieve your goal.

Also, when you fully descend on a squat you are placed in a better position to get your hips underneath the barbell which will make the movement much easier and is the main reason why you will feel more glute and hamstring activation.

Remember, you need to train for your goal.  Power lifters train to lift as much weight as possible which is why they only go just below 90 degrees.  This is all they need to do during a competition and if they want to be as strong as possible, training in this range of motion will be best.  But as a bodybuilder, your goal isn’t hitting a new PR so always train in full range of motion!  If you have a hard time squatting in full range of motion, or ass to grass (ATG) CLICK HERE for some more quick tips that will get you squatting deeper in no time.

3. Pushing Through Your Toes

Another serious mistake a lot of people make is that they do not fluidly break at their hips & knees when squatting.  As you descend it should be a very fluid motion where your hips & knees start to bend at the same time.  However, if you tend to bend at the hips first you will notice that your center of gravity will be pushed forward, the barbell may slide into your neck and the exercise may turn into a squat / good morning hybrid.  If this happens, your lower back will go into flexion, your heals will come off the ground and you will end up pushing through your toes.

If you tend to break at the knees first, the good thing is that you will stay upright, but as you descend your knees will travel much too far passed your toes causing unwanted pressure in your knees.  This will also force your heels to come off the floor which will result in you pushing through your toes to complete your reps.

If this sounds like you, then you need to either lower the weight or practice proper form with air squats.  Bad form like this can lead to a serious injury and if you start lifting too heavy and have a bad habit of pushing through your toes you may develop valgus knee collapse which can lead to an ACL tear.

Valgus knee collapse is when your knees “cave in” during the squat.  If you notice this is happening to you, stop immediately and fix your form.


If you are performing air squats or barbell back squats with light weight, you may not notice you’re doing this.  But when you start lifting heavy weights and going after PRs, if you breathe out and release all the pressure in your core during your reps, you will find yourself in a very BAD situation.  When it comes to squats, having a strong core is crucial for lifting heavy weights.  A strong core is a combination of taking in a breath and holding it while flexing the muscles in your torso.

Even if you’re using a weightlifting belt, you STILL need to take in a breath and flex you core.  If you need help with using a weightlifting belt, you can learn more about how to use one HERE.

What happens when you have a loose core is that the weight of the barbell will force your midsection to collapse which will lead to lumbar spinal flexion.  Not only will you lose the majority of your strength to complete your rep and return to the top of the movement, but you can seriously injury your lower back.

The proper way to perform a squat when lifting heavy weight is to take in a breath at the top of the movement, tighten your core, fully descend, return to the top of the movement and then breathe out and reset for your next repetition.


The gym is one place where you should never be rushing, especially when lifting heavy!  If you took the time to properly rest between sets not only would you lift heavier across more sets, but also the quality of your reps would improve as well.   When it comes to circuit training your rest periods may be more like 30 – 45 seconds between sets.  But when lifting heavy weights for short rep ranges you will need at least 2 – 3 minutes to be fully rested for your next set.  Remember, if you are out of breath you can’t exactly focus on lifting heavy weights and in some cases, resting up to 5 minutes may even be required. BUT, don’t rest TOO LONG either.  You want to keep your body warm and if you perform a set of squats and then go have a discussion about life for 30 minutes and come back your body will longer be warm and may already be starting to tighten up again which can lead to an injury.

I hope these tips will help you on your journey to improving your squat form and increase your weights and if you have any questions be sure to let me know!

I will also include several videos that can help you improve your form and overall mobility below! Enjoy!

Related Videos:


How To: Shoulder Warm-Up: Increase Mobility & Injury Prevention!


Squat: High Bar Vs Low Bar - Which Builds More Muscle? More Strength? (Great Warm-Up Tips!)

Should I Wear A Weightlifting Belt? Are You Using It Wrong? (Internal Belt)

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67% Faster Triceps Growth

Today I’m going to help you achieve 67% FASTER TRICEPS GROWTH. Seriously!  So if you notice 66% or 68% make sure you comment below...


Read many different things about parallel vs ATG squats. I tend to vary it on my pyramid work (I'll go lower with lighter weight than I will with heavier weight - I don't trust myself fully yet.). Also, what do you think about those folk who dive-bomb their squats?

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

I think dive-bombing can be very dangerous.  To maximize your lift you don't want to go TOO SLOW.... but you don't want ot just drop hard either.  It's a middle ground you need to find :-D


Let me know if you have any questions here in the comments!