April 26th, 2017
proper squat form

Proper Squat Form: How To Keep Your Back Straight

The squat is one of the most basic human movements. What does a young child do when it sees something curious on the ground? With its knees wide and its butt close to the ground, it executes proper squat form in order to see what it is.

In this position, the young roustabout is both stable, balanced and comfortable. The deep squat (hips below the knees) is a natural resting position that many of us have lost the ability to perform through years of immobility, bad posture and the use of modern furniture.

In other cultures, specifically the eastern cultures, squatting is still a resting position of choice in comparison to sitting or standing. It is a fantastic way to take a smoke break or play some board games.
proper squat form 2

As an exercise, the squat is a staple in most programs, with the back squat (barbell across the back and shoulders) being the most common form for those training for strength, power and hypertrophy.

“Ass to Grass!” is common jargon thrown around to motivate fellow fitness enthusiasts to squat deeper. One of the most common problems people face when trying to squat, whether the weight is loaded in the front, high or low on the back, or no weight at all, is the lower back rounds as the hips move closer to the ground.

Now, if you’ve ever had someone watch your form while you squat, you know that the simple command, “Stop rounding your back” is as worthless as a trapdoor in a canoe.

While sometimes your form is the issue (and working on form is always beneficial) one of the main reasons your back rounds has nothing to do with the bar on your back. Simply put, you lack the mobility and flexibility to perform a deep squat properly.

Most importantly, you are not using your hips as they were designed to function.

Mobility and flexibility issues causing lower back rounding

  • Tight Hamstrings
  • Tight and Shortened Hip Flexors, causing poor hip mobility
  • Tight Latissimus Dorsi
  • Tight Psoas
  • Ankle Mobility

Well…wow… that is a lot of reasons. BUT WAIT! The good news is that you can conquer many of these problems at the same time through a series of stretches, movements and self-myofacial release.

However, if you are serious about fixing your squat, giving mobility and flexibility the attention it needs is key. You must know that you will not be able to fix this in one day and that you must dedicate the time (even on your off days) to stretch and move around.

Basic stretches

Hamstrings and Hip Flexors

Try the following stretches for loosening up your hamstrings and hip flexors.
hamstring stretches hamstring stretches
hip flexor stretches

Latissimus Dorsi

These are our favorite lat stretches.
lat stretches

Psoas

The Psoas is a hip flexor muscle that helps lift the leg towards the body. It can become tight and shortened from sitting too much.
psoas stretch

Conclusion

There are many things you can do to improve your squat. We typically find that a little mobility and flexibility work goes a long way.

The easiest way to work on these issues is to incorporate a proper full body warm-up into your workouts. We recommend Joe DeFranco’s “Limber 11” warm up routine.

Evan Clark

Evan Clark is a former wildland firefighter turned fitness pro (NSCA CPT). Though he loves his heavy squat and deadlift sessions, he believes that health and fitness extend well beyond the gym and that fitness should be a tool to promote mental health and lifestyle balance.

Workout Finishers: Burn Fat and Boost Your Strength

5 Kettlebell Complexes For Strength And Conditioning