Three mistakes you’re making that are stopping your squat progress

Not feeling it in your legs or glutes? This is what you may be doing wrong according to 25x World Record Powerlifter, Dr. Stefi Cohen, DPT

Woman performing a barbell squat
(Image credit: Getty)

 Squats: they’re a bit like marmite, but they’re also one of the most popular bodyweight, and weighted exercises, that help work all of your leg muscles and glutes. But have you ever finished a set and thought to yourself ‘I didn’t really feel it’? While that could be down to not using a challenging enough weight, it may also be because you’re making some really, really simple mistakes (more below).

It’s not just your lower body that squats are great for, they’re also brilliant for strengthening your core and lower back. They’re a staple in bodybuilders, powerlifters and Olympic lifters workout routines. But there’s also a huge variety of squat variations — from your standard conventional squat, to a narrow squat, sumo squat and more — making it an accessible movement for everyone. 

 Three squat mistakes you may be making

Keen for your squats to skyrocket? Dr. Stefi Cohen, DPT, who’s a 25x World Record Powerlifter, has shared these three mistakes that could be preventing your squat from moving correctly and stopping that muscle connection. I started doing all three and I can confirm, not only has it helped ease my lower back pain, but it’s also helped my squats increase from three sets of three reps for 100kg, to three sets of five reps at this weight (every rep counts!). 

Here’s a breakdown of Stefi’s tips: 

•  Don’t have the barbell too high up your neck — Stefi says “You want to put the barbell right on the spines where your shoulder blades are”. This will stop the barbell pushing you out of position during the movement. 

 •  Don’t squat too fast — We get it, you may want to bash out your squat sesh as quickly as possible, but Stefi says it’s important to descend into the bottom of the squat with as much control and pelvic stability as possible. This is important for making sure you have good muscle connection during the movement. To help with 

 •  Lean forwards slightly — While some people can happily squat upright, if you find this a struggle then Stefi says your squat could benefit from inclining forwards slightly during the movement. This is something I personally found a game changer when it came to my lower back pain, although you may also benefit from a weightlifting belt.

And there you have it! Three mistakes you could be making while squatting and how to adjust them. We also have a full guide explaining how to master squats, if you'd like a little more detail. Let us know how you get on with your squats. 

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.