Long gone are the days when you’d only see men at the squat rack. In the last 12 months, 93% of female gym goers incorporate resistance training in their workouts, according to a survey by the Gymp Group. However, gunning for the UK’s strongest woman they are not; this is clever training to decrease the risk of injury and increase daily calorie burn.
But, if you’ve started weight training at the squat rack make sure you’re not making these common mistakes.
We spoke to Amanda Gisby, JBC Nutrition sponsored, Team GB Powerlifter to get the lowdown on the errors that see people riddled with injury and unable to progress and build muscle and skill.
1. Not Developing Ankle Flexibility
Bad positioning and movement can often stem from inflexible ankles.
Amanda explains, ‘the poor mobility of the ankles is at the primary fulcrum of the squat. A small offset angle in the ankle joint can have detrimental effects on the anterior movement of the knee joint which in turn affects the overall positioning and can accentuate a forward tilting motion.’
This, in turn, can lead to the rounding of the back and a forward tilt of the torso, disengagement of the glutes and quads and over emphasis on spinal erectors. This impacts the efficiency of the movement and can hinder muscle development.
READ: 3 Moves To Unlock Your Ankles
2. Positioning The Bar Too High On Your Neck
Another common mistake is placing the bar too high across the shoulders. If you don’t know how to back squat, do watch the WH video.
Although the position is greatly determined by an individual’s body structure, a lot of women have the bar on the base of their neck instead of resting on the top of their back.
In addition, using a form of bar padding can change alignment and provoke a high squat with. Bad news if this creates a body tilt as the likelihood is it will put additional pressure on the base of the neck and upper spine.
3. Incorrect Foot Positioning
When at the squat rack your feet should be about shoulder width apart, with feet approximately parallel or slightly pointed out if you’re doing a regular squat. Rather than concentrate on what everyone else is doing, set-up your stance. This leads us onto our next point.
4. Copying Other People’s Style
Individuals have different body alignment and therefore a different set-up at the squat rack. Your unique form should be taken into account to enable an alignment of your feet and knees.
It also depends on your goals. Amanda breaks it down, ‘a bodybuilder will adapt a different position from a RAW powerlifter (no assistance from kit) who in turn will adopt a different position from a suited powerlifter (people who use wraps or straps).
I am a low bar RAW squatter and my position of my feet is slightly wider than my shoulder width to aid stability with the heavy weights squatted, to account for my lack of mobility in my hips and ligament alignment in my ankles.’
5. Not engaging your core
When executing a squat the back should be straight with the range of torso tilt originating from the hips.
On starting the squat the chest should be expanded by inhaling and holding your breath to create an internal high pressure. This supports the rib cage and chest from forward collapse.
The abdominal muscles should be tensed and whole core engaged to further increase the pressure which also helps to prevent torso collapse under weight.
READ: 4 TRX Moves To Tone Your Core
6. Rounding Your Lower Back
The lower back region of a powerlifter will be slightly arched due to the most efficient power transfer required from optimum position requirements.
Contracting the lumbar muscles should eliminate the rounding of the lower back which can cause serious injury when you’re lifting heavy weights.
The upward transition of the squat sees the engagement of the glutes, quads and supporting muscle groups initiated in an explosive energy transfer.
This movement is most effective if the correct position is kept during the squat and internal pressure maintained. At no point during the squat can you relax any muscle group as full engagement is required throughout for effective power transfer and safety.
7. Squatting With Too Light A Weight
In Amanda’s opinion if you can do a calf raise movement with a weight you are to squat with you’re not squatting enough weight! If you don’t feel confident at the squat rack, take a week off and practice goblet squats with a dumbbell before going back to it with help from a professional.
8. Setting Up The Bar Positioning Wrong
This is dependent on the individual bar position you adopt. If you’re a low bar squatter the bar will be in-line with the centre of your chest to allow you to position effectively and lock your lats in under the bar before you unrack.
You should be able to take the weight effectively before stepping back with the bar, and feel that it is securely placed prior to commencement of the movement.
You do not want to be in a position where you have to be on tip toes unracking the bar.
9. Concentrating Only On Increasing Weight
If you are looking for muscle size then typically you would adopt a lighter weight but complete more reps, working in the eight to 12 range. However, if you want to increase strength you should be choosing a weight that you can only squat for five or six reps.
10. Neglecting Other Gym Exercises
Your trapezius muscles – the ones that run along the central, top area of your back – should take the weight of the bar; so if you’re struggling you should work on trap development.
Core strengthening exercises like hanging leg raises and box jumps are both effective ways of improving performance on the squat rack that can be easily completed in any gym.
11. Relying On A Weight-Lifting Belt
A strong core and strong back muscles are essential as well as mobility work in your upper and lower back.
Calf muscles need to be lengthened and ankle mobility maintained.
Don’t rely on a weightlifting belt to squat with all of the time. This will not allow you to improve your overall core strength and progression will be hindered.
Feeling inspired? Check out our myths debunked about weight lifting for women and the best weight lifting shoes.