Hello, everyone! I’m Mai-linh Dovan, a certified athletic therapist and the proud founder of Rehab-U, Movement and Performance Therapy. Welcome back to our YouTube channel, where this week, we’ll delve into the intricacies of squatting by addressing the five most prevalent coaching mistakes.


Before we plunge into this informative session, let me share a bit about what I’ve been up to. It’s been an exciting journey as I recently celebrated 30 years in the world of training. My time has been consumed by traversing the globe, conducting courses in both French and English for trainers and therapists. If you’re new here and unfamiliar with Rehab-U, we specialize in providing continuing education courses on the fascinating topic of integrating rehabilitation into training.

Now, let’s dive into the main topic of discussion—the five common squat coaching mistakes. The cues often heard include: “hips back first,” “weight on your heels,” “knees shouldn’t come forward,” “shins and torso should be parallel,” and “keep your torso upright.” While these cues aren’t inherently incorrect, they can go wrong. As I often say, a cue merely reminds; it doesn’t teach. It’s crucial to understand the reasons behind these cues and when to use them appropriately.

Let’s take a closer look at these cues:

Hips back first: This cue is often used to correct the tendency of individuals to dive into their knees during squats. However, applying it universally can alter the center of gravity, leading to an unintended forward barbell path. The key is to unlock both hips and knees simultaneously, maintaining a vertical bar path.

Weight on your heels: This cue addresses individuals who tend to be forefoot squatters. While correcting this tendency is essential, sending the weight into the heels and losing contact with the toes and forefoot can compromise stability in the squat. Emphasizing weight distribution across the entire foot, including the midfoot, ensures a grounded stance and a vertical bar path.

Knees shouldn’t come forward: Contrary to popular belief, allowing the knees to come forward is acceptable, and the degree to which they will trail forward depends on individual proportions. Proportions, including tibia length, impact how much knee and hip moment are involved in the squat. Again, the vertical bar path dictates this, and restricting knee movement should only be advised if it compromises stability or bar path.

Shins and torso should be parallel: This cue’s applicability depends on individual proportions and the type of squat being performed. For instance, a low bar back squat is inherently more hip dominant and naturally leads to a forward torso lean.  It is unlikely that the torso and shins will be parallel in a low bar back squat because the shins will typically remain more vertical. Understanding these nuances helps determine whether parallel shins and torso are realistic for a particular squat variation or individual.

Torso upright or extend your back: While ensuring a rigid torso to resist flexion under load is key in the squat, cues like “torso upright” may be misleading. For individuals with hip-dominant squats, attempting to keep the torso upright can lead to lower back stress due to over extending the low back. This is often because they mistake upright to mean vertical.  Emphasizing a rigid lever, rather than an upright torso, is essential for maintaining proper form.

Squatting is a highly individualized movement, influenced by factors like ankle dorsiflexion, proportions, and movement habits. The key takeaway is that cues should not be applied universally but tailored to each individual’s needs. Remember, a cue is a reminder, not a teacher. Understanding the intricacies of each person’s squat pattern and applying cues judiciously based on their unique characteristics is the key to mastering the squat.