How To Stop leaning Forward On Your Squat
April 25th 2019
Figure out some of the best cues in order to limit any forward leaning on your squats. Whether you are doing front squats, back squats, goblet squats, etc, it is important for all lifters to learn how to sit back on their heels. However, modern times have plagued us with bad posture. Running shoes with soft heel cushions force us to place more weight on our toes than intended. If you are not aware, you will probably be more inclined to place a lot of pressure on the front or middle section of your foot rather than your heels.
So, here are some great strategies you can implement in order to stop leaning so far forward on your squats. This applies to both your upper body, where you may want to lean forward with your chest. This also applies to leaning forward in general where you want to come on your toes during the squat.
How to stop leaning forward on your squats
Here are some of the best cues and recommendations to prevent forward leaning on your squats:
- Lift your chest up
- Work on getting proper posture
- Work on your dorsiflexion
- Have a fixed gaze
- Work on your elbow position
Lifting your chest up
If your chest is pointing down to the floor, notice how your upper body flexes forward. On a heavy back squat, this is a nightmare everyone avoids. As a technique cue, focus on picking up your chest. Think of having a proud and big chest, like a gorilla.
Work on your posture
If you have poor thoracic mobility, your upper body may want to lean more forward during the squat. This is because your body has not gotten used to staying in a neutral position. You may also have a hunched back or rounded shoulders as well.
An easy cue to work on daily is to pick your chest up. You do not need to exaggerate the movement but point your chest up to the sky. As a result of this change, your shoulders and upper back will naturally respond and reset your structural balance.
Work on your dorsiflexion
Your foot’s ability to bend backward is key to a powerful squat. This means that you have the mobility and flexibility to keep your heels on the ground while your knees travel beyond your toes. For some younger lifters, this is just a result of bad habits and can be corrected using some stretches and dynamic exercises. For older lifters, you may want to start working on your flexibility as well. So, here are some great to-do exercises to make sure you are improving your dorsiflexion:
Bodyweight squats, weighted or unweighted
So, perform a bodyweight squat and stay in the squat hole. If you are unfamiliar with this exercise or if you have very limited dorsiflexion, you can start off with no weights. If you are an experienced lifter looking to maintain and improve your ankle dorsiflexion, you can hold dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell.
In the bottom of the squat hole, really focus on driving your heels into the ground. Now, try to lean forward while keeping your heels on the ground. You will feel a stretch in the back of your leg and foot, around your calves or Achilles tendon. Make sure to concentrate on keeping your heels flat on the ground.
Once you finished that, lean over on one side to emphasize one ankle at a time. Do the same for the other ankle.
In order to develop better dorsiflexion, you will need to stretch your calves. So, perform a forward lunge towards a wall and use it as support. Really emphasize on stretching your calves of the further back leg. Make sure to keep your heels on the ground. Do it for both legs.
For a more advanced version, you can probably do this lunge variation once you can perform a forward lunge relatively easily. So, for this lunge variation, you will perform a forward lunge as usual. Instead of keep the behind leg straight. You will try to bend your knee while keeping your heels on the ground. This will stretch your soleus, the inner calf muscle.
Do not squat with running shoes
If you want to improve your squats, do not squat in running shoes. The cushy heels will always want to tip you forward. Try to squat barefoot or in flat shoes. If you want to invest in some heeled rubber shoes, you can purchase Crosstrainers or Olympic shoes.
Maintain a fixed gaze
If you are unfocused, you may lose your balance and tip forward. To prevent that from occurring, many strength coaches will advise that newer lifters begin to develop the habit of looking straight or looking at a spot on the ground a couple of feet away from them
But what about looking up? There has been some debate in the lifting community about looking up versus looking straight during the squat. In terms of fixing your forward leaning, looking up will not help you. Looking up will tense your neck and create a bad position for your back to be in. So, it is more of a form cue in order to not create any problems in your neck or back.
Work on your elbow position
Focus on keeping your elbows down and under the bar. You will see many popular lifters squatting and they flair their elbows out like a chicken. Ultimately, this is not a good form cue to practice since you will likely drop your chest as a result of flaring your elbows. In addition, you can potentially shift the barbell weight away from the middle of your foot, which will cause you to feel some instability.
My squat is like a good morning. Is that bad?
For some lifters, you may feel that your squat is a good morning but it really is not. For other lifters, you squat may actually be a good morning and that is totally fine. If you are squatting low bar, you will have more forward lean than someone who squats high bar. Naturally, you will lean more. The next question you may have is, how much of a lean is too much? That really depends on your mobility, limb lengths, etc.
Overall, you will need to be the judge of that. Someone’s forward lean may be acceptable for his or her squat form. But for you, you may need to be more upright.
Some lifters suggest that you can try a wider squat stance and see if that makes any difference. So, if you have a super narrow stance, spread about half an inch more and see if it changes anything. Many gym bros claim that this has helped them prevent forward leaning during the back squat. So, take it with a grain of salt.
That is really it. A short and sweet guide on how to stop any forward leaning on your squats. Of course, there are more subtle form details tailored for specific lifters’ individual differences. But in general, these cues will fix up your squat form instantly. Correcting your posture and developing more ankle dorsiflexion may take a longer period of time. However, it will be worth it in the end when you are able to do a perfect squat and make strength and size gains.