How to Squat Without Lower Back Pain

It can be really frustrating to not know how to do an exercise properly.  On one hand, it can be one of the reasons why many people stop exercising altogether; and on the other hand, if you do an exercise with bad form over and over again, it can lead to chronic or acute injuries.  This is why I started this blog serie “common form mistakes” to teach you how to do them right.  Today I will show you how to do a proper squat!


This post is more thorough as I want to address the root causes of a “bad squat”, as often times it is much more than just us following instructions out of a magazine or video.


When I was under lower back treatments (chiropractic and physio), I was often told not to squat or deadlift and let my low back heal.

I had taken a break from weight training during that period but eliminating a primal exercise such as the bodyweight squat from my exercise routine was non-negotiable.  We perform the squat everyday, from the moment we squat to get in a car, to the next moment you want to lift something off the floor.


I also happen to strongly believe, that so many acute back injuries occur from our misuse of muscles and the compensation that occurs when the muscles that are supposed to be doing the work are dormant, and the low back takes up the slack

If you haven’t been able to perform the squat properly, this post will help you:

  • Identify common mistakes you are making, and why you do them
  • Troubleshoot the common mistakes through mobility work
  • Fix the squat

PS: this is the Foam Roller I use
I hope you are excited to get started 🙂


How to do a proper squat | how to do a squat | how to squat properly
Very common mistake as you descend into the squat




















This is the most common mistake I see when I’m coaching a new client.  This mistake is usually due to “not knowing what the heck you are doing” 🙂 What I mean is, if you have not been coached on how to come down into a squat, you probably are going to be landing on your toes, lifting your heels and just going with the flow.

How to fix it:

As you come down, transfer your weight into your thighs and hips – hip hinge. Your weight should be distributed equally on the center of your feet, and your heels should stay on the floor the whole time – you can also make the mistake of just using your heels and lifting your toes.

*Your knees will not travel past your feet if you make sure the weights is transferred properly to your hamstrings and hips.



How to do a proper squat | how to do a squat | how to squat properly

Another common mistake I see all the time is the knee caving in when coming up from the squat. This is mostly due to not activating your glutes properly, as well as lack of focus.  Many just do the exercise for the sake of doing it, without being mindful of how it’s done. Once your attention shifts to your knees, you are more likely not to do this.

*If you forget to transfer your bodyweight into your hamstrings and glutes, then you are more likely to land on your toes instead.


Mobility work

PS: the Foam Roller release is “supposed” to feel a bit harsh..that’s how you know you are doing it right. I tried hard to keep a straight neutral face :p

Note: you can substitute the Foam Roller with a Massage Ball (or tennis ball).

Foam Roller – glutes release:  Before attempting to fix your squat, it’s important to realize that any time, we are restricted to do the movement due to our lack of mobility to perform the exercise. So it’s important to work on the hips and muscles to release tension (imagine you are oiling your hips so they can move more freely). This will give our joints and muscle more range of motion.

How to do a proper squat | how to do a squat | how to squat properly

Foam roller – QL release: place the foam roller / or the Massage Ball , just above your hip bone/oblique.

QL:quadratus lumborum, is a deep posterior abdominal muscle, that tends to get tight and restricts our low back range of motion.

How to do a proper squat | how to do a squat | how to squat properly

Lay on the foam roller and twist from center to the side, slowly releasing the QL. You can hold for a few seconds and repeat.

How to do a proper squat | how to do a squat | how to squat properly

Foam roller – quad release: this will release tightness in the thighs that may be preventing you from going fully into the squat position.

How to do a proper squat | how to do a squat | how to squat properly

QL side opener: An amazing stretch to open up your hips and the side of your back. It feels really good you’d want to stay here for a while, but don’t stay too long as we don’t want to turn this into a static stretch. You can rest your arm on the side if you prefer.

How to do a proper squat | how to do a squat | how to squat properly

Piriformis stretch: If you have a desk job, you may want to incorporate this stretch into your daily routine. This is a great glutes and hips stretch that you can do anywhere.  You can lean forward with a straight back to get a deeper stretch. You can also lean forward in circles.

You can do 3 circles in each direction. Don’t hold for too long, as we don’t want to turn it into a static stretch before we start squatting.

How to do a proper squat | how to do a squat | piriformis stretch| low back pain


Now that we have addressed mobility issues that can restrict us from squatting, we will move to fix posture and form.

Start by using a bench or a chair to get used to transferring your weight into your hamstrings and glutes (hip hinge). This will fix squatting on your toes. Feel free to grab some weights in your hands

Note: your core should be engaged the whole time. This will help you stay balanced and protect your low back. To learn more about the importance of your core in keeping your back healthy, you can read my blog post here

How to do a proper squat | how to do a squat | how to squat properly

Wall squat: In order for you to activate your glutes, perform the wall squat. It will be hard to do this exercise wrong that’s why I love incorporating into a beginner’s routine.  You can put a resistance band around your knees. Make sure you are sitting at a 90 degrees angle and your knees are not past your feet. Keep your back straight against the wall and focus on engaging your glutes, thighs the whole time as you stay mindful that your knees are not caving in (the resistance band will help this way)

wall squat |How to do a proper squat | how to do a squat | how to squat properly

Final notes:

The squat movement is an ongoing practice. You NEED to be able to know why you are not squatting properly, as most of the times it’s “not really” our fault, as it can be due to a mechanical issue and a lack of mobility.

When you address all those points, and you continue with your drills and modifications, you will see progress.

Final tip, use a mirror as much as you can. Stand at an angle as you don’t want to be turning your head as you squat you will lose balance. You can use your phone as well to record yourself and identify common mistakes 🙂

If you enjoyed this post please let me know in the comments area below 🙂 and don’t forget to share it with anyone who needs help squatting!

PS: don’t forget to grab your back pain kit

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    • Hi Caroline!
      Yes getting the squat right takes some practise. I always love introducing a chair or bench to ensure the low back doesn’t absorb the pressure of bad form. And the loop band helps keep your knees from caving in. It’s good that you are aware of it, that’s always the first step to improving things 🙂 thanks for reading the blog!

  • I love that you detail how to foam roll before squats! A lot of my clients have never heard of a foam roller and are amazed at how well it helps loosen their muscles! Love the most common mistakes broken down and how you approach it with “let’s figure out why it’s wrong” instead of just saying to stop doing them. I had one person tell me people over 50 shouldn’t be doing squats and I wanted to die! Yesss you should! Great article! Straight and to the point, I loved it!!

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