Addressing Excessive Forward Lean in Back Squats

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Something that I used to cue a lot years ago when teaching a squat was “hips back.” While some athletes can benefit from this cue (especially those with freaky ankle ROM – here’s looking at you, shorttrackers), an overemphasis on sending the hips back can turn the squatting movement into a semi-hinge pattern.

There are a couple of reasons I’m a little wary of this. The first is that if we send our hips too far back, when tend to shift the majority of our weight into the heels, which is not the most stable base of support, and then we almost have to rock forward to push back upward. While I think it’s absolutely normal that we shift weight in our feet during squatting, I do personally not recommend that there’s too much of a weight shift backwards.

Secondly, we tend to encourage a more upright squatting position to better target the quadriceps; the prime movers of a squat. Conversely, hinge dominant movements like deadlifts are targeting the muscles on the back of the thighs.

If you have a tendency to lean forward during a back squat, consider trying:

  • Focusing on sending the knees forward as your descend, or…
  • Visualising bending the knees and the hips simultaneously on the descent

It can also be helpful to add in some front squats to train the movement pattern, as front squat variations force us to be more upright

And just know; if you’ve got long femurs (thigh bones) you’ll always have more forward lean than someone with shorter femurs. There are plenty of variations on squats to get you moving more upright if that’s desirable for you – cyclist squats, heel wedges, etc.

Aaaaaand… of course mobility plays a role, especially around the foot ankle complex! Some people also find adjusting their stance width or turnout can help.

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