Before we can fix common technique faults, movement limitations and compensations, we need to have an in-depth understanding of movement as a whole.

All physical training is the progressive development of 8 fundamental patterns, we call them The BIG 8:

  • Brace: The ability to create tension and maintain a position. Bracing is a vital part of maintaining posture both statically and dynamically.
  • Hinge: Bending at the hips while keeping the knees straight and maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Squat: Bending at the hips, knees and ankles while maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Lunge: Single leg exercises which work the legs independently from one another (unilateral).
  • Push: Pushing with the upper body.
  • Pull: Pulling with the upper body. The deadlift exercise is often categorised as “Pull” (pulling from the floor). However, the deadlift can be better categorised as a hinge exercise as the emphasis is on hip extension.
  • Rotate: Rotation is primarily performed at the hips and shoulders (ball and socket joints) and at the spine through a series of facet joints. These structures can work in isolation or together to produce larger rotational actions.
  • Gait: Walking, running and carries.

Once we understand these basic patterns and the methods behind ingraining the correct techniques, we can start to look into the causes of common faults.


In this section, we are going to look at 3 of the most common movement faults and some of the best methods for correcting these issues.

Remember, the first point of call should always be awareness of the fault and the conscious engagement of the correct technique.

The 3 Faults:

  • Poor Hinge Mechanics.
  • Lack of Squat Depth and Excessive Forward Lean.
  • Overhead Immobility and Instability.

If you are interested in our Movement Mastery Trilogy, grab part 1, The Movement Muscle Manual absolutely FREE, click this link:

Poor Hinge Mechanics

The hip hinge is arguable one of the most important of the 8 patterns. The is because the hinge is integral to other movements such as the squat and lunge, and is regularly used during daily activities.

However, although the hinge is essentially a prerequisite to many movements and exercises, it can actually be one of the hardest movements to teach, with many individuals finding it awkward to grasp.

The most common faults include:

  • Rounding the back (flexed spine).
  • Minimal glute and hamstring engagement – all the load is on the lower back.


  • Have the individual exaggerate a proud chest position for 5-10 seconds (push the chest out hard) This allows them to feel the engagement of the erector spinae muscles which keep the spine in extension.
  • Stand the individual about a foots distance in front of a wall and while maintaining a proud chest, cue them to touch the wall with their glutes. This drill is especially good for teaching clients to shift their hips / glutes backwards to maximise the engagement of the hamstrings and glutes and can be progressed by standing further and further away from the wall.
  • Use a dowel placed on the individuals back. There should be 3 points of contact, the back of the head, between the shoulder blades and on the sacrum. If these 3 points of contact are lost during the hinge, then the client is rounding their spine.
  • Place a resistance band around the individuals hips and while standing behind them, pull on the band to encourage the hips moving backwards as the torso tilts. This can also be done with a band attached to a solid structure, stepping away from the attachment point to create band tension that will pull the clients hips back. The band tension also promotes a stronger hip extension.
  • Have the individual hold a kettlebell behind their back. This can help to ensure they maintain a proud chest.

All these tips work really well, but by far the most effective way I have found to progress the hinge is with deadlift variations using a kettlebell or dumbbell.

A squatting pattern is usually far more intuitive than hinging at the hips while keeping the knees straight. Therefore, I usually start by having the individual stand right over the weight in a wide sumo stance. From there, they exaggerate a proud chest position and squat down with their back as upright as possible until they can grab the weight with straight arms hung down between their legs. This is essentially a squat. However, if you are picking a “dead” weight up off the floor, it is a deadlift.

Performing a couple of sets of 10 reps in this position with an exaggerated proud chest will increase the engagement of the erector muscles, helping to instil the extended spine position as we progress towards a full hip hinge.

Once the individual has perfected the first movement, I have them progressively bring their feet closer together and have them perform the action with a little less knee bend and a little more bend of the hips. Step by step or set by set this brings the individual into a hip width stance and hinging with load while keeping an extended spine and soft knees.

Note: Always remember, a deadlift is not a squat, the hip position will be higher and more emphasis is placed on the posterior chain. However, more quad engagement means more muscle recruitment as a whole.


One of the most common faults we see is a lack of depth. However, what is the correct depth?

There is a lot of debate regarding the correct depth for a squat. Some believe it necessary to bend their hips, knees and ankles fully (go ass to grass) which is essential for Olympic weightlifters. While others suggest squatting to a parallel (thighs in relation to the floor) or slightly below parallel to be ideal – in Powerlifting, an athlete is required to go just below parallel (break parallel) for the squat to count.

Joint anatomy and limb lengths play a key role in how people squat, and ultimately it comes down to the individual and their goals.

To effectively build strength in a muscle or muscle group, we want to work a muscle through its full range of motion as mechanically this elicits the greatest stress. However, we also want to maximise the force, speed and power we can produce, which is not always possible from a depth where the joints are fully flexed.

Most individuals will look for a balance between maximising the loads that can be lifted while working through a decent range of motion. Therefore, a squat that just breaks parallel (top of knee caps higher than the crease of the hips) can be considered the “conventional squat depth”. However, there is no reason why a lifter can’t spend one session working a squat through a full range (ass to grass) and another working with heavier loads to a parallel position or even a partial range squat above parallel.

Optimal depth all comes down to finding the optimal balance to achieve the best results for your body and chosen sport, and this varies from person to person, because their strengths, weaknesses and needs differ.

When working with a new client, I will not initially instruct them on the ideal depth, I will simply watch what depth they naturally use. Some will barely reach parallel; some will stick at parallel or slightly below and others will go ass to grass with ease.

Teach in stages, set by set: There is no point having a 20 minute lecture on everything the individual needs to do to optimise depth. Give them the basics, see what needs to be addressed and trickle in the right information at the right time. From there, aim to impart knowledge as a whole, just because someone does something perfectly, tell them why, because they may not know – someone that struggled with a movement is often better at teaching it.

If someone can achieve a full range of motion (ROM) squat with no breakdown in form or discomfort then there is no reason to limit the ROM. However, it should be noted that as we approach full depth and the knees are pushing forward (often over the toes), there is more stress being placed on the tissues around the knees and other supporting structures. This isn’t a bad thing if we have the strength to accommodate the stress, but it should be considered when programming going forward.

If someone is struggling with depth there are a few things we can do to instantly improve this. However, not all changes happen overnight and therefore, just because someone isn’t breaking any records when it comes to squat depth, it doesn’t mean all squats need to be cancelled in exchange for a rigid mobility regime.

Note: One of the easiest ways to increase depth is to raise the heels on 1-2.5cm blocks.

When we squat, our centre of mass is shifted backwards (sitting back with the hips). Therefore, people will often compensate for this by tilting their torso forward which acts as a counter balance (this is why putting your hands to the front can help). Excessive forward lean is a common fault and can be exacerbated by tight calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors, and weak erector spinae muscles. However, although poor mobility is often an issue, people will actually jump to the conclusion that a lack of depth is down to poor flexibility when in actuality, it is simply a technique and stability issue.

The best way to see if this is the case is to use a small weight, held to the front as a counter balance i.e. A goblet squat. The goblet squat can literally take someone from terrible form to great form in a couple of sets – it is amazing how a little bit of load can actually make a movement feel more stable and less flimsy.

Note: Unfortunately long femurs (thigh bones) are not optimal levers for squatting and can exacerbate the forward lean of the torso – skeletal structure is not something we are going to change.

The steps to achieving greater depth:

Initial fixes:

  • The goblet squat.
  • Pause and increase depth – squat down to the sticking point, pause and then make a conscious effort to go a little deeper (imagine the torso dropping between the legs).
  • Roll the soles of the feet and calves.

Long-term mobility:

  • Couch stretch – quads and hip flexors.
  • Hamstring stretches.
  • Heel drop calf stretches – with straight and bent knees (the straight knee stretch hits the gastrocnemius and the bent knee stretch hits the soleus).
  • Deep squat stretch – sit in a deep squat and push your knees out with your elbows.

Note: Once you have established an ideal depth for the client using a bodyweight squat and goblet squat. It is time to start lifting heavier loads with the barbell. Now this is the point where ego has to be left at the door. If you increase the weight and depth is decreased, then the lifter is clearly not strong enough to effectively move the weight through what has been decided as the optimal ROM – build strength progressively.


Pressing overhead places more emphasis on the shoulders and triceps. We don’t get as much muscle recruitment from the pectorals (and lats), making it a much harder press. Not only that, individuals will often have insufficient mobility to press overhead, causing compensations. However, this can often be down to poor technique and a lack of engagement of the right scapula mechanics  or scapulohumeral rhythm (interaction of the scapula and humerus during movement).

When it comes to pressing overhead, we don’t set our scapula, we actually need the shoulder blades to move throughout the movement to ensure shoulder health.

This movement is often described as a shrugging action. However, we don’t want to elevate the shoulders, we want the scapula to rotate upwards. This action is facilitated by the serratus anterior and mid-trapezius.

Upwards rotation involves the upper, inside edge of the scapula (the superior angle) rotating upwards and inwards – a common cue is to imagine the inferior angle (bottom point of the scapula) rotating upwards and outwards towards your armpit.

One of the best exercises to practise this is the serratus wall slide.

The shoulders have around 165 degrees of flexion from having your hands at your sides. From there, extension through the thoracic spine facilitates the rest to take it to 180 degrees with the arms directly overhead.

If an individual has poor shoulder or thoracic mobility then the lower back will compensate to take the arms overhead. This will put excessive stress on the lumbar spine and sacroiliac joints.

Note: Many strength athletes will lean right back during an overhead pressing action, this allows for far more pec engagement and ultimately a stronger press. However, as mentioned previously, the stress levels on the lower back are going to be high.

Shoulder and thoracic mobility exercises:

  • Massage ball pec release.
  • Pec and anterior deltoid stretch.
  • Band latissimus dorsi stretch.
  • Roller thoracic release.
  • Shoulder and thoracic mobility stretch.

Even with strong pressing muscles, we may still find stability issues while the weight is overhead. Especially while working with the barbell and performing an overhead squat.

One of the most common faults we see while the arms are loaded overhead, especially while using a wider grip, is one shoulder dropping slightly. This is often a deficit in upper back and external rotator strength on that side.

Fixing a dropping shoulder:

  • Band single arm external rotations and press.

Shoulder stability exercises:

  • Overhead holds and carries.
  • Hanging band technique (HBT).
  • Bottoms up kettlebell press.


Hey, thanks for reading my article, I hope you found it useful.

If you are interested in our Movement Mastery Trilogy, grab part 1, The Movement Muscle Manual absolutely FREE, click this link:

You can also purchase part 2, Muscle & Movement here:

Coach Curtis

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