Last updated on November 6th, 2022 at 05:09 pm
It’s a frequently asked question, “Should You Squat With a Mirror?”
Most commercial gyms have a squat rack set up right in front of a huge mirror.
But, every so often you may visit a new gym (yeah, it happens) and find that you have to squat without a mirror.
You typically struggle and your form feels out of whack.
Then again, perhaps you’re new to squatting and you’re wondering whether a mirror is an essential part of the set up.
Allow me to reveal all.
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Should You Squat With a Mirror?
It is actually better to squat without a mirror. Firstly, any exercise, not just squatting, is about feeling the movement as opposed to seeing it. You learn and improve any movement through body awareness. Plus, the view you have in a mirror is generally head on which provides the worst visual feedback for squats. You will learn far more about your technique from behind or to the side. Furthermore, there are so many distractions when you squat with a mirror. Not only are you questioning your own technique, possibly making adjustments, your eyes naturally follow what’s going on around you.
1. You Should “Feel” the Squat Not “See” it
I would hazard a guess that most commercial gym users have become accustomed to watching themselves squat in front of a mirror.
There are even those who will say that you should always squat with a mirror to ensure your form is on-point.
Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true (more on this in a moment).
I don’t want to complicate matters by discussing kinesiology, but when it comes to exercise it’s more about feeling the movement.
And this is especially true when it comes to a basic human movement pattern such as squatting.
When squatting with the aid of a mirror you are actually less present in the movement.
In fact, it’s almost like watching another person squat.
I will also say that you need to understand how to move differently through what your body feels in order to improve your squat.
This is true whether you’re new to squatting or have been doing it for decades.
And this is pretty much impossible to do when you’re overly focused on what’s happening in the mirror.
The squat also happens to be one of the core exercises in powerlifting.
So, realistically you would expect the best squatters, who lift the most amount of weight, to be powerlifters.
There are no mirrors at a powerlifting meet, but the athlete has to know what constitutes a great squat.
Plus, if ever you visit a pure strength-based gym you’re unlikely to find a mirror anywhere near the squat rack.
This should tell it’s own story.
If you want to get bigger and better at squatting then get used to doing it without a mirror.
2. A Mirror Provides the Worst Viewing Angle
When you squat with a mirror you’ll usually have a head-on view.
This is not the optimal angle to view squats from.
In fact, it’s possibly the worst angle to view yourself, and this is true of many of the other big lifts including deadlifts, cleans, snatches, etc.
I guess we all understand the importance of squat depth in hitting the movement for the greatest impact.
When you’re squatting with a mirror directly in front of you it will typically provide distorted feedback.
You’ll probably think that you’re breaking parallel from a front-on view, but more often than not you’re nowhere near.
In fact, you’d be better off viewing your squat from the side or behind.
So, if you’re after visual feedback on technique either record yourself from the side or back or ask a friend or coach to watch you.
This, once again, is why “feeling” the movement is so important.
Furthermore, if you learn to “see” rather than “feel” the squat you may notice imperfections with the movement in the mirror.
You then become fixated on trying to fix this, often mid-lift, which can alter the effectiveness of the movement.
Once you receive visual feedback in the mirror it’s likely that you’ll slow down the movement and make adjustments accordingly.
However, squatting is all about strength and power, plus there is almost an element of speed to return to the starting position.
You take all of this away by trying to almost change technique during the lift.
3. A Mirror Provides Distractions
I have just alluded to this, in terms of trying to change your technique through what you see in the mirror.
However, there are many more distractions when you focus on the mirror in the gym environment.
Your eyes will naturally follow any distractions it sees in the mirror.
This could be someone working out right behind you, a couple of new people walking into the weights’ area, or even the hot girl doing Romanian deadlifts, while her butt is facing in your direction.
Good squat technique requires you to fix your gaze on something and simply squat.
In fact, your eyes never deviate from this point until your set is over.
But, it’s human nature to be naturally curious.
I don’t care how focused you are on your workout, squatting in front of a mirror provides far too many distractions for your eyes.
Learning to Squat – The Starting Strength Method
4. It’s All in the Mind
I know you may think that you have become so accustomed to squatting with a mirror that it’s going to be impossible to change.
In fact, you’ve probably tried squatting without and your form feels absolutely terrible.
You’re probably shaking more, you feel you’re going down unevenly, and perhaps you’re not even squatting as deep as you think you should.
In truth, you have almost become a newbie to the squat again.
But, that’s just fine, it’s all about having more body awareness and learning the movement through feel rather than sight.
Everything you’re feeling about squatting mirrorless is simply in your mind.
Of course, it’s going to be difficult to start with, especially if you’ve been squatting with the aid of a mirror for years.
However, just like every other exercise you’ve learned over the years, you’ll soon become accustomed to squatting without a mirror.
In most commercial gyms it’s simply a case of turning around and facing the other way (if the hooks allow for this).
If not, simply cover up the relevant part of the mirror with a yoga mat or towel.
Trust me, eventually your squat and your entire body will thank you for it.
So, as you can see it is actually better to squat without a mirror.
All exercises, not just squats, should be about feeling the movement rather than seeing it.
You want to learn to be aware of what your body is doing while you squat.
Furthermore, most mirrors are head-on in the gym and this provides the worst angle for visual feedback.
You would be much better off recording your squat from the side or behind.
Additionally, squatting with a mirror provides far too many distractions.
It may take some time to acclimatise to squatting mirrorless, but eventually your technique will dramatically improve.
And this can only be a good thing when it comes to building muscle and strength.
Another squatting quandry that I’ve recently written about is if you should face in or face out when using the squat rack.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.