Last updated on November 3rd, 2022 at 01:52 pm
Have you ever asked, “Why Can’t I Squat Without Falling Backwards?”
I guess we all know that squats are probably one of the greatest exercises ever.
And this is true whether you perform them with your own body weight or while under a load.
So, there is nothing more frustrating than being unable to nail a perfect squat, especially if you find yourself falling backwards.
Allow me to explain what’s going on here and what you can do to fix it.
Table of Contents
Why Can’t I Squat Without Falling Backwards?
If you find that you can’t squat without falling backwards this points to a lack of ankle mobility. Whenever you squat, either with a load or with your own body weight, your chest should remain high and your shins and ankles should be angled forwards. If you have issues with ankle flexibility and mobility, the shins and ankles typically remain vertical. Plus, the chest generally drops. If you try to keep your chest up when you have poor ankle mobility you’ll find that you begin to fall backwards.
You Have Poor Ankle Mobility
Without doubt, the number one reason you can’t squat without falling backwards is because of a lack of flexibility/mobility in the ankles.
We typically view squats as a fantastic lower body exercise.
One that focuses foremost on the quads and glutes.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Squats work just about every muscle in the lower body to some extent, and even many muscles in the upper body too.
With that being said, squats will require some type of mobility from all the joints of the lower body.
Namely, the hips, knees, and of course the ankles.
If you think about it, many of the upper body joints are also called into action whenever you squat, depending on the variation you use.
But, I can guarantee that the shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints are called into action with various squatting movements.
Torso, Shin & Ankle Angle During Squats
Anyway, back to the point.
As I say, the main reason you typically fall backwards when you squat is due to poor ankle mobility.
Good squat technique will typically see a fairly upright torso with the chest remaining high.
The torso will be at a slight forward angle, but not overly angled forwards, which is often a sign of poor hip mobility.
Your shins and ankles should also be leaning ever so slightly forward when you squat.
A lack of mobility will see the shins and ankles in a far more vertical position.
Plus, this will generally stop you squatting any further down than parallel.
As soon as you try to lower yourself any further you’ll find that you start to fall backwards.
You may also notice that a lack of mobility will see the chest drop towards the ground and your torso will be bent forward at a far greater angle than it should be.
So, as you can see, all of these issues point to lack of flexibility and mobility in various areas of the body.
However, as I say, the most likely reason that you’re falling backwards is because of poor ankle mobility.
Improve Upright Torso From Bottom of Squat
Squat With Heels Elevated on Weight Plates
This is what I’d call a temporary solution rather than a permanent fix.
You may have noticed that many people tend to squat with their heels raised onto a pair of weight plates.
What this does is make up for a lack of flexibility in the ankles.
You’ll generally notice that when you squat with the heels elevated (via weight plates) that the shins and the ankles lean forward at the optimum angle.
Basically, by having your heels elevated you’re counteracting the lack of ankle mobility.
This will definitely allow you to continue squatting.
Plus, you can adhere to great form and maybe even use more weight (safely) than you could before.
However, as I say, this is nothing more than a temporary solution.
This technique may allow you to squat with good form without worrying about falling backwards.
But, it’s not actually resolving the issue, i.e. poor ankle mobility.
This requires some ankle-specific work and training.
Goblet Squat Against a Wall
I would class this less as an actual exercise and more of a stretch.
Plus, it allows you to “sit” in the perfect squat position while also working on ankle mobility.
You should start off with you back facing a wall and your heels approximately 3-6 inches away from the wall.
You’re going to perform a goblet squat with either a dumbbell or a kettlebell, but your butt will be supported by touching the wall.
So, drop into a perfect goblet squat, while the wall “supports” you from behind.
You should place your elbows either on top, or if flexibility allows inside, your knees.
I prefer to have my elbows inside my knees and literally push my knees and quads further “outwards” with my elbows.
Once you’re comfortably in this position raise your heels off the floor by no more than an inch.
You should feel your ankles come much more into play while you do this.
Hold this heel-elevated position for up to 30 seconds and then relax (you may find that initially you can’t hold the stretch for longer than a few seconds).
Repeat 2-3 times.
Your aim should be to perform this stretch regularly before you squat.
Plus, you should also be looking to increase the time you can keep your heels elevated on each subsequent occasion.
Can’t Squat? Fix Your Ankles
Try Hill Sprints
Now this solution is probably a little “out there”, so bear with me.
I’m not someone who typically does “traditional cardio”.
I much prefer “cardio” that will give me a real metabolic boost and potential hypertrophy gains to boot.
So, in effect I’m building muscle and burning fat at the same time.
One of my favourite forms of cardio is hill sprints, and I especially like to use a hill with a very steep incline.
This will work the quads, glutes, and hamstrings to great effect.
In fact, almost as well (if not better) than weighted barbell squats.
However, due to the steep incline I will also be working on my ankle dorsiflexion.
Okay, admittedly this is an advanced form of training.
So, if you’re suffering with severe ankle and hip mobility issues whenever you squat this may not be a suitable solution.
But, if you have a decent training background, and a good level of strength and fitness, hill sprints are ideal.
I’ve actually found that if I squat heavy a few days after a hill sprint workout that my mobility seems to have improved tremendously.
As I say, this may not be an ideal solution for everyone, but it can help with ankle mobility, as well as your overall strength and conditioning.
So, hopefully you have a better idea of why you fall backwards whenever you squat.
As I’ve mentioned, the main issue here is a lack of ankle mobility.
Realistically, whenever you squat you want to maintain a fairly upright torso.
Plus, your shins and ankles should be angled forwards.
You’ll typically find that if your ankles aren’t flexible enough then your shins and ankles will remain fairly vertical.
You probably won’t be able to squat far past parallel and your chest will typically drop towards the floor.
The best way to fix these issues is to work on ankle flexibility.
One of my favourite workout programs was created by former US marine, Helder Gomes.
Helder focuses on building a “practical physique”.
This means performing exercises that increase strength, flexibility, mobility, while also building muscle and burning fat.
And all of this is achieved without placing pressure on the joints, and actually improving how your joints function.
You can check out what I had to say about Helder’s workout program in my Warrior Zero Bodyweight Challenge Review.
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.