Compound exercises involve multiple joints and muscle groups working together and, no matter what your workout goal, they are your best choice in 90% of all training scenarios. Compound exercises are best for building muscle, burning fat, and developing strength and with as few as five exercises, you can train virtually every muscle in your body in an hour or less. They are also said to be “functional” which means they replicate many everyday movements.

However, compound exercises can be tricky to perform correctly, and improper performance could lead to injury or, at the very least, poor progress.

Dodge injuries and make sure your workouts are as productive as possible by avoiding these common squat and deadlift mistakes.


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The barbell back squat is the king of leg exercises. It works every single leg muscle plus your lower back and core too. Some experts also believe that high rep, heavy weight squats will boost testosterone and growth hormone levels. However, since the squat is such a complex movement, if you do them wrong injury could soon follow.


Common mistakes and fixes:

1. Rounded lower back – of all the things you can do wrong during squats, this is arguably the most dangerous. A rounded lower back is a weak lower back as all that weight is supported by your ligaments and intervertebral discs, rather than your muscles. To fix this problem:  

  • - Keep your chest up – make sure you can see it in the mirror

  • - Place the bar lower on your shoulders/upper back rather than on your neck

  • - Brace your core

  • - Push your hips back just before you bend your knees

  • - Strengthen your core and lower back

  • - Do not lean forward; try to keep your torso mostly upright

  • - Use less weight

  • - Reduce the depth of your squat – deep squats often lead to rounding of the lower back

2. Knees cave in – if your knees fall in, you increase the stress on the inside of your knee joint. This knee instability can also reduce squat performance, making the exercise less efficient. To fix this problem:

  • - Think about “spreading the floor” with your feet

  • - Push your knees out during the descent and ascent

  • - Do your warm up squats with a resistance band around your knees to activate your outer hips and thighs

  • - Do banded side steps to strengthen your outer thighs


As great as squats are, they are not for everyone. Some people find barbell squats painful, or simply cannot do them with good form. Thankfully, there are a few alternative exercises you can do instead that will provide your legs with a similarly effective workout. Good options include leg press, lunges, step-ups, rear foot elevated split squats, goblet squats, and front squats.


If squats are the king of exercises, deadlifts are the queen. Part leg workout and part back workout, deadlifts are one of the best total body exercises you can do, and it’s hard to think of many muscle groups NOT involved in deadlifting.

Like the squat, a lot is going on during the deadlift, and because heavy weights are often in use, incorrect form could lead to serious injury.

Common mistakes and fixes:

1. Rounded lower back – as for the squat, a rounded lower back could result in serious injury and should be avoided at all costs during deadlifts. To fix this problem:

  • - Start each rep with your toes under the bar and your heels flat on the floor

  • - Keep the weight close to your legs at all times

  • - Make sure your hips do not rise faster than your shoulders

  • - Keep your chest up and your lower back tightly arched throughout each rep

  • - Do not snatch the weight from the floor; your pull should be smooth

  • - Brace your core

  • - Strengthen your core and lower back

  • - Reset your starting position between each rep; do not “touch and go” or bounce the weights

  • - Raise the bar on blocks to make the starting position more forgiving

  • - Do not lift more weight than your back can support

2. Bending the arms – bending your arms during a deadlift could lead to a strained bicep muscle while contributing nothing to the exercise. The deadlift is mainly a lower body exercise, and your arms are nothing more than cables to attach the weight to your shoulders. Fix this problem by:

  • - Flexing your triceps hard at the start of each rep

  • - Imagining your arms as cables that you cannot bend

  • - Thinking “arms long” during each rep

  • - Watching your arms in the mirror to see if you bend them at all


Deadlifts can be hard to master, and some gyms don’t even allow deadlifting – Planet Hollywood for example. There are several acceptable alternatives to deadlifts including Romanian deadlifts, 45-degree back extensions, trap bar deadlifts, deadlifts from blocks, kettlebell swings, and good mornings.

Master these two lifts and you will be on your way to better results in all areas of your health and fitness! 

Now put your lower body to the test with this intense leg workout!