Mastering the perfect squat form is no easy feat—but proper positioning is key if you want to build strength and prevent injury. So it makes sense to take a look in the mirror to make sure you're doing it properly, right?
Not according to a new pilot study presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Academic Physiatrists. Turns out, performing the classic bodyweight exercise in front of a mirror might not be helping you achieve a perfect squat.
Most times, you look in the mirror to make sure that both sides of our body are symmetrical and that your knees are tracking over your ankles. To investigate the effectiveness of this strategy, researchers had 10 people do squats on top of a plate that measured the force exerted by each leg. People alternated between dropping it low with and without a mirror.
The results? People were naturally pretty good at keeping their weight centered when they squatted without the mirror. Although most people tended to slightly favor their dominant leg by putting a little more weight on it, doing squats in front of the mirror didn't make a difference in helping to avoid this issue, the research found. (Pssst...Have you tried these 16 Squat Variations That Work Your Butt Off?)
Here's the thing: If you're just starting to add squats into your gym routine, the mirror can help you make sure you're not swaying your back, that you're bending deep enough so that your quads are past parallel to the floor, and that your hips are below your knees.
But if you're a squatting pro, non-visual body checks may be a better bet. If your form is spot on, you should be able to easily wiggle your toes mid-squat, and you shouldn't feel any stress in your knees. Ask someone to spot you every now and then just to make sure you're staying on track. And if you feel like you really need to check out your own ass in the mirror? (Hey, sometimes you do.) No judgment, we promise.