If your back hurts while you squat, you’re not alone, and there are a few things you can double-check to stay pain-free.

“Make sure that you are utilizing your midsection to its fullest potential,” says Julia Ladewski, C.S.C.S., a strength and fitness coach based in Highland, IN. “Any time you load the spine with a weight on your shoulders, your abdominals and lower back become the foundation holding up the house. If that foundation crumbles, it could result in not getting stronger, missing a lift, or an injury.” Brace your core so it stays stable—imagine someone is punching you in the stomach. “This sensation can help you remember how to tighten your abs so your legs are lifting the weight without putting stress on your back,” she notes.

In addition, make sure you’re following the correct form. Keep your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with toes turned out slightly. Place the bar slightly lower than the top of your shoulders (not on the bony part of the cervical spine). And as you lower down, make sure your knees stay tracked over the middle of your foot (not buckling inward) and your back is straight, with a natural arch in the lower part of the spine. Ask someone who is well-versed in mechanics and squat technique to review your positioning so you can make sure you’re doing the movement correctly.