Walk into Hygieia, and one of the first things you’ll notice, apart from having no machines, is that there are no mirrors

Well, not in front of the squat racks, anyway. In fact, there are only 3 mirrors in our gym – one at the end (to make the space look larger), one outside the toilet and one in front of the sink (both for you to check yourself out). 

Compare this to the average commercial gym, where it’s the norm to have wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and definitely in front of the squat rack. Mirrors are so normal that we’ve had many clients ask some variant of “Why not have mirrors in front of the squat rack so that we can see our form whilst lifting?”

Well, having no mirrors in front of the squat rack isn’t specific to Hygieia or Starting Strength Gyms. Walk into any barbell strength training gym worth its salt and you’ll notice that it won’t have mirrors in front of its squat racks as well. Contrary to popular opinion, looking at yourself in the mirror while lifting can cause more problems than it solves. Here’s why.

Mirrors don’t actually help to correct technique  

We think that mirrors help correct your form in real-time. See an issue, then immediately fix it, right? 

One of the main problems of using visual feedback to correct technique is that it has a very slow feedback loop.

First of all, you have to be able to even see the problem. Let’s say you do. By the time you see what’s happened, process it, then consciously make a correction, it may be already too late. You’re in a different part of the movement. Your correction is no longer relevant, and may even be counterproductive. 

Also, some small deviations can be felt but not seen. For example, your weight might shift forward onto your toes or there might be more weight on one foot than the other – you’ll definitely feel it, but probably can’t see it.

Mirrors give limited feedback 

A mirror in front of the squat rack gives you plenty of visual feedback in the frontal plane but not as much in the sagittal and transverse planes. Since the barbell lifts are multi-joint, multi-planar movements, you’re only getting limited information. It’s hard to get visual feedback from the latter 2 planes, so on a squat, it’s hard to detect depth or any forward or backwards movement that can accurately tell your position or balance. 

Some people might then say “Ah, then how about adding mirrors to the sides?” That’s a bad idea because you have to turn your head to look at yourself. And turning your head while carrying a load and moving isn’t a good idea.

Your body tends to follow where your eyes look, so if you’re looking to the right when you squat, you’ll very likely start to rotate to the right. Not good.

Proper checking for technique requires views from multiple angles – that’s why as a coach, we’d walk around a lifter as they’re lifting so that we can get multiple views and spot potential problems we might otherwise miss if we’re static. 

Since mirrors don’t work, what should we do instead? 

Develop your kinesthetic sense – feel, not see your movement 

Proprioception is the body’s ability to perceive its position in space. When performing any movement pattern, proprioceptive feedback is faster and more effective than visual feedback – you sense what your body is doing and reacting to it is faster than seeing what your body is doing and reacting to it. Additionally, being aware of how it feels like during a movement or being in a certain position gives you a better reference point when you’re trying to replicate it later on.

Because of this, movement is more effectively learnt and corrected when you can feel what your body is doing in space.

Try doing this. Stand in front of a mirror, and drift forward just a tiny bit to put weight on your toes. You definitely feel the shift in balance, but do you see it? The feedback you get through feeling is a lot more immediate and pronounced than seeing it.

Over time, as your kinesthetic sense while lifting gets more developed, you’ll find yourself making adjustments instinctively without you having to process it.

If you look at other activities that involve complex movements with an emphasis on technique – practising the movement is rarely done in front of a mirror. As far as I know, the most effective is through kinesthetic feedback, regardless of sport. 

What if you’re used to mirrors, haven’t quite developed proprioception, or don’t trust your interpretation of what you’re feeling?

This is where a coach comes in. Coaches provide feedback so that you can correlate how it felt against how you actually moved so you can fine-tune your kinesthetic sense under the bar.

Let’s also look at other reasons why mirrors are bad for you. 

Mirrors disrupt your balance 

When you look at yourself in a mirror while lifting, you’re looking at a moving object. Your eyes will track your movement, making it harder to stay in balance. It’s much easier to stay balanced when your eyes are locked onto a fixed point. 

This is why we tell you to fix your gaze at a spot on the floor about 1.5m away when squatting. Doing so helps to keep you balanced over the midfoot. Additionally, it encourages better engagement of the hip drive, resulting in a stronger squat. 

Mirrors are distracting

Imagine you’re squatting the last rep of a heavy set of five, and some dude behind you suddenly jumps up and waves to a friend. Or someone in a brightly coloured shirt runs by. It’s bound to catch your attention. All it takes is a split second to get distracted. 

Seeing yourself can also be a distraction. Nobody looks good when straining under a heavy bar. You might find your thoughts wandering to “Damn, that’s how I look…”, “Oh man, I look like I’m squeezing out a giant turd” etc.  

What if there’s a mirror in front of you?

Say you’re travelling and stuck using a hotel gym. Or just can’t find a proper strength gym nearby. So there are huge ass mirrors in front of the squat rack that you can’t avoid. Apart from changing gyms, here are some things you can do: 

Face away, if possible. When squatting or pressing, if you can use the ‘opposite’ side of the rack, do so. 

If not, when squatting, stare at a spot on the floor about 1.5 m away from you. Imagine where it’ll be if there isn’t a mirror or wall in the way. If the mirror is higher up on the wall in front of you, that spot might be somewhere on the wall itself. If the mirror is right in your face, that spot might be between your feet in your reflection in the mirror. 

When pressing, stare at a spot in the mirror that’s just a bit above your head, which might probably be a wall somewhere behind you. The same idea applies – fix your gaze on something static. 

Deadlifting shouldn’t be a problem because you don’t need a rack and can avoid any mirrors in front of it. Benching should be fine too, because I’ve not yet seen a gym with mirrors on its ceilings.

Stop using the mirror

Visual feedback can actually be useful when you’re starting to learn a movement or a certain position. Some lifters are visual learners and seeing how horizontal their back angle should be can sometimes be helpful.

But that’s where it ends. Feel where you are in space rather than use external visual feedback – feel where your weight on your feet is, feel if you’ve achieved depth on the squat, feel if your back angle is too vertical/horizontal etc.

That said, if you don’t have a coach, you can use visual feedback after each set. Learn to self-assess by recording your lifts and reviewing them after each set. By comparing how your lift looks with how it feels, you can make adjustments accordingly, as well as train up your kinesthetic sense. 

Develop this well, and you’ll get far more practical input than trying to check your technique in the mirror during the set. 


My interest in fitness started when I was around 19 years old. Being overweight for most of my growing up years, I decided to do something about it. After months of not being able to achieve the desired results, I began poring through books and articles about training and nutrition. The more I read, the more interested I became in this field, and got better results when the the newly discovered knowledge was applied. After 1 year of persistence and hard work, I lost 24kg and felt fantastic. The sense of achievement motivated me to pursue a career in working with people to help them achieve their own fitness goals.

After achieving my weight loss goal, I tried a variety of training programs for a few years, looking for a new goal to train towards. After aimlessly moving around from program to program, I chanced upon a book called Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, written by renowned strength and conditioning expert, Mark Rippetoe. Little did I know that this book was about to change my life and coaching career.

At that point, I had experience training with barbells and was relatively familiar with it but never have I come across any material that gave such explicitly detailed explanations of how to perform the barbell lifts. I devoured the book and modified my lifting technique and program. In just a few months, I was pleasantly surprised by how much stronger he had become. I now had a new goal to work towards – getting strong.

With full confidence in the efficacy of the Starting Strength methodology, I began coaching my clients using this program and got them stronger than they ever thought was possible. The consistent success my clients achieved through the program cemented my confidence in Mark Rippetoe’s teachings. I then decided to pursue the credential of being a Starting Strength Coach and I’m currently the first and only certified coach in Singapore and South-East Asia

In my 9 years of experience, I have given talks and ran programs at numerous companies and worked with a diverse group clientele of all ages with a variety of goals. Today, I specialise in coaching people in their 40s, 50s and beyond because it brings me a great sense of satisfaction to be part of the process of improving this demographics’ health and quality of life by getting them stronger.