T Nation

Adjust Squat Programming?

My lower back and knee hurts at 225 highbar squat (I don’t have video).

Sounds like a form issue, right? Well, as I continually adjust that, I’ve had several folks at my gym (a real gym) give me a form check w/ the OK; I even had one unsolicited compliment. My former 5RM was 310 before a knee injury, so I do know basic form. Truthfully, I hope that is the problem.

Nutritionally, I’m gaining (trying not to), so I’m definitely eating enough and eat clean. I am 30 lbs lighter than when I was pushing 310, so there is a degree of relearning what my body is capable of at the lower weight and after the layoff.

Injury-wise, I SHOULD have it checked out by a professional. And I fully intend to do that, it’s just not in the cards right now. I rehabbed a knee (PT, all that, for a quad tendon), but it may/may not have manifested itself elsewhere: had a pulled hamstring (not dealt with professionally), some piriformis pain (short lived), hip pain from out of nowhere (coming off 2 days rest), back pain, and now more back pain. Specifically, my entire lower back doesn’t hurt, just my right side towards the spine and it kind of works its way almost to the mid-back; and some slight pain in the knee on the same side. Oddly, it seems to bother me the most AFTER the set, when I’m just standing up straight in more of a good morning fashion.

To deal w/ it all… I took time off squatting and DLing, hammered posterior stuff, and then started back w/ bw stuff and slowly worked my way up on goblet squats and now back squats.

Currently, my program is (not including upperbody stuff):
M Sq - 2x5, 1xAMRAP, DL 3x3
W FSq - 2x5, 1xAMRAP, DL 1x5, RDL 4x10
F Sq - 2x5, 1xAMRAP, DL 3x3 (Next week, I keep alternating DL)

Progression is 5 lb/workout. I know DLing daily seems like a lot, but my DL is only up to 185 right now, so it hasn’t been a problem… but I intend on tapering it off as the weight gets up.

The pain probably started around 175. I switched from flat shoes to raised and got up to 205. I was back squatting every time, but it was too much for the back, so I began front squatting on W.

My progression on the AMRAP sets looked like this:
155 x 15 (back fine up to this point)
160 x 15 (first time back acting up and around the weight I got bothered w/ my last back injury)
165 x 15
170 x 14
175 x 14
180 x 14
185 x 14
190 x 14
195 x 12
200 x 13 (back felt decent until last rep)
205 x 8
210 x 8
215 x 8
220 x 8
225 x 9… legs felt like they had another 3-4, but my back wasn’t having it.

So, my question is (after all that), how should I progress? I obviously have a lot more to add linearly, but I’m not sure my back can handle it. Should I switch to a weekly progression, try some new lifts, cut down on the DLs, alternate DLs and squats, or just tough it out until I need to deload, a 2nd deload, 3rd?


Why is your deadlift only 185 right now? Because of the injury?
Heavy is relative (not absolute) so maybe your lower back isn’t recovering from deadlifting every day and squatting three times a week. If you do have an injury, it’s even more likely those muscles are locking down to prevent you from damaging your spine and potentially transferring the force to your knee

I would hazard a guess that your weight is not on your heels enough, putting lots of strain on your back and knees.

Do you have the everything feels fine, then get up off the couch and “holy mother of God, my knees” thing going on?

185 is just working up slowly from nothing. I could progress faster/lift more, but I figure at 15 lbs/week, I’ll get there soon enough and get to practice form in the process.

I’m fairly focused on keeping my weight on the heels, but of course do get some weight mid-foot. I do feel uncomfortable getting off the couch, but it’s the back feeling tight. The knee pain is fairly mild, but it’s there… everything is only on the right side.

why type of knee injury was it??? go get the knee and hamstring fixed up and you will probably be fine with what you used to be doing as long as you build up to it slowly.

I think you have a case of trying to come back to soon after the injury. even if you don’t have any readily noticeable form problems even small changes can have dramatic effects. you probably changed your form slightly even if you didn’t notice. more weight was probably shifted to the good leg causing abnormal torque on the hips then further in your back. couple that with the hamstring pull that has scar tissue that causes abnormal pull on the hips. all this means a new bio mechanics that are improper and stressing your tissues like they are not ready for yet

Try lowering your squat and DL sessions. 3 times every two weeks?! Once a week?!

Change intensity?! Monday-Med, Wednesday-Front and Light, Friday-Heavy

My knees and low back cannot do the 3x a week.

The injury was a pulled quad tendon. I went through PT, got the OK, and spent a couple months bringing up my strength on that leg to match my normal one. I pulled the hamstring maybe 8 months later… so, I don’t think it’s a case of coming back too soon.

I wasn’t really expecting a definitive answer. What I’m not seeing is anybody saying to stop squatting, which is good. More a long the lines of focus on form, play w/ frequency/intensity, and see a doc when I can… pretty much what I was thinking.

Thanks guys. I think my first step is going to be dropping one of the DL sessions.

I’ve tweaked my right knee squatting a handful of times (nothing serious) and kept re-hurting it doing something as simple as walking up the stairs. I’m not sure it’ll help in your situation, but I picked up a pair of knee sleeves off Rogue’s website (around $50) and it’s been a tremendous help.

2nd what badwolf says, you’ve probably altered your form slightly from limping around when you were injured. Now, the “good” leg is pushing harder than the “bad” leg, and this imbalance is causing extra torque on one side. That’s why just one side hurts.

The more you squat and deadlift using this “impaired” technique, the worse the imbalance will become. You mentioned the quad injury, then the hamstring pull. That sound like at least several months of one of your legs lagging behind the other. One side of your body, including your lower back, obliques, abs is probably stronger than the other.

When you do the big moves, the strong side kinda takes over and the weak side works like an outrigger. You just need a few small rehab type moves to get your weak side functioning properly, then some single leg moves to strengthen it.

These problems are super common. I’m dealing with the same thing myself.

Here’s another thread about it

Here’s an article about training for symmetry

Could be… I was at Planet Fitness yesterday doing BSSq for the first time (since they don’t have BBs) and I definitely had more of a problem w/ the right leg forward. Though, I noticed myself favoring the left over a year ago and was conscious not to… oddly enough, I feel like I’m pushing off the weak/injured leg more now, but it could just be more fatigued.

Programmatically, I’m thinking:

Sq, DL (3x3)
FS, DL (1x5), RDL
Sq, DL (3x3)

Sq, DL (1x5)
FS, BSSq (3x8-10), RDL (too much w/ the RDL, 4x10?)
Sq, DL (3x3)

Maybe a month or two
FS, DL x 5
I may incorporate power cleans in a month or two… we’ll see.

This way, the decreased DLing might give my back a break while the BSSq helps any imbalances. Maybe I should do the BSSq first as activation? If that doesn’t work, I’ll probably move to more of a 5x5 mon and 1x5 fri format.