T Nation

Back Pain During Squats

Hey guys, I’m having some back problems and I’m wondering if anyone here has experience with it.

As long as I’ve been lifting I’ve sucked at squatting. When I started deadlifting I got near 2x bodyweight pretty quickly (150 pulling about 300 or so) but then I went on accutane (acne med) which really screwed my joints and since then I’ve got up to about 330 or so 3 different times and when I get there I suddenly drop way back down like 50lb. I’m sure it would at least be 405 or so now if that didn’t keep happening

Anyway, regarding squatting, I recently tested my max and at 175 it was only 250lb (yes, it really sucks) and after testing it I got a pain in my back lower side. Maybe my serratus? I’m not really sure but it felt like I got hit with a bat there or something. So I’ve still been going at it with squats and for some reason last week with 220x11 or so it felt a little off but not too bad. Today I got 220x10 and I have that pain again to the same degree as with testing my max before. Any idea whats up? I mean it’s not even heavy weight and I try to maintain tightness as best I can while squatting so I don’t know how to explain it other than that my back sucks. I might just switch back to front squats but who knows, it might happen with them too.

Thanks

what do you do to strengthen your back? other then deadlifting.

Can you post a vid?

[quote]matsm21 wrote:
what do you do to strengthen your back? other then deadlifting.[/quote]

Pretty much nothing to be honest. Not for low back anyway except the squats (for back in general I do DB rows, yates rows and rack chins). I actually haven’t even deadlifted since last october or so because of how frustrating it was to keep going down. Back in december of 08 I got 5x285 then it went way down because of the accutane. I got back to 3x300 in may or so of 09 and then again it went down. Worked back up with 5/3/1 to 260x10 and then 1-2 sessions later I could barely pull 1x265. It just became so frustrating. Maybe I’ll start with straight legged deadlifts and rack pulls though. I can’t say how they’ll be on my back (i.e. if the same problem will occur) but I like both of those better than deadlifts and it seems like together they’d hit at least everything deadlifts hit.

[quote]FROGGBUSTER wrote:
Can you post a vid?[/quote]

I can but it can only be up to 35 seconds or so for my phone to be able to send it, crappy quality too but it should do. Should it be an all out set? Because this coming week I’m deloading and I’m not sure if I want to go all out again the next week, considering the pain/discomfort from this time. If submaximal is fine then I could do that sooner.

Thanks again for any help guys. Not sure what the pain is really even from but like I said it feels like the muscle was hit on the side with a bat or something.

[quote]David1991 wrote:

[quote]matsm21 wrote:
what do you do to strengthen your back? other then deadlifting.[/quote]

Pretty much nothing to be honest. [/quote]

sounds like you have you answer. strengthen that sum bitch up. good mornings, 45 deg. back extensions will be your friend. the low back is your weak point, now fix it.

I used to get pain like that fairly regularly, felt like it was on the top of my hip bone in the back, like a sharp shooting pain. Think it might’ve been a pinched nerve or something. Not-so-coincidentally I used to let my back get loose and rounded. Since I’ve been focused on keeping as tight an arch as possible, and avoiding my belt except on the heaviest sets, my back has felt great. As a bonus, my deadlift has gone up with hardly any actual DL training. Keep that back tight the whole set, upper and lower back, and do some assistance work as matsm21 suggested, might solve it or at least make it a less frequent occurrence.

[quote]matsm21 wrote:

[quote]David1991 wrote:

[quote]matsm21 wrote:
what do you do to strengthen your back? other then deadlifting.[/quote]

Pretty much nothing to be honest. [/quote]

sounds like you have you answer. strengthen that sum bitch up. good mornings, 45 deg. back extensions will be your friend. the low back is your weak point, now fix it.[/quote]

I can definitely see how it would seem so simple, and I’ll probably add in lower back worth soon but do you think that’s the only thing? It’s kind of hard to explain but the pain really isn’t in the lower back like you would imagine. From what I can tell when the lower back gets hurt it’s right in the center on the actual back. In my case it’s on the left side and feels like it’s some muscle under/behind my rib cage. So I guess technically still more the lower/back area but not the typical place is what I mean. Does that sound at all familar to you (or anyone)?

Also as far as exercises to add for it, how would a SLDL or Rack Pull do? If I was going to add in another exercise I’d like a real money one that could add some good mass like those 2 seem to. On the other hand I guess they would also take away from recovery if I didn’t take something else out.

Finally, for the time being would it be better to switch to front squats or just stick with squats?

[quote]Pigeon wrote:
I used to get pain like that fairly regularly, felt like it was on the top of my hip bone in the back, like a sharp shooting pain. Think it might’ve been a pinched nerve or something. Not-so-coincidentally I used to let my back get loose and rounded. Since I’ve been focused on keeping as tight an arch as possible, and avoiding my belt except on the heaviest sets, my back has felt great. As a bonus, my deadlift has gone up with hardly any actual DL training. Keep that back tight the whole set, upper and lower back, and do some assistance work as matsm21 suggested, might solve it or at least make it a less frequent occurrence.[/quote]

Well I definitely try to keep my back arched and not round it, but I would imagine that my form isn’t too perfect during the 2nd half of the set. I’ll try to post a video when possible but I don’t know how soon that would be. That’s another reason I would consider the front squat…not much chance for rounding the back.

[quote]David1991 wrote:
It’s kind of hard to explain but the pain really isn’t in the lower back like you would imagine. From what I can tell when the lower back gets hurt it’s right in the center on the actual back. In my case it’s on the left side and feels like it’s some muscle under/behind my rib cage. So I guess technically still more the lower/back area but not the typical place is what I mean. Does that sound at all familar to you (or anyone)?[/quote]

This almost sounds like strained cartilage but I have never had it in the back of my rib cage. And when it does happen its in the same spot every time. From your OP you make it sound like your lower back just gets super tight, but this is different. Is it a sharp pain or is it more of an ache/soreness?

Any input about the above exercise selection?

[quote]Himora22 wrote:

[quote]David1991 wrote:
It’s kind of hard to explain but the pain really isn’t in the lower back like you would imagine. From what I can tell when the lower back gets hurt it’s right in the center on the actual back. In my case it’s on the left side and feels like it’s some muscle under/behind my rib cage. So I guess technically still more the lower/back area but not the typical place is what I mean. Does that sound at all familar to you (or anyone)?[/quote]

This almost sounds like strained cartilage but I have never had it in the back of my rib cage. And when it does happen its in the same spot every time. From your OP you make it sound like your lower back just gets super tight, but this is different. Is it a sharp pain or is it more of an ache/soreness?
[/quote]

Oh well if that’s how I made it sound I didn’t mean too. It’s not really a tight feeling most of the time and it’s also not always there. For instance right now I don’t even feel it but when I woke up and got up I did, it’s definitely better than yesterday though so maybe not quite as bad as when it first happened squatting 250.

It’s been in the same spot each time, but it’s not a sharp pain. More like an ache. I know I said this before but really it feels like I was hit with something on my back left side and now there’s a bruised feeling. I’d like to continue squatting because even though it’s a bad lift for me it’s finally going somewhere after all this time but not if I keep hurting myself from it.

Thanks again

if you think its more then aches and pains, then go find a good physical therapist. regardless, if you don’t do any low back work you are setting yourself up for injury, and holding your lifts back. as far as more bang for your buck, you’re not there yet. spend some time building up your strength levels with higher reps of less taxing exercises. theres a reason they call it accessory work.

I get pain sometimes and I’ve found that “decompressing” my back works for me. I do this either by dead hanging off of a pull-up bar, or if I have help, I’ll lay on my back on the steps and have someone hold my feet so my weight is heading down the stairs and pulls my spine opposite of the way squats compress it. If I were more grade-schoolish, I’d just hang upside down from the pull up bar by my knees like my daughter does… but I’m not 9 anymore and afraid to crack my melon.

[quote]matsm21 wrote:
if you think its more then aches and pains, then go find a good physical therapist. regardless, if you don’t do any low back work you are setting yourself up for injury, and holding your lifts back. as far as more bang for your buck, you’re not there yet. spend some time building up your strength levels with higher reps of less taxing exercises. theres a reason they call it accessory work.[/quote]

Maybe I’ll ask my chiropractor what he thinks, but I know he’d tell me to stop squatting :frowning:

Thanks again for the help. I’ve always liked SLDL and going heavy but I guess I can work on GM’s for the time being after one of my pull workouts (which consists of rack chins, yates rows, neck flexion, curls). What would you suggest, maybe like 2x15 a few reps short of failure? Should I try to progress weight-wise on these or just keep the same weight until it seems easy to add another 5lb and continue with that?

[quote]SRT08 wrote:
I get pain sometimes and I’ve found that “decompressing” my back works for me. I do this either by dead hanging off of a pull-up bar, or if I have help, I’ll lay on my back on the steps and have someone hold my feet so my weight is heading down the stairs and pulls my spine opposite of the way squats compress it. If I were more grade-schoolish, I’d just hang upside down from the pull up bar by my knees like my daughter does… but I’m not 9 anymore and afraid to crack my melon.[/quote]

OK well it couldn’t hurt. I remember I tried that while on accutane after squatting and it hurt, but that was a different kind of pain back then.

How are you guys doing 45deg hyper and hitting your lower back? All the emphasis seems to go to my glutes now (which is ok, as I need to work on glute AND lower back strength)

How long have you been lifting?

I may be able to help you with a video or two.

Any scoliosis?

“Decompressing” the spine actually turns on your paraspinal muscles causing more compressive force. It may help, but it’s only mental.

Find a GOOD PT, not the guy who’s going to tell you to stop squatting.

Front squatting should be easier on the ache, in theory.

You may need glute strength.

You may need just strength. It depends on how long you’ve been lifting, but those numbers are, not trying to be mean, super low if you’ve been going for more than two years.

I don’t really know how much I agree with just getting strength in your lower back. My first theory was that it’s extension based (which is also making you weak… I’ve had the same problem), but by your description of the pain, it seems like this theory is incorrect. The fact that you can do twenty pounds less than your 1RM for 10 more reps helps support this, though. That’s pretty ridiculous.

You may need anti-extension work (obliques, for instance). If you’re strong there, you can brace very well, helping to take stress off of your lower back.

Did I tell you to find a good physical therapist yet? Oh yeah, I did. Don’t count on your general physician for help on this one.

Hopefully something helps, man. High suggestion on seeing someone who can evaluate you in person.

[quote]coolnatedawg wrote:
How are you guys doing 45deg hyper and hitting your lower back? All the emphasis seems to go to my glutes now (which is ok, as I need to work on glute AND lower back strength)[/quote]

Man all this talk about squats, GM’s, SLDL’s, etc. working glutes. If there’s one thing I don’t need it’s a bigger ass lol

[quote]Gerkin wrote:
How long have you been lifting?
[/quote]
4 years :confused: started at 125lb and I’m 170 now. Middle 2 years didn’t go anywhere for some reason

If it causes more compressive force how could that help?

I haven’t had scoliosis checked for since I was in middle school but I didn’t have it then. According to my chiropractor though my back/spine is pretty out of wack.

Yea some of my other lifts really aren’t terrible for my weight but squat definitely sucks. I wish I could deadlift more but I’m just afraid of injury now. I’m kind of feel like a pussy now lol but I would just be so pissed if I was deadlifting one day, rounded my back (which I did all the time always thinking nothing could happen) and got an injury that stopped me from lifting completely for months. One reason I like SLDL and rack pulls is because it seems I don’t round much.

Maybe my school has a PT, I don’t know about any around here though.

[quote]
I don’t really know how much I agree with just getting strength in your lower back. My first theory was that it’s extension based (which is also making you weak… I’ve had the same problem), but by your description of the pain, it seems like this theory is incorrect. The fact that you can do twenty pounds less than your 1RM for 10 more reps helps support this, though. That’s pretty ridiculous.

You may need anti-extension work (obliques, for instance). If you’re strong there, you can brace very well, helping to take stress off of your lower back.

Did I tell you to find a good physical therapist yet? Oh yeah, I did. Don’t count on your general physician for help on this one.

Hopefully something helps, man. High suggestion on seeing someone who can evaluate you in person.[/quote]

OK well I guess I should look for a PT then, I’m super cheap though :slight_smile: how much does one visit generally take. Is it covered by insurace?

Also, what does extension based problem mean? and/or what exercises in particular would be good to fix that?

http://anjasmith.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/back-muscles.jpg

If it helps at all it “feels” like where the erector spinae/serratus posterior inferior shows on the right side of the pic.

[quote]David1991 wrote:

[quote]coolnatedawg wrote:
How are you guys doing 45deg hyper and hitting your lower back? All the emphasis seems to go to my glutes now (which is ok, as I need to work on glute AND lower back strength)[/quote]

Man all this talk about squats, GM’s, SLDL’s, etc. working glutes. If there’s one thing I don’t need it’s a bigger ass lol[/quote]

No offense but you are a pretty small dude. The only reason your glutes may be “big” is because the rest of you is small. If there is one thing I HAVE NOT EVER seen, it is glutes that are too strong- it would still serve you better to work glutes.

In regards to your pain, the previous poster had some good comments. Best bet is to see a qualified PT and not ask us. Seek out someone like an ART guy, they should be able to help. At the very least they will be able to know if you should get more serious investigation done (read MRI).

[quote]coolnatedawg wrote:

[quote]David1991 wrote:

[quote]coolnatedawg wrote:
How are you guys doing 45deg hyper and hitting your lower back? All the emphasis seems to go to my glutes now (which is ok, as I need to work on glute AND lower back strength)[/quote]

Man all this talk about squats, GM’s, SLDL’s, etc. working glutes. If there’s one thing I don’t need it’s a bigger ass lol[/quote]

No offense but you are a pretty small dude. The only reason your glutes may be “big” is because the rest of you is small. If there is one thing I HAVE NOT EVER seen, it is glutes that are too strong- it would still serve you better to work glutes.

In regards to your pain, the previous poster had some good comments. Best bet is to see a qualified PT and not ask us. Seek out someone like an ART guy, they should be able to help. At the very least they will be able to know if you should get more serious investigation done (read MRI).[/quote]

Well yea I mean it’s definitely not “big” as far as the muscle goes, but I mean relative to everything else I don’t want a big ass lol. Stronger would be fine but I can’t see how I could get it stronger without it getting bigger.

So basically

  1. Do assistance work like GM’s and GHR’s (GHR’s would work more hamstrings right?)
  2. Seek out a PT/ART specialist. I don’t even know where to begin looking for that but I can ask around.

[quote]David1991 wrote:

OK well I guess I should look for a PT then, I’m super cheap though :slight_smile: how much does one visit generally take. Is it covered by insurace?

Also, what does extension based problem mean? and/or what exercises in particular would be good to fix that?[/quote]
I have honestly no idea how much a PT would cost.

Extension-based means that it happens because you extend your spine too much. To quote Robertson: “Anti-extension exercises resist extension of the lower back and core. These could be ball or ab-wheel rollouts, blast strap flutters, or any other exercise where your core actively resists extension.” Check out his “7 Steps to Better Workouts” or Cressey’s “Bulletproof that Back”.

[quote]David1991 wrote:

[quote]coolnatedawg wrote:

[quote]David1991 wrote:

[quote]coolnatedawg wrote:
How are you guys doing 45deg hyper and hitting your lower back? All the emphasis seems to go to my glutes now (which is ok, as I need to work on glute AND lower back strength)[/quote]

Man all this talk about squats, GM’s, SLDL’s, etc. working glutes. If there’s one thing I don’t need it’s a bigger ass lol[/quote]

No offense but you are a pretty small dude. The only reason your glutes may be “big” is because the rest of you is small. If there is one thing I HAVE NOT EVER seen, it is glutes that are too strong- it would still serve you better to work glutes.

In regards to your pain, the previous poster had some good comments. Best bet is to see a qualified PT and not ask us. Seek out someone like an ART guy, they should be able to help. At the very least they will be able to know if you should get more serious investigation done (read MRI).[/quote]

Well yea I mean it’s definitely not “big” as far as the muscle goes, but I mean relative to everything else I don’t want a big ass lol. Stronger would be fine but I can’t see how I could get it stronger without it getting bigger.

So basically

  1. Do assistance work like GM’s and GHR’s (GHR’s would work more hamstrings right?)
  2. Seek out a PT/ART specialist. I don’t even know where to begin looking for that but I can ask around. [/quote]

What I mean by training your glutes would be working on motor control, not hypertrophy. You say it’s there, but it may not be working.