T Nation

Can't Barbell Back Squat Anymore


I discovered about 5 weeks ago that I can't do back squats with a bar anymore, this sucks!!!!! I was doing my normal squat workout and at about 315# (still working up) I started getting low back pain, the only trainer in the gym that has the knowledge of proper form (I believe; he competes in powerlifting) checked my form and said it was spot on, attepmted to finish the set with less than optimal results, and then the next morning I felt like I was 100 y/o took me about 10 min and a very hot shower to straighten up and walk normally.

Wasn't able to do any DL's or pretty much any thing that required the low back to be involved. I had been getting discomfort from back squats in the past but this took me out for 3 weeks!!!! I just got back to deads at 315 for 2 set of 8-10 a far cry from what I usually work with ( deads don't bother my back, weird). But I did discover that I can back squat in the smith machine with almost no pain, I know the smith sucks, and makes a better coat rack but it allows me to squat. I guess years of abuse and a couple of back injuries (work related)have finally caught up with me.


it sounds like you need to do more posterior chain work, if your lower back will tolerate it. If you can, start doing good mornings, with really strict form, with light weights and sets of 10. keeping your form very tight, and increase the weights as you go. Unless you have an existing bad back injury, it sounds as if you arent strong enough where you need to be. I started doing good mornings only a year ago, and it has made a huge difference in my squats and deadlifts. you can try romamian deadlifts, but they are a poor substitute.

again, if you have any serious back injuries, disregard all the above and see your doc
old lardass


I agree with MJ. Definitely keep at it unless you have something serious going on. You might want to try foam rolling as well.


did you see a chiro/doc? Everyone has an excuse not to squat. 90% of them are just that, excuses.


Iguana before you go to a doc, where is the pain on the back ? If you lay on your back and point your leg and toes to the ceiling does the pain travel down your leg ? In relation to your waist where is the pain ?


After the incident I was getting pain down both legs had me worried that I herinated a disk, those symptoms have subsided, my ortho is sending me for an MRI to see if there is any disk encrochment on the spinal cord (man I hope not), but I really don't think so because I can DL and front squat without irratating it.

Thanks for the advice, squats and DLs are my favorite exercises (sick I know) and I will do all that I can to keep doing them. I treat this stuff all the time but it is always different if your the one hurt cause you start thinking all the worst. So far yoga has helped alot and I am going to have to start the good mornings, the back is feeling better just going to have to go slow for awhile.


My guess is your sciatic nerve being pinched.


HOwsabout unilateral stuff? That should allow you to keep the leg and glute strength up without the spinal loading of squats until it gets sussed out what's wrong.


Ok do you foam roll, what is your mobility training like?
cause if your 35+ we all need to do that shit.

I am a big fan of soft tissue work etc as part of my training life,
and an even bigger fan of unilateral work- particularly when injured,
but do check out a DR, chiro or other too.

None of us are Dr.'s like they are in the alpha forum, so most of our advice is well meaning.
It can be a myriad of problems, likely something solveable and treatable.

Lost of the stuff, that is wrong with my patholog- or how banged up I might be, has been clearing up simply by adding in much mobility, prehab, and corrective junk.



If you can dead and front squat, what have you lost really (okay ..a favourite move ..but)

You can do, for legs, step ups and lunges (lots of variations) this is what the Soviets went to when they had back problems, and of course fronts.

for your back there are so many options you may not live long enough to try them all.

I have heard some people have reduced their back problems by using variations of mobility programs currently on the market.

After you have spent some time rebalancing your strength curve, squats may be fine again.


Yes I am sure there was sciatic involment, the symptoms were from the knee down (true sciatic pain). I have been doing the foam rolling since I felt the first twinge and I get deep tissue massages every week, since I am over 40 I thought it would be a good idea. My mobility is pretty good but could always be better, I am going to check out magnificent mobility DVD, anything that will help. I have been doing alot of lunges and split squats with no problem, been able to go to 80-90# dumbbells with out pain or loosing form. Injuries suck (but I don't have to tell you that) and I have noticed since I hit 44 that my 20 y/o brain gets my 44 y/o body in trouble sometimes. To quote a friend of mine "there are a lot of things I can do but shouldn't". I really appriciate all the help and will keep you posted on progress, after the MRI I should have a better idea whats going on. Thanks again.



Wow! Does this ever sound familiar.

Same thing, doing 345 barbell squats, good form, then boinnnnnng! Done! Took it easy, taking some old muscle relaxers, trying to coax the impingement away. My right leg was numb from the knee down, but nothing really hurt, which was a blessing.

Right quad, after a couple months, had atrophied. 2.5" smaller around than the left, and still dropping. 2 MRI's later, the neurosurgeon showed me the impingement at L4-L5, and said there was only one way out.

I was in at 7:30 a.m., and my son picked me up at 9:00 a.m.!!! Really! Only 2 hours! And I never took as much as an aspirin for any pain, because there was none. The incision itched, which is normal, but no pain whatsoever. I could have gone out for a 20 mile bike ride the next day - that's how good it felt!

I'm pretty spooked right now about lifting heavy again, but at 56, maybe I should be slowing down and spending more time on my bike, or out steelhead fishing. We'll see.

Anyway, there's hope, and neurosurgery has come a long way.

Hang in there. Best of luck to you.


What type of surgery did you have specifically?


It was called a Rt. L4 foraminotomy. Small 1.5" incision right of center, the doc scrapes away some tissue and bone to allow the disk to slide back into place (thus releasing pressure on the nerve), and voila! 2 hours later, I'm havin' a cuppa at home, watching the tele.

Back in the saddle!


awesome. i've got spondylolisthesis in my lumbar spine (no big deal), but yeah, the pain radiates down my left leg... my left calf is easily an inch thinner than my right calf. the gastroc is so underdeveloped. i'm gonna research this, thanks man.


Got my MRI back, results are good and bad. The good part I didn't rupture a disk, the bad part I have a nice big buldge at the L4/5 level, so the Dr. told me no back squats for awhile ( I didn't tell him I DL) so I will have to stick to leg press and single leg movments for the time being. The disk will reabsorb over time and so far it hasn't bothered me with any other lifts (fingers crossed). The good thing about my doc is he lifts and I work with him (I am a physical therapist assistant) so he understands when it comes to training, I have treated him many time for injuries, and I know how all this works so I will take time off back squats and get another MRI in about 6-8 months. At least I can still train!!!!!