T Nation

Deep Squats vs. Just Above Deep


I seem to get lower back pain from deep squats whenever my hamstrings hit my calves. If I go down 2-3 inches slightly above my calves touching my hamstrings no lower back pain occurs afterwards.

With front squats I rarely get lower back pain. What seems to be the problem?


Possibly your hips rolling under due to a lack of flexibility in your hamstrings, glutes, and calves. This can cause lumbar flexion and hence low back pain.
Take a video of yourself squatting from a side view. The point where your hips start to tuck under is where you should stop. Work on your hamstring, glute, and calf flexibility so you can squat lower without pain. Or just squat to the depth that is comfortable to you. As long as you're consistent and make progression.
Also you could get some weightlifting shoes with an elevated heel (this will make it easier to squat to full compression with the same degree of flexibility and put more emphasis on your quads, if that's what you're after).
Hope this helps.


I prefer to squat just under the just above deep squat. Screw going below ass to grass, you might as well box squat to the floor.


"I seem to get lower back pain from deep squats whenever my hamstrings hit my calves. If I go down 2-3 inches slightly above my calves touching my hamstrings no lower back pain occurs afterwards."

This should be the answer to your own question lol

If it's giving you pain to go an arbitrary extra 2 inches lower why on earth would you do it

Besides which hamstrings to calf is extremely low. I've seen very few people that squat that low. If you can manage it, cool, but by no means should you feel obligated to go that low... especially if you are bodybuilding (though by your name maybe you are not?)


Your squat depth should be as low as your body allows. This isn't necessarily a flexibility issue. It's more of a body structure/mechanical issue. I have great flexibility overall, and I can't squat ass to grass, but my legs don't reflect that. There are other contributing factors to leg size anyway, not just how low you squat.

Besides, there are other "flexibility issues" than can contribute to not being able to squat to a very low depth.....chest and shoulder tightness to name one, and lack of shoulder blade mobility to name another...it's not only about the lower body. If you can't position the bar properly on your back, your overall squat mechanics and depth, will be significantly affected.

Going a couple of inches lower isn't worth the risk in my opinion. A couple of inches isn't going to lead to any more significant addition OR loss of leg size

Keep it simple......(assuming a proper bar placement and elbow position), squat to the lowest depth you can while maintaining:

  1. A tight arch in your lower back
  2. A "big chest" (again, if the bar placement isn't correct for YOUR upper body mechanics and flexibility....you won't be able to keep your chest up and out)
  3. A fairly vertical shin angle at the bottom
  4. Proper weight distribution through your feet and hips (most of your weight on your heels and the bar loaded down through the hips)

Other tips...

  1. Focus on initiating your downward movement, by pushing your hips back, NOT just bending your knees
  2. While descending, your eyes AND head should be looking either straight ahead of slightly up
  3. When initially coming out of the bottom, your eyes should shoot up
  4. On heavy or max effort attempts, your entire head can shoot up as you come out of the bottom. The body is all reflexes and your body will follow where your eyes and head go. If they're going up, your body will follow
  5. Focus on driving our feet hard into the ground ALL THE WAY TO LOCK OUT AT THE TOP, NOT JUST AT THE BOTTOM.
    **Just like bench press has a traditional sticking point, so do squats (this varies with each individual), by focusing on driving your feet into the floor and "pushing the floor away from you" the entire way up, you will maintain a tighter body position and proper bar path on the way up
  6. Breathe right.....before descending take in a huge belly of air AND HOLD IT, UNITL YOU EXPLODE UP. Besides increasing pressure in the abdominal cavity to stabilize the spine, it serves as a nice reminder to shoot those eyes and head up out of the bottom. As you forcefully exhale upon ascension, you shoot your eyes up at the same time. it helps establish proper timing out of the bottom of each rep.
    **If you're doing higher rep sets, this wouldn't apply in the same way....unless you like passing out!

For some of the reasons mentioned above, this is why front squats are easier on the lower back....mainly because they lend themselves to a proper bar path more easily, BUT bar positioning of the upper body becomes even more important when front squatting.

I guess that wasn't a simple explanation, was it???

Of course, there's also the possibility, that back squats "aren't your friend." You may find better results implementing other lower body exercises.

It's kind of like Pull ups. Yes, they're a great back exercise, but most people suck at them, and waste time and energy doing them TOO OFTEN (I'm not saying they can't be worked into your overall program from time to time, if you can do them with fairly good form and enjoy them). Just because "they're a great exercise" doesn't mean they're right for everyone. You need to find what works for you specifically and dedicate your training time and energy to those exercises most of the time.

Lower body movements are no different


Hi OP. Im gald you asked this question.
If I was you I would just go as low as you can without your lower back rolling.
Due to my tight hamstrings thats just below parallel for me. Like a previous poster said
aslong as you keep it consistant.
tweet tweet


I'm a strong proponent of squatting ATG, and I also believe that one isn't squatting unless they're hitting that depth (minus powerlifters).

However, if you're authentically* physically limited from hitting ATG depth, then do the exercise to what suits you.


*authentically- as in the shit really hurts, and not because the pain is in your head and you're a pussy.


If that's you in your avatar, then.... great physique, great hair, man!


Nothing wrong with not squatting ATG like everyone claims they do. I do or don't depending on what my goals are for that day....what muscles I want to focus on, stuff like that. If you're training for powerlifting, I'd say just make sure you always get below parallel.

If training for looks and/or general health, going ATG can be good for some people, parallel for others, just above parallel for others, or a combination of all of them. As long as you ain't doing that 1/4 squatting shit, and feel it in the intended muscles, you should be fine.


Yeah, that's lil' ole me. Thanks for the compliment(s).


I'm not sure if its really a flexibility issue because I do not get any pain going ATG with front squats. I'm surprised nobody mentioned this.


Squat ASS TO GRASS!!!! If you have pelvic tilt, fix it by releasing your hip felxors and or raising your heels when squatting, progressively dropping them.

Grab the bar with a narrow as possible grip, keeping your elbows directly under the bar at all times, to ensure your torso is as upright as possible during the movement. This will ensure you drive with your quads and no back leverage other than been recruited isometrically. Look up 45 degrees at all times during the squat aswell...this certainly helps keeping your posture in check!



Remember, not everyone is mechanically built to squat deep. Improving flexibility always helps to a point, but it doesn't change leverages. Plus, his lifting goals may not require him to squat ATG.



I've come across the term recently as well. But I believe it relates to your bio-mechanical structure, height, length of limbs and the angles you create when lifting.



PS thanks for fixing the quote for me haha.