Heavy Squats - How To Deal With The Feel Of Being Crushed By The Weight?

While grabbing the bar, preparing and stepping into heavy squats I often find myself being scared of the weight, with a feeling that it could crush me any second.

This, in turn, often makes me slow the first negative down a bit (though gravity should be doing the job). Nothing wrong with slow, heavy negatives - but if you are doing 3RM you really need sufficient energy to push the positive with explosive intent (instead of wasting energy on being scared and holding against the weight).

I feel much more secure and confident doing the positive reps, as I am in somewhat more of control over the weight.

Anyone else felt the same? Any advice on mindset? How do you perform the first negative?

I read about utilizing really heavy weights and only lifting the bar off the rack, stepping out, before reracking the weight again - for getting used to extreme weights. (Maybe I should do so, and make a post on instagram how heavy I squat?).

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This is exactly what I was going to recommend when I read the title of your thread!

Other than that, though, some of it may just be what it is. I think it’s better you tighten up and get a lot of control than panic and crash down. I don’t think weights at a certain point necessarily start feeling lighter even as you get strong enough to handle them, and you’re still squatting it and getting your reps, so I think that’s all good. I think the first rep is always hardest as well.


Big fan of this, and Anderson squats.
I had trouble dropping into the hole and did these, then dropped the weight way down and squatted the same weight until my brain got the message we weren’t going to die.


Treating it like it could kill me if i don’t get back up seems to help.

Using safeties is also a good call. You know, in case i don’t win against the weights this time.


There is an old t-nation article about dealing with this. It is a CNS adaptation. If you have access to two racks , one is loaded to 150 - 200 percent of your max. The other is loaded to under your 3 reps max. You do a lift off with the heavy bar and hold for 20 seconds roughly. Then go to the other bar and do 3 reps, then repeat for at least 3 sets. I’m sorry I don’t remember the exact numbers or the author. This is close.


Anderson squats are great. Also just setting the safety pins high enough so you can confidently fail at the bottom without breaking anything.


Run Super Squats and all your fears will of squatting will go away (or at least you’ll fear nothing but 20 rep squats).

Just an option, just an option


When you get the sensation of heaviness,

Is there one area of your body that feels weaker than the rest? Or, when you’re doing the slow eccentric, is there a body part you’re trying to protect?

Maybe you need some specific, directed work?


Have you considered accommodating resistance with bands, heavy bands, like two blue bands per side? The top can get scary heavy and yet you can do reps as the resistance rapidly decreases in the descent. (But it also comes back on rapidly in the positive)

Are you getting so heavy that it is difficult to take a breath when you take the bar out of the rack? In that case then just holding heavier weight might be the best strategy. (I should mention that a monolift makes this much easier to perform. Or you could learn how to lean the bar out of the rack if in a power rack.)


Are you being conscientious about keeping your lats and upper back tight and your shoulder blades cinched and down? Do you breath into your stomach or into your chest? Keeping everything tight and breathing into your midsection helps a lot. If you rack the bar with elevated shoulders and breath through your chest, you will feel like you’re getting crushed.

You also don’t have to do back squats if you aren’t a powerlifter or simply don’t like to. Back squats used to be my favorite exercise for many years, until they started giving me workout hangover and I haven’t performed them in about six years.

They don’t. Leg training actually gets more taxing as one gets stronger, single-leg training included.


Flats! You have actually asked a very important question!

I suppose I am a bit careful about my right knee (probably early arthritis and old meniscus injury) - but this affects me primarily in the positive movement (as in ordinary life while going upstairs, no loss of function but a minor creaking sound). But - there is a minor degree of insecurity considering this joint as I don’t trust the knee entirely.

Knee sleeves solved part of this problem though.


Thanks! Good points! I have a spotter who says my form is good, and keeping the bar low (as in low bar squats) makes sure I have my back covered. But, I will be more observant about this. I THINK I breath into the stomach, but this may be lost while focusing on bracing and valsalva. I make a mental note about this. Thanks again!

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Thanks RT! I may try bands in the future, as it may help to decrease the weights a bit, though preparing for heavier work in top position. Superior advice!

Bambi! This I will absolutely try! Thanks!

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I have ordered the book already! Have yet to arrive…

…And @Brant_Drake! Will read about Anderson squats! Thanks!

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The first and easiest thing I would try;

Warm up your legs and knees with some Hamstring Curls before you squat.


Brian Alsruhe (Neversate) recently made the point that bracing is everything when it comes to really moving heavy weight. He talked about his own experience in focusing on bracing and how well it improved the amount of weight he could move.


We overuse this phrase, but leg curls before squatting is a game changer.

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Its normal. Its a skill. Thats why lifting heavy shit is impressive. Thats why no one ever gives a shit about your 5+ rep max :smiley: