T Nation

Help with Squats/Deadlifts


Since I haven't really posted here before let me give you a little background just to say Hello!:

I'm a 21 year old 4th year engineering student. I used to stay in pretty decent shape without a gym, because I worked at the Home Depot in Lumber/Concrete department. After I quit my job in september '06, I was fairly unsatisfied with myself by new years. I read a lot and started bulking up some muscle. I made good progress till march, when I decided to lose some of flub I had packed on from my post-job break. I went on the AD and dropped about 15 pounds without really seeing consequence in my lifts (sometimes it's good to be a beginner). Now for the summer since I have serious free time to dedicate to hard lifting, I want to go back into a mass phase.

The problem is, All the work I've done so far with lower body has been incline press/leg curls/etc. I really want to incorporate squats and deadlifts. So today was my first time in the gym actually working this and here are some problems I encountered:

1) During squat, I found I have a tendency as I get down to parallel or a little below, my upper body tends to lean forward, which shifts my weight off my heels, and makes me feel like I'm going to topple. Also, on the decent my spine feels a large amount of compression. Is this normal? Is this possibly a standard newbie mistake? My feet are slightly wider than shoulder width? Is this too narrow, should my stance be wider?

2)During deadlift, I find that my stance feels fairly comfortable on the ascent, but on the decent I kept having to correct myself from rounding out my back. Is there a trick putting the weight back down that I'm not getting? Is it just muscle memory to keep the back straight or weak stabilizers since I've never worked freeweight before? Also, when you do reps for a deadlift, do you put the entire weight back on the ground, reposition yourself and lift again, or do you go down to the weight almost touching the ground and hoist back up?

Sorry about the lengthy post, thanks in advance!


Leaning forward when your bottomed out on squats is going to happen. Otherwise you WILL topple, but backwards. The center of gravity is changed through the range of motion. Just try to focus on pressing on your heels and keep your back neutrally aligned. It's okay to shift the weight forward with your whole back but you want to avoid leaning forward and curving your back to offset the change in balance.

As for back compression on the descent it sounds like you may be hyperextending your back which would cause the weight to put stress on your lower back. Is that where you feel the compression? As for stance feet a bit wider than shoulder is good. If you want to hit more of the inner quads and even incorporate some hamstring angle your feet out. If you really want to feel the burn on quads try to keep your feet straight. I prefer the latter since I'll work my hamstrings on deadlift day. Which brings us tooooo...

Deadlifts. I personally do not focus on the lowering part. Once I get to the top of the ROM I lower back down quickly but still in control. I touch the weight down on the ground lightly and then lift again. It all depends on how much you're lifting though. If you're going for high reps you can control the descent more but at high weights it really does strain the back immensely to try and lower the weight slowly. Ever see powerlifters take their time lowering the weight?

Hope this helps.


1) Your back feels compression because you are bending forward, so it takes more of the load. To fix this problem quickly, try overhead squats and front squats (maybe as a warm-up). These will force you to stay more upright.

Also make sure you keep your weight on your heels throughout the lift.

2) Put the weight down the same way you took it up, just in reverse. You might have to do it slowly at first. Stay tight after the lift; if you relax your lower back after the lift, you won't be able to set it back down without your lower back rounding.

I like to reposition myself between deadlifts, but some people like to rep them out. Since you are just starting, I would reset yourself just to make sure your starting position is right.


Yes, this does help a lot. I do feel compression on my lower back, but what is hyperextending, and how do I correct it?

As far as deadlifting, I usually do 5x5 on lifts so it's not an incredible amount of reps. I found myself putting it back on the ground, rechecking my form to make sure my stance was good, then lifting again. then I'd rest for a minute and do another set of 5 like this with a little bit more weight.


I will do some front squat work next time, if it forces me to memorize the right form, this should carry over into back squats, correct?


Here a few things that help me with form.


A lot of people use too much back at the bottom of the Squat to compensate for poor calf flexibility which can become an issue at low depth. If you have tight calves you should address it as this will help significantly.

I try to keep my chest pushed out, my shoulder blades pushed together and my head up when I squat and this helps keep my form. Even when I have to grind out a rep I am never tempted to try (and fail) to move the weight with my lower back instead of my legs.


Similar to the Squats in that I keep my chest out, shoulders back and head up to prevent any back rounding. When lowering I take a deep breath at the lockout and keep tight when putting the weight back down to prevent hurting my back. When I'm doing my warmup sets it's touch and go but when I'm doing my work sets there is about 3 seconds between reps.

Also have you tried good mornings, they are an excellent assistance exercise to strengthen your lower back?


I use to move forward alot too.On heavier weights get someone to spot you.Also wearing a belt may take some pressure of your lower back.I use the same stance as you but i point my feet outward a little bit.I feel more balanced that way.

Leaning forward really isn't that uncommon and not a major problem unless its because your bending your back.There's a difference between leaning forward and bending yourself in half.


Hyperextending is when you bend your back backwards creating an arch in your lower back which is kind of the opposite of hunching your back forward. At any rate with a bar of weight across your back while hyperextending it creates force on the curve which will make you feel this compression.

It's hard to say exactly how to fix it. You could try using a light weight, just enough to be able to feel it slightly, and work through the range of motion. Try to manipulate around till you don't feel it. If you can't focus on trying to feel what part of your body is keeping you from getting into whatever position you need to be in.

A lot of people have tight calves but it may be something else. Here is a nice thread on stretching that you may find useful both now and in the future.



This is exactly it, I went to the bathroom mirror and did a squat with an imaginary bar so I could see my profile and you are dead on. I curve my lower back in a LOT. I then made my back straight, and found that when I started to get down to parallel it was my inner thigh/groin area that needs stretching.

I've never had good leg flexibility (especially behind the knee), so I'm going to really drill on that this summer.

I'll drill some in the mirror before I go to hit legs again next time, make sure I know what it feels like to have a straight back and not an arched one.

Thanks for the help everyone!


Get yourself a foam roller they are excellent.


It will hurt like hell to start with but stick with it and you will reap the rewards.


Foam rollers are a really good asset for almost all lifters to have definately pick one up. Glad I could help and checking to see what feels correct and not is going to help along with stretching the inner thigh. Good luck.