T Nation

Help With Squats

I have been lifting for a couple of years now although had a 6 month or so break over the summer. Since getting back into it my squat form has been letting me down. I have no problem with 220kgs on leg press for 6 sets of 8 but doing max’s today I could only squat 150. I believe that my legs are strong enough to lift the weight, but I seem to bend forward a lot close to the bottom of the lift and I feel a lot of pressure in my lower back. Does anyone have any advice on how to improve my form or if need be any exercises to improve my lower back strength?

If it helps I have recently turned 18, weigh 97kgs and am 6 ft3.

The only generic advice i can give you is put the bar on your upper back and get it off your shoulders if it isnt already. Also changing your stance and looking at the ceiling during reps could help if you dont do it already. There also isnt much comparison between the leg press and squat, the bottom of the squat is primarily glutes where leg press is primarily legs depending on foot position.

Hope this helps

Do you squat with knee break or hip break form, if you bend forward with a hip break squat there is one problem : the entire p-chain, especially the lower back. With knee break squat yuo,re not supposed to bend foward sicne the trunk is more upright ? Also don’t look at the ceiling, look straight foward.

You do realize that leg press weight and squat weight are not going to be the same, right?

Hi, thanks for all the info so far! I do realise that the leg press and squat weights will be different, I just thought that such a large discrepancy would be caused by a weakness in an area exercised by squats and not in leg press. I am trying to address this area and was trying to get advice from more experienced lifters. I am confused with what you mean by “hip break” and “leg break” squats though. I am very greatful for any advice you can offer Thankyou

Where are your feet right now? Are your heels firmly on the ground? I don’t think we have enough info to analyze your squat.

I also don’t know the difference between “hip break” and “knee break” squats. Can you elaborate or give us a reference? Cursious which type I’ve been doing…

You need to start deadlift and goodmorning to gain some strenght in your lower back, abs and hamstring muscles. This way you will be able to be strong enough not to bend forward when you attempt to squat heavy weight.

The same thing happened to me and since i started doing more heavy lower back work, i’ve gained alot in my squat (275->350 in less than a year).

Basically I squat every leg days and deadlift or goodmorning nearly every back days. Try to spread those 2 accross your training so that you don’t end up with a sore lower back when you try to squat heavy (which won’t help you at all).

You can also try some front squat since they are alot harder because of the much bigger need of lower back and abs strenght (Bar on the shoulder and arms crossed style).

If you’re interested in blowing your maximum, try not to do real 1RM every weeks. I usually try em every 2 or 3 weeks while i try different style of training in between (speed, etc.).

Hi, again sorry about the lack of info. My feet are a bit wider than shoulder width and I’m pretty sure I keep my heels on the floor throughout the lift. My toes are slightly pointed out and the bar rests on the ledge of what I assume is the lats just behind shoulders. With regards to deadlifts, I have been guilty of not training them regularly recently but three months ago I was training on 160kgs for 5 sets of 6 I believe. I can’t remember my 1 rep max for squats back then but I think the working weight was about 10 kgs more. I don’t know if this has made anything clearer at all and again I greatly appreciate the support.

Try bringing your hands in closer to your ears. This will help you keep your back arched.

[quote]xomegaxprimex wrote:
Do you squat with knee break or hip break form, if you bend forward with a hip break squat there is one problem : the entire p-chain, especially the lower back. With knee break squat yuo,re not supposed to bend foward sicne the trunk is more upright ? Also don’t look at the ceiling, look straight foward.[/quote]

Can we learn more about knee break and hip break?
Also, to elaborate on the differences between both squat and dead and leg presses, in the squat and dead your quads are primarily responsible for straightening your knee joint. Your glutes (and a little hams) are primarily responsible for straightening your hip joint. Most leg press machines only work your knee joints.

If you are leaning forward too much in the bottom of your squat, I believe that would indicate your weak link is your hammies and glutes. I would lay off your regular squat work and concentrate more on P-chain work for a while. Box squats while really concentrating on sitting back and then using your hamstrings and glutes to stand up work well for me.

Is the knee-break squat vs. the hip-break squat the difference between squatting down vs. sitting back into the squat?

I’m guessing

knee break - Start off the squat by bending your knees.

hip break - Start off the squat by pushing your ass back.

I believe the knee break is what olympic lifters use and hip break is what power lifters use.

[quote]breadstealer wrote:
Hi, thanks for all the info so far! I do realise that the leg press and squat weights will be different, I just thought that such a large discrepancy would be caused by a weakness in an area exercised by squats and not in leg press.[/quote]

No, they’re different exercises that work the legs in different ways (as others mention above).

I can leg press 500 lbs. But I only squat around 200 lbs for low reps, at the moment (I’m not yet hyooge). That’s just the way it works.

I’m not an expert, but here’s my opinion.

There are two basic ways people squat. One way is keeping the bar midway down the traps, and starting the movement by pushing your butt backwards therefore “breaking” with your hips. You keep an arch in your back (meaning your spine does not bend forward except at the hips) and at the bottom position your hips should be at about the same height as your knees, meaning you’ve squatted “to parallel”. Your back will be at an angle to the ground, but not rounded. Here you are squatting using a lot of muscles from the back side of your body - hamstrings, back, etc.

The other way, you keep the bar higher up on your shoulders, and rather than pushing your butt back you start by bending your knees. With this technique your back is more perpendicular to the ground as your descend, and your knees come more foreward over your feet. You also want to be keeping you back arched, not letting it bend forward except at the hips. Also with this way you can technically descend almost all the way until your butt gets very close to the ground or ‘ass to the grass’ as they say.

This is basically how “front squats”, “olympic squats” and “overhead squats” are performed. This is also the middle position in Olympic lifts like Cleans and Snatches. These develop the front of the legs, the quads, more than the other kind.

For the first kind, the hip break, you need flexibility in your hamstrings to prevent you from “bowing forward” or bending your spine forward when you come down.

For the second kind, the knee break, you need a lot of flexibility in your ankles and your hips and your butt to descend deep while keeping your upper body vertical. Often when people start these kind, they wear a shoe with a heel or put a plate under their heel and this helps.

That’s my impression on how it all works. There are some good articles on squatting, mostly power or hip break squatting, on this site if you look for them.

[quote]krayon wrote:
I’m guessing

knee break - Start off the squat by bending your knees.

hip break - Start off the squat by pushing your ass back.

I believe the knee break is what olympic lifters use and hip break is what power lifters use.[/quote]