T Nation

Leaning Forward During Squat


I have an issue that frustrates me. I started StrongLifts and after
having done around 1.5 month of work I found that my form is way off
when weight got heavier. My squat position is low-bar and here is how
I perform it:

Put the bar on traps and squeeze the back, left the elbows up to keep tightness.
Unrack the bar by pushing upwards.
Step back and stand with feet at shoulder width and keep feet at 25-30 degree angle.
Squeeze abs, glutes, move hips back and squat.

Not, at around parallel my form just collapses: I lean forward, my lower back rounds
and I feel weight shifting to my knees. I am not supposed to do a back squat from my knees. They hurt after such feats as do my hip flexors.

Without a bar, when I squat I tend to fall backwards below parallel. I was practicing bodyweight squats at home and tried to get to 3rd world squat and keep myself there. I did improve slightly over 1 week, i.e. I can stay in that position but I am leaned forward, I feel hip flexors doing all the work and my shins muscles are highly tense as well.

The things I tried: Limber 11 warm up routine, 3rd world squat with assistance, goblet squats. Things I plan to try: tight hip flexors(relax them, foam roll etc) -> glutes are weak, do some bridges. Lower back hurts after heavy squats, relax and massage, stretch. And finally will try some planks for core.

Does anyone have suggestions or ideas of whether I am wasting my time with this plan and should focus on something else provided details above?


I did that for awhile after listening to Rippetoe too. He has good advice but I was probably impIementing it wrong. I believe you should learn to squat TO parallel before learning below parallel. Put a box or bench in place that you squat just to parallel as you hit it. Hopefully you have a wall mirror in front of you. Do your normal form and note where your butt hits the box (light enough weight to hold form).

Next mentally mark a spot a couple inches forward of that spot. Now as you descend start by squatting back like normal, but as you approach parallel bring your butt a little farther forward so your knees go a little forward and your butt hits that marked spot. This reduces back strain and loads up the legs a little more. Also pull your lats back and look forward.


Make sure you're learning to brace your abs properly. Take a BIG breath and brace your abs hard. Poke around the front, sides and back and make sure there are no soft areas anywhere. When lifting, brace your abs even harder than that.

Learn to engage your lats. When pinching your shoulder blades together and raising your elbows, you may be able to get your traps tight but that doesn't guarantee your lats are. The lats are more important since they surround most of your midsection. Prioritize using your lats by simulating a lat pull down to squeeze your lats before pulling your shoulder blades together. You'll have to adjust grip width to find the sweet spot. Most of the strongest squatters pull their elbows down/forward instead of back to better engage their lats so that should be a good hint.


Sounds like bad mobility. Either your ankles or hips (or both) probably can't do what you are trying to make them do. It could be either tightness in tissue or mechanical joint limitations. You can stretch your hips and calves and try different stances and add heel height.


Yeah you're right. I only read the first half of the post and somehow blurred the problem with the new post over in the powerlifting forum where the person switched to Oly shoes. Finally had my coffee this morning, haha.

OP, you're on the right path in stretching out your hip flexors and strengthening your glutes. Do some side lying clamshells as well. When doing the goblet squats, focus on pushing your knees out and sitting between your legs while engaging your glutes. Also, check out the video in the other forum titled Amazing Band Mobility Routine.


Post a video. Sounds to me like you have zero upper back tightness with that set up. I am sorry and I have said it 100x there is a reason that pretty much EVERY World Record Holder in the squat has a form that looks nothing LIKE what Rippetoe preaches. Looking slightly forward and down with your elbows flared way the fuck out to the back is the absolute fastest way to loose upper back tightness and forces you to get pushed over.

Also possible that you aren't bracing your core tight which only makes the good morning effect even worse when coupled by the above problem. Lastly, I do not suggest you get in oly shoes. Raining your heel when you are already having trouble with leaning over excessively will do nothing but push you over even more... At least if you are going to continue with the low bar hip break squat.


Oly shoes don't make your knees go farther out, they just allow it. If your knees go farther forward when you wear them, you are probably hitting ankle mobility limits when you don?t wear them.

If the knee can't track forward far enough due to ankle mobility, the hips are forced farther back and this would result in more forward lean in the upper back angle to maintain balance. Which if he doesn't have enough hip mobility could make him fall backward like he does without weight. If the guy falls over and can?t get into position without any weight, it doesn't sound like a tightness problem to me.


And really I don't think he needs to go out and get oly shoes. I'd elevate my heels with a plate or something and see if that improves the situation, if it does, your ankles are a problem. I'd then work on my ankles and think about oly shoes.


Until he posts a video no one can tell for sure. I didn't say anything about knees going further forward. I said it would push him over even more if he is already leaning over so bad.


this might muddy the waters, but Chris Duffin's video is one of the best explanations of how to get tight and squat I've seen.


I agree on the video. I was talking about knees to explain how they could cause what he is describing. Rounding over, forward back tilt and balance going backward. If you notice, without weight he's falling backwards, not forward. Forward seems to indicate the the direction of collapse of the upper back, not which way his body is leaning. Back angle and balance are 2 different things. The back angle may be tilting forward so much because his hips and his balance are so far backwards and that's what he has to do to not fall backwards. It is a ridiculously easy test and there is no good reason not to try it.


Hey dude, I was/am having the exact same problems. I am a beginner too but I think I can offer some pretty good advice because I am currently fixing my problem with the following:

Use this video to address ankle dorsiflexion problems, shoulder issues and hip mobility. The ankle one makes an enormous difference when squatting.

The goblet squat will force you to brace your core because you have weight infront of you, it will also help you to open your hips. The wall squat helps you to focus on keeping your torso angle vertical and focus on ankle dorsiflexion and sitting down, this stops you folding forward.

I would also recommend doing abdominal and lower back work like hanging leg raises and hyperextensions as both of these can be issues for inactive people.

Good luck dude.


I suppose I'll be the one to point out that the OP never mentioned Rippetoe or Starting Strength as influences on his squat technique. He said he's running Stronglifts, which already puts him ahead of the legions of lifters who do little more than bi's, tri's and chest.

Pterodactylus - I had many of the same problems when I started squatting. Squats took me a while to figure out, but once I did the lift really took off for me. Watch a lot of instructional videos and read what a lot of accomplished squatters have to say about squatting. Start applying what has worked for others and evaluate whether or not it works for you. Refine your technique over time and listen to your body. DOMS is fine, joint pain is not.

I also suggest putting a video up for review.

Don't give up. Keep working at it.


Maybe not but his described set up and lift is exactly what mark preaches and it is not helping him technique wise.


Yeah, I thought the same thing. The OP said he squeezes his back which could be interpreted as either squeezing his scapulae together or everything as a whole. The giveaway was him saying he lifts his elbows. It could work for people but I also have never seen top squatters using that method.

It's likely both mobility and technique related.


I watched the video by elitefts and will try to find some bands in my gym.

Honestly, I am not surprised that I have such rigid body.
In the past, I did not lift, spent a lot of time playing video games and programming,
also sitting a lot because I was kind of professional musician and played hours each day
on my ass. Now it all comes home to roost, I am actually thankful that I have ability to
squat at all.

I watched another video where the dude basically said this: have tight hip flexors and lower back? Do stuff to relax them. Both of those mean that you have weak core, thus low back compensates, and weak glutes, hence hip flexors pain and leaning forward. So strengthen them. Relax tense, strengthen weak.

I was doing some squats with a broom at home yesterday trying elitefts techniques. It seemed to help
but around the parallel my form just collapses. I feel that there is not enough mobility to move my ass
below parallel. Also without weight, I fall backwards, with weight on the bar I am fine, the form is bad though anyways.

The trainer in the gym watched me squat and said - it's your hips. I also read on the fitness subreddit that a person did not fix his problems until he started to really squat correctly. Nothing else helped to
alleviate pain in hip flexors etc. To get there, I seem to be in need of serious stretching, foam rolling and band work.

I was a bit terrified to realize that if I up my weight then knees destruction is on the way unless the form is fixed. I will also have 6 week course at the end of May where we will be taught to squat, deadlift, snatch, jerk correctly but it is going to be useless if my mobility is not fixed by then.

What are your opinions on switching to front squats for now(to strengthen core) and of course working on mobility? I will continue to practice squats but without heavy weights since my joints scream to not continue for now.


You can switch to front squats if you want but do realize that alternate movements still need to be performed correctly or they won't solve the problem. A corrective exercise that can't be performed correctly will need a corrective exercise itself. I do think it is a good idea to strengthen your core but you should do as much research as you can to make sure you're performing the front squat correctly. Learn to keep your hips forward and under the bar by firing your glutes.

The main movement can be used as mobility work if you aren't going heavy and have complete control of the weight to place yourself in the desired position to stretch out your muscles.


What sort of shoes do you wear when you squat?


Do you recommend wearing flat shoes and focusing on mobility or using olympic weightlifting shoes?


I never recommend focusing on mobility, haha. I more just want to know what kind of shoes he's wearing. If he's wearing running shoes, it would explain a lot.