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Lower Back Fatigues First in Front Squat


#1

My lower back fatigues long before I feel anything in my legs when I do front squats. I assume this is due to muscle imbalances - my lower back is relatively weaker than legs. Or maybe I’m going down too low? My anatomy is probably also a factor. I’m 6’1" with a long torso. I’m sure that’s not helping. Has anyone else ran into this and overcome it? Is the answer to keep front squatting and power though? Any ideas for assistance moves?


#2

What are your steps during setup?
Clean grip or crossed arms?
I have found that weighted 45 degree back extensions made a dramatic difference in my ability to stay upright on both front squats and high Bar back squats.


#3

I did the CT program built like a line backer and got stronger.

6’3". Not sure why I said that, but you seem to think it is relevant…


#4

I’m 6’2" and, like most people who front squat properly, feel it fatigue the upper back much more than the lower back, in addition to quads and abs.

I’m betting it’s more technique-related than anything else. Front squat is almost designed to involve the lower back less, when it’s done properly. Make sure you have the bar super-close to your throat and keep the elbows high the entire set. If you’re doing them for moderate to high reps (a few months back you wrote about front squatting 4x8-12), you’re probably letting your form slip.

How are you programming them - what weight are you using for what set/rep scheme?

For context, what are your current bests on the back squat and deadlift?

Going “too low” is rarely a legitimate problem for most people.

Are you up for posting a form check video?


#5

Second what Chris said about form.

Are you breaking at the knees first, or the hips? I’ve seen a lot of athletes who have been taught a proper low bar back squat try to use the same form on front squats, and it doesn’t work past a certain point. On front squats, back should be able to stay almost perfectly vertical. Knees push out in front first as you descend, butt will go back slightly, but the goal is to move almost exactly straight up and down. Staley uses the physical cue, ‘squat down between your legs’. That helped my technique a lot when I started pushing some weight.


#6

Thanks for the replies!

Rather than describe my technique, I think it might be best to post a video, as Chris suggested. I’ll get to that in the next week or so.

I’ll try those cues, boatguy. To be honest, I’m not sure whether I’m breaking at the hips or knees first. Need to be more mindful I guess.


#7

Also, be sure you’re back isn’t curling up underneath you. It’s been called ‘buttwink’ a lot on these forums.


#8

I had all sorts of problems like this as a beginner, if you keep it up I think it will fix itself and the mouvement Will dial in one day. It’s like people with uneven strength on DB.


#9

I’ve had ‘buttwink’ since I started front squatting, and have had no issues and keep moving up in weight. I’ve been on the verge of a 405 front squat (ATG - hams to calves) for a couple years now, but every time I get close, work and life in general get in the way and I either plateau or have to back off and start back up.


#10

And like jasmin says, it’s technique. It just takes repetition (proper repetition) to really learn your groove and get it down. And back up again. :wink:


#11

Some people can get away with it and others have to be super strict about it.

Good luck on 4 plates!


#12

Here are a couple form clips from different angles. Anything jump out?


#13

I would try to spread the floor with my feet more. Your back is straight and fine, elbows pretty much ok. But the bar is drifting forward on most of those reps and it is because you are not activating the outside of your hips. This also puts more pressure on the low back coming out of the hole becuase you have to pull he bar back into balance.

You can think about the hips any way you want, “spread the floor”, “knees out”, “screw your feet into the ground” or just “squeeze the outside of your hips”. What needs to happen is you need to use the outside of your hips (glute medius and max) and assorted musculature to drive your knees out and create room for your torso to come down without having to fold your torso OVER your knees on the way down. .

Also pull your big toe off the ground for help keeping from drifting forward.


#14

Thanks for the feedback. I noticed the same thing immediately after watching the first video, though I wouldn’t have been able to articulate the issue as well as you just did. I widened my stance a little in the second video, and I think it looks a bit better. Logically I know my hips need to be under the bar a bit more, it’s just tough putting my body into that position. Could be shitty mobility in addition to what you pointed out. Those are some good cues though. I’ll keep them in mind and see if they help.


#15

Ditto on aragorn, as you lower try pushing elbows up it’s hard even moving up 1 inch on descent elbows should be higher than shoulders , wrists. Wraps will help with pressure on wrists , go low rep high volume until back pain goes away, try zercher squats sometime, you lean back more. you are tall and slender as you beef up squats get easier as long as you maintain flexibility.


#16

You’ve got plenty of mobility mate. Tons of mobility. You need to focus on the cueing and the muscle activation. Also try some light X band walks prior to squatting to help activate the hips.

As an aside, you need to get more tension in your belly and more air as well. That will help the fatigue


#17

Wouldn’t have thought about the hips being as involved as all that - I know, duh, it’s a squat. Of course the hips are involved, I guess I just never had that issue. I was already a heavy back squatter when I started focusing on front squats, and then dropped back squats entirely. I got 500 before I dropped them, but my shoulders and hips were constantly wrecked. Now I front squat and deadlift for lower body and have seen great progress. Quads got bigger and more defined, hips and ass shrank a little (lost that squat ass) but still defined.

My focus on front squats has always been keeping the knees in front of me (for the most part) and moving vertically as straight as possible. Having good hips from squatting probably helped in that regard - I only had to concentrate on one or two pieces rather than a list.


#18

boatguy - glad to hear the front squat/deadlift combo has worked for you. I’m actually moving towards doing the same for lower body. I have 2 motivators. I tend to be very hamstring dominate with the back squat (high bar and low bar), so much so that my hamstrings wind up too sore to deadlift at times. I also think back squats have made my bad posture slightly worse (who knows, I could just be imaging things). I figure front squats will help with that. What assistance moves do - back extensions, lunges, step-ups?

Aragorn - I spent an hour watching YouTube after reading your post. Alan Thrall has some great stuff on front squats. He corroborated a lot of what you said. Also suggested throwing in some goblet squats. I’m thinking of using those as a warm up in addition to the x-band walks.


#19

Totally agree. It really isn’t super complicated with the hips, but it is somewhat hard for me to explain via text what i can demostrate in about 30 seconds in real life haha. And it depends on your stance too, so someone who has a toe out stance can just naturally keep the knees over his toes and be mostly ok, where someone who stands toes straight forwards needs to focus on creating space more explicitly.

Moving as vertically as possible is the ideal. Perfect goal. I would still advise trying to screw your feet into the ground or whatever, but its really not as big of a deal. Anybody who legitimately has squatted 500 knows how to squat regardless of what cues he is using in his head, because he’s done it for so long. I find the cues are more important for newbies who don’t have the body awareness and practice yet, and competitive lifters who have to be perfect technically for their total


#20

Yeah, I’m a huge believer in only focusing on 1 or 2 things when looking at technique. There is no way to keep a laundry list in your head and do it anywhere near well. My original reply was meant to focus only on the hips driving the knees out, and just trying to explain WHY, but it was probably a miscommunication on my part that made it aound like a list.