Lower Back "Plop!" When Squatting, Still Stiff

Hi all. First post here. Been a while reading and finally decided to jump in

So about 2 months ago I was doing squat just fine (perhaps 80% of my 1RP) rather fresh and energized BUT when I got to the bottom of the squat and changed to lifting movement a weird “plop!” happened in my back. Couldnt go up anymore so I just let the bar fall and the pins get it. Couldnt lift anymore for the day and spend around 10 days quite stiffed (couldnt tie my shoelaces for instance). Doc said it was a muscle injured and asked me to stay away from gym 1 month. I did most part of it (perhaps 3 weeks) and then came back slowly.

So far so good

However, eversince, I do notice that my lower right back is still quite stiff (i feel it when I bend over) and few times a day I do have to move my hips towards the right in order to slightly “crack” my lower back and relief some tension.

PS: work in a restaurant, so 95% of the time im standing/walking
PSS: anterior pelvic tilted (which I thought it would somehow protect me while squatting… until it didnt).

This sounds pretty much exactly how I injured my back. I herniated a disc with sciatic pain down my hamstrings. I would recommend a few physio sessions to relieve tension and let the disc get back into position. Ibuprofen helped me a lot to reduce inflammation. I took them daily for 10 days or so despite not experiencing much pain, but the inflammation helped greatly to reduce sciatica.

It depends on the severity of the injury, but i was able to recover 100%. I am squatting high bar now to be more upright.

I thought too it was an herniated disc but have no pain whatsoever in my legs/arms… just right there, in my lower back.

Previously I did injured myself aswel (5 months ago perhaps) deadlifting. Bad back posture I guess. Same stuff as this time, stiff as hell, but a couple of physio sessions and 2 weeks off made it happen.

Im actually very confused about stretching my lower back too. In my teens, stretching was a good thing. Now seems like stretching is the devil.

Either way, I can still squat, but the fear is there.

Id check the doctor this Monday and see what he says

Did you take any time off btw? Did you still manage to do bulgarians or lunges? smiths’? Are you back full on? Any “rehab” drills youve been through and could recommend?

I took off gym completely for 2 weeks. After that I started upper body exercises, but mostly horizontal pressing, so no OHP. Lat pulldown was fine. Started deadlifts with 50% again after 4 weeks and front squats after 5 weeks. Went heavy again (incld. back squats) probably fully after 8 weeks. I have fully recovered since and hit a deadlift PR post injury. But I am more careful now and more likely to shut training down if anything feels wrong. Pre-injury I would just power through.

Stretching the lower back is a difficult one, as you want to loosen/relieve the discs somewhat, but you also do not want to do yoga style stretching when doing heavy barbell lifting. In the end your lower back is meant to be static/stabalising, so it needs to be rigid. Stretching it too much may loosen it and make you more prone to injuries (again under the assumption that you lift heavy). Alan Thrall has a good video on his warm-up routine, but some of it is a bit too lumbar heavy and may cause your lower spine to be slightly too relaxed.

I would not dare to do any lunges or smith machine squats for the first 5 weeks. The first squatting type of movements were front squats as I could stay very upright and build the core again. I have not followed any specific drills or protocols, just eased back in and focused on the body parts I could train.

Yes. Taking some time off from squating seems the most reasonable thing to do -also deadlifting :frowning_face:

I watched few vids from Alan but I cant recall that one youve mentioned. Will search it and check it up.

Thanks for your help @nero44

The pop you heard/felt was probably a facet joint moving. This sounds like a routine back injury. I do not suggest stretching your lower back; instead, diligently work on hip mobility. Focus especially on the piriformis and IT band.

Try decompressing by hanging from a pullup bar with your toes on the floor (more effective than just hanging). During this, gently move and twist your spine to stretch everything. Also use a reverse hyper machine if you have access to one; if not, use a similar motion on a GHR or a high bench to achieve traction.

It does feel so much better when doing those hanging drills with the feet on the ground @spiceweasel I currently dont have access to a hyper machine but def will work some of that out to try. Does make sense.

Been to the physio this Monday and basically said (or I understood, my chinese isnt there yet), that my hip was not aligned which also caused one leg been “longer” than the other and the spine wasnt also as straight as it should… so she did her thing and left much better.

So despite I felt really stiff (and still do, but much much less), she did recommend me doing these supermans for 30-60 sec holds to strengthen my lower back. But since it is stiff, isnt it suposed to be strong already? I mean, I do associate stiff with strong and have-to stretch. Also got anterior pelvic tilt, which found out that is due to lack of strength in the abs and having a strong back (isnt it?)

I actually have that same problem caused by a congenital defect. My right leg is “longer” than my left because of the hip misalignment.

A stiff muscle is not necessarily a strong muscle, it’s simply being overworked. It is compensating for a structural issue. Definitely work on abdominal strength. Since I’m lazy and don’t feel like typing it again, here’s a link to a post I did regarding this:

Alan Thrall’s warmup

It’s fairly old and he does a lot of stretches in there, which I do not think are necessary for powerlifting but it gives you some input. I would not want to flex/stretch the lower back too much like he does as we want that to be strong and static. I do about 4-5 different stretches when warming up for squats. Sometimes 5-6 if time permits (it hardly ever does…)

yeah… I recon I quite dont do ab workout, but def will start getting it in. wheel rollouts are out of the list thou. Everytime I try them my lower back says “wtf you think youre going?” (bend too much I guess).

Awesome. Thank you guys! @spiceweasel @nero44

Glad to help! That has happened to me a few times, and yes you’re falling into extension. Watch some of Athlean-X’s videos on the ab roller, he does a better job than anyone (IMO) explaining proper form.