T Nation

Maintaining ATG Squat for 3 Months Without Squatting


16 y/o, 6’1"-6’2", 170-180lbs

I came off a back injury due to squats, I was fatigued and accidentally pivoted my feet and twisted my pelvis (according to the chiropractor). The chiropractor realigned it, but my father is forcing me to take up to 3 months off of squats.

The other day I squatted 305lbs for 3 sets of 6. I want to come back stronger, or at least minimize strength loss. Last time I took ONE month off I lost ~80lbs on my squat. It took 3 months to get that all back. I don’t want to do that again.

I can still do deadlifts, I pulled 365lbs for a double, 315lbs for 5, and 325lbs for 2 sets of 4 yesterday. I’ve also heard about deep leg presses.

How do you translate ATG Squat strength to leg press strength?

Are there any other options? By the way barbell lunges don’t work for me. During the month off I combined Lunges and heavy barbell glute bridges and still lost lots of strength.


You can maintain muscle mass without squatting but most likely you will still get weaker. Technique is a major factor and you can’t practice it without actually practicing it. If your father won’t let you do something then that is another story, but another solution to this would be to simply lower the weights. Last year I injured my back (not diagnosed, but I’m sure it was a herniated disc) and I lowered the weights on squat and deadlift to 60% and did 5x5, adding 10lbs. each week. After a couple weeks I started doing AMRAP on the last set.

If want to convince your father to let you squat then look up some of Stuart McGill’s stuff, he is the world’s leading back specialist and he work with powerlifters including Brian Carroll and Chris Duffin. I bought his book “Ultimate back fitness and performance” after injuring myself last year, there was some useful information in there. One thing relevant to your situation is that he says that even with a herniated disc you can still lift as long as you brace properly and maintain a neutral spine. Herniated discs can withstand compressive forces, it shear forces and torsion that are the problem. As long as there is no pain and your technique is safe (not necessarily perfect, but not putting you at risk for injury) then there is no problem. Your injury sounds less serious and you went to a chiropractor, which is the Western equivalent of the Voodoo man, so I think that you should be OK if you just drop the weights and slowly work back up - especially if you can deadlift. Focus on technique for now, you can still do some bodybuilding work (leg press or whatever) to maintain or even build muscle mass.


I looked at your videos, try to slow down the descent a bit. It looks like you’re not that tight either, when you hit the bottom you get thrown forward and hips rise too fast. Other than that, it’s not bad. I wish I was training like that at 16, I would be squatting 700 by now.



My father is extremely headstrong, but we’ll see. It’s a real bummer, because it is the third time I have gotten to this point of strength and had to get set back. Whenever I get to the early 300s for reps, I always get set back again. 4th times the charm.

I’ve never trained leg press because I always saw squats as superior to them when it came to strengthening the entire body as a whole. My max squat is currently around 360lbs. I’m expecting a drop of around 80-100lbs, but I’ll take your advice and drop down to the early- mid 200s and work my way up perfecting my technique. How does deep squat numbers correlate to deep leg press numbers? I’m also planning on doing some lower back and core rehab work during this time.

The latest time I lost strength I implemented high volume squats as soon as I got back to it.

I know from experience that there is a greater carryover from squats to deadlifts than there is from deadlifts to squats, but is there any way I can alter deadlifts to help them maintain some type of neural strength in my squat?


Leg press mostly trains the quads. I haven’t done it in years, I train in my basement with minimal equipment. Exercises like Bulgarian split squats and hack squats should also carry over somewhat, but the main thing is that I can’t see a logical reason not to squat for 3 months if you are no longer in pain and there is no physical damage (herniated disc, torn muscle, etc.). In 3 months you will be much weaker and you will have to start even lighter because your technique will be gone too. Look at it like this: you crashed the car. No driving for 3 months, just because. Your first day back to driving you go on the highway. Are you somehow safer than you would have been the day after crashing?


THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I AM TRYING TO TELL HIM! He says “I don’t care what the doctor says. Only time heals wounds.” It’s not logical at all. But he says “This’ll be a lesson to leave well enough alone. That’s all I will say on it.”

He said take it from someone who’s had back pain before. But I’m 100% sure that when he was lifting in high school it was with shitty form, which he claims is where the pain started. Plus he has spina bifida and got into a car accident when I was like 5. This is the B.S. that I hate; people steady wanting to put in emotions and look at things from a subjective perspective.


For what reason are you maxing?


I haven’t maxed in over 2 years. I was giving a rough estimate to base my strength loss estimate off of.


Copy that, thought we mighta had something there.

If you keep getting injured at the same point everytime, it leads one to believe something you are doing isn’t working. What is your training like?


It’s been different things every time. Like, almost coincident like things. The first time was when I had pes anserine bursitis and I didn’t know what to do. I took a break and lost hella strength only to find out that my hamstrings were very tight. I stretched them once and the pain was gone. You can imagine the frustration. Seeing as school was about to start back, I progressed on 4x5 for about 3 week and then did the base mesoscycle of Smolov for the second time. I was pain free, and got all of my strength back just about. I was squatting 325lbsx6 ATG before the bursitis, and then 315lbsx7 ATG afterwards.

I started only doing one set of 315lbsx7 ATG to maintain strength because I was getting on French Contrast to translate my strength into vertical jumping ability (the whole reason I started lifting was for basketball athleticism, and I still can’t dunk, but I found interest in getting to a 2x BW ATG squat, so I worked tenaciously at that). During this time I pivoted my feet during a set, maybe during French Contrast or the one set of 315lbsx7. My dad made me take a month off. Lost all the strength from Smolov. Didn’t get any better in terms of back pain until I used a tennis ball near the very end of the break( according to the chiropractor, the misaligned pelvis resulting from the pivoting of the feet caused lower back pain which explained why the tennis ball only offered temporary relief). Came back barely squatting 225lbsx6 ATG, but my mobility was the same. I immediately attacked with high volume adding 10lbs every session, but then slowing down. This would have worked better if I had gotten more sleep. Also by this time I had acquired some weightlifting shoes. Previously I had been squatting in socks which was pretty “meh”. Shoes were a huge improvement. I had gotten all the way up to 305lbsx3x6 after two months. Then after the chiropractor appointment my dad said no squats for 3 months even though I was just squatting pain free for the last two months with the injury. In my Dad’s eyes, the injury was worsened when the chiropractor alleviated the issue altogether. Such illogical thinking.

Also my warmup:

Stretches and ankle and hip mobility work for 20 mins.
Bar for 2x10 ATG with pauses and jumps.
135lbsx6 paused
225lbsx3 pause at the last rep
275lbsx1 paused


Have you ever tried not squatting ATG?

Also, why did you run Smolov? It’s a peaking program; were you prepping for a meet?


I started Smolov because my body responds well to high volume. School was also starting back, so I would have less free time to lift. I wanted to sap as much strength as possible out of the summer. It worked. I did Smolov on top of basketball practice and basketball practice of my own.

I’ve always squatted deep, I only did partial squats for French Contrast.


Well yeah, it helped you peak, but ideally, unless you are prepping for a meet, it’d be better to work towards building a base.

You’re really young in your training right now; it’s a good time to start experimenting and finding out what works and what doesn’t. You keep getting hurt around the same time squatting the same way, it might be worthwhile to try a different squatting style. Rather the smolov, you might benefit more from a bloc structure with some accumulation and intensification WITHOUT the peak unless you have a meet. Right now, you’re running yourself into the ground on a regular schedule it seems.

For maintaining strength, I’d look into sled drags. Minimal spinal loading, will totally blow up your legs. When I was recovering from ACL surgery, I ended up pushing an unloaded prowler for a mile. When I returned to squatting, it took like 2-3 months to get back to about where I was, and I think that helped a lot.


Thanks for all this great advice!


Are front squats and zercher squats a no go too?


I could probably get away with Zercher. My dad lacks logical thinking and knowledge when it comes to this even though he would never admit it. It pisses me off even more after I realized the stupidity of his argument and the fact that he had a dream of me getting hurt as support to his resolve.


Just to groove the pattern, there’s also goblet squats. At least that would maintain your mobility throughout the squat motion and help build muscle.

There’s this bar attachment called a manta ray. It can keep you more upright which can make it easier on the back and I think that’s even advertised.

Maybe something to mention in passing. Like “hey, I bet this thing might keep me from getting hurt when I start again”

And just to let you know, peaking programs and high frequency have the tendency for many people to lose that strength very quickly if they have to stop suddenly.

But by building a base, that kind of strength isn’t as easy to lose.

3 months seems like a long time, but your still really young and that’ll be nothing in the big picture.

Good luck.


Thanks man


[quote=“pushups50, post:4, topic:224617”]
I’ve never trained leg press because I always saw squats as superior to them when it came to strengthening the entire body as a whole.[/quote]

Speaking as a father myself, im taking it he wants a major say in things? I can see his hearts in the right place but doesn’t sound like hes actual qualified in the weight room. I have run into allot of Dads whose only experience in any form of strength training was when lifting in High School for PE or for what ever sport they did at the time and that is as far as it went.


You know what, get your father to read this thread and see what some guys who not only lift weights but compete in a sport that is about lifting maximal weights have to say about this.

As for yourself, I didn’t realize that you are doing this for basketball. Definitely don’t use a program like Smolov for that. You also don’t only have to do full squats, a lot of athletes like football players and sprinters do half squats, box squats, hang cleans, power cleans, box jumps, depth jumps, etc. You aren’t going to jump from a full squat position and you can generate more force with a more open knee and hip angle so train that as well. I don’t think that Westside is the best type of training for raw powerlifting (although some people make it work) but for general strength training to improve performance in another sport it’s probably the best way to go if you set things up right. You also don’t need to be doing so much low reps, less than 3’s doesn’t make sense for you because you aren’t peaking for a powerlifting meet.