T Nation

Making Back Stronger for Squatting


My best friend has killer leg strength. He always squats below parallel and when he gets down there his ass and legs shoot up no problem but his back has trouble keeping up. When he goes really heavy it gets ugly and his squat starts to look more like a good morning in the concentric portion of the lift.

My questions are... what is the best way to correct this problem? What's the best way to make your back stronger in relation to squatting?


I used to have this problem, and like you I thought it was because I had a weak lower back. It never made sense to me because I had a strong deadlift.

The way I see it now, your friend probably has a strong lower back. It's strong enough to lift the weight by itself. What's weak is probably his form. Make sure his upper back is tight and he is wrenching his elbows underneath the bar.


Thanks for the reply. Yeah he's only been lifting for 8 weeks but he's been making amazing progress. He did 295x5 on squats to below parallel his last workout. His best deadlift so far is 425. His back is definitely weak but I'm hoping getting stronger in the deadlifts will help that.

I was also thinking about having him do 1-2 sets of good mornings after his squat workouts.


I imagine he is going a more quad dominant squat. Just a pointer that I found kept me far more upright is slow down the descent of the squat. Focus on controlling the weight into the hole, and once there explode off the heels while push the knees out. The slow descent with him mentally thinking of keeping his chest up will help his lift.


something that helps my clients prevent this is telling them to squat with their back, to move the bar backwards and not just up. First, they won't let themselves fall backwards. second, this prevents the bar path from moving forward that much and making it a GM. Generally I will place my hand across their upper back and pulse some pressure forward reminding them to "Squat back!". Also, telling him to fuck the air may work too, if he has glute control.

x2 on pulling the elbows down.


I would also add that looking up and concentrating on leading up with your neck/head helps.


add in some weighted ab work


Whenever I feel that start to happen, I pull down my elbows and bar really hard and it helps put me back in the correct position.


Thanks for all the replies guys... a lot of helpful hints! I'll try these out and let you know if his squat form improves.


I personally think the problem is weak quads - specifically VMO. If your knee extension is weak then you will tend to use hip extension to compensate (hips shoot up - forcing the knee to extend) from this point you can GM the weight up. It used to happen to me all the time. One thing that helped was focusing on that bottom portion with '1-and-1/4 squats' , as well as some front squats thrown in. Also, ab work wouldn't hurt. just my thoughts...



If the lifter is good morning the squat, it's weak abs and poor technique


Tell him to start out of the hole with driving his upper back into the bar\, dont push away from the floor, push the bar up.


Any comments involving the abs or upper back form is where you want to focus. I am a HORRIBLE squatter, but like your friend I'm a good deadlifter, and for a while I just "accepted" that. But once you perform a squat in the ABSOLUTE BEST FORM, holy SHIT do you notice it. So your friend needs to check his ego at the door, practice a couple variations of front and overhead squats(based on the articles in here; you can do it) and then try the squat executing perfect form with little weight and then build weight from there. I can promise that it is his misunderstanding of the squat and his inability to try super-light weight with proper form to get an exercise down, because sometimes the muscles stimulated in light weight exercises are the ones most weak/painful and least exercised so we try to ignore them. WAKE 'EM UP.


In addition, ribs forward, shoulders depressed(think heavy coat bringing your shoulders/shoulder blades down and back, tucking your shoulder blades into your "back pockets"), low back arched/tight(think about your ass tucked and away from you), pressure on the heels, wrists rolled forward/elbows tucked(based on your flexibility this will differ, but think "elbows under the bar" while still tight in the mid-shoulder blades. Again, don't go by what you see but how it "feels": pull the bar apart while trying to bring it down around your body; it shouldn't, but imagine), neck packed, big breath in through the nose before the lift, hold it on the ecncentric, and forceful exhalation through the mouth on the concentric. Seems a bit much but you'll realize this is all natural once you get it down. Practice and perfect. Good luck.


Those with long legs relative to their torso who have this problem generally are doing the GM thing because the back is picking up where the legs are slacking. Whenever I don't do enough leg work, I run into this problem myself. How's the deadlift compare to the squat?


I'm definitely not a pro, but I recently read this article on weak links. Thought I'd pass it on. Bret Contreras says the weak link is actually the glutes when your squat looks more like a "squat morning".


Dr. Stuart McGill says the same thing. Don't skimp on ab and erector work, but focus more on cueing the glutes. Add in some glute bridges and really focus on only using the glutes.