T Nation

My Hideous Squat


My squat is a joke and is going nowhere. I’ve analysed my form over the years to the point of obsession and it is just going nowhere and squats have never felt good. I know I don’t have good levers for it, but I see plenty of other guys on youtube who manage decent squats (pat mendes, layne norton, vince urbank etc). I’ve tried wide stance a few times and it feels horrible and I have no strength, I’m strongest with a narrow stance. Any advice? I believe that it’s my quads that are the real issue…my deadlift is fairly strong in comparison (1rm ~ 470lbs) and I pull with very high hips, but here I’m squatting ~265lbs.


One of the most immediate things I see is that you’re wearing your belt backwards. The purpose of a belt is to give your abs something to brace against, but you’ve got the smallest part against your abs and the largest part against your back. Not only goes this give you nothing to brace your abs against, but can actually cause you to fold in half, as now the belt is basically cutting into your midsection rather than bracing it.

Ideally, you’d use a belt that was uniform in width, but if you’re going to use that kind, turn it around. See if that doesn’t fix the problem right away. Might also help to wear it lower.


OK. It’s definitely something to think about, but this is a very light duty belt so provides little support anyway. I think the problem is more fundamental than that, considering this is not even 300lbs. I am simply unable to keep by hips from popping up out of the hole when the weight becomes even a bit challenging, and I hit a MASSIVE wall above parallel.


This is what I would do if i were you…

Learn how to overhead squat a broomstick.
Then learn to overhead squat an empty barbell.
Then learn to overhead squat 95 pounds.
Then learn to overhead squat 135 pounds.

Then go back to back squatting and reinforce sitting into the squat and staying more upright. The mobility and skills required in the overhead squat far exceed that which is required for the back squat-- however, your ability to get into proper position in the back squat will improve exponentially if you can learn to overhead squat and it doesn’t take any special voodoo or anything-- just learn/develop a new skill.

You would also benefit from bringing up your thigh/quad strength as well. I would be willing to bet, you are pushing with your thighs but no work, or very little, is actually being done on the bar at about a third of the way up (despite your knees extending)… so you end up good morning the last part of the lift basically.


By the time your in that 2nd or 3rd frame, you look like your in a position better for a deadlift than a squat.

Front squats and Zercher squats would be good tools to both teach how to stop goodmorning your squats and bring up your quad strength. I would keep back squatting, but only at weights I know I could nail perfect form. At least until the technical and strength issues are ironed out, then start pushing your squat again.

I bet doing those types of squats would help your pull too. Stronger legs means a stronger start and more momentum off the ground.


Perhaps I do need to step back from the back squat…surely though the only way to stay more upright is to allow for more forward knee travel?

Regarding leg strength…I’m probably going to get some flak for this but I’ve been experimenting with different quad exercises and the one which allows me to work the quad hardest is the single leg leg press. Front squat - same problem as back squat, just feel my back taking over. The one leg press forces my leg to do the work.


Yeah. more forward knee travel is not necessarily a bad thing though. Just as long as the knee is tracking well over your feet and they’re not getting all out of line. If you decide to learn to overhead squat, you will also be forced to find your optimal stance width and foot position. You have to play around with it to find what works best for you and at the same time attack mobility issues in your ankles, hips, back, and shoulders. It can be a little bit of a bitch at the start as well as frustrating, but after two weeks or so, you should see massive progress towards a better squat.


Your knees are forward enough and your torso upright enough in the first frame so I imagine your descent is okay. The problem is that your knees shoot back too fast too soon and your hips shoot back and up. Some cues while you back squat that can help is think rigid shins and knees and really punch your hips forward.

Your back angle shouldn’t be that much closer to parallel to the ground than from the first frame. Now even in the most technically proficient squatters, the back angle does become a little closer to parallel to ground but no not to that degree even in a great squatter that uses a lot of back. And no one tries to emphasize it. In fact, people try to de-emphasize doing that.

If you’re even doing this with front squats, maybe you need something even more remedial. Goblet squats can be good in this regard. It’s even harder to turn that into a good morning. You could do practice sets at home, as part of a warm up, and as a finisher. And you can use them for working sets during your training session too.

The OH squat idea isn’t bad at all either. And you might actually need to do some really direct quad work like you mentioned if the issue is so back you do it on front squats too.


Im thinking that I should make the overhead squat my main movement…not only will this rewire my squat technique, but it won’t fatigue me much, so I can then blast my legs afterwards with high volume. I’ve neglected my quads for a long time now (mainly due to quad tendinitis and other knee issues) but i think backing off the heavy squats should allow me to do this.


I agree with Fletch1986 in doing front squats and zercher squats. OH squats can help but shoulder mobility could possibly be another problem.

Whatever you do you need to focus on taking in a deep breath each rep and bracing your abs hard while still keeping your chest up. If you aren’t feeling your abs working hard from those movements then you’ll have to use other methods to learn to brace.

One other thing you can add is wide stance box squats with light weight at the end of your session. The purpose is to learn how it feels to engage your hips throughout the entire set. You’ll start to figure out how to open up your hips. Learning to engage your hips throughout a rep will help prevent it from shooting up and instead help you to drive it forward. It’ll take time to build the hip and quad strength.


I don’t think hips are an issue…I always feel my glues firing and they are always crazy sore after squatting. I feel them firing when I do sumo pulls as well. Or is it more than just glutes? I know I have weak glute meds…physio told me that that was the likely cause of my patellar femoral pain (on and off for years)



Try this.


It looks like you lack back tightness. Even from the first frame, you look somewhat hunched over. If you’ve already lost tightness by the time you hit the descent of the squat it’s game over. It’s going to be an ugly grind whether you’re squatting 135 or 495. Observe how your back gets progressively more hunched as the rep progresses. I had this problem and found that focusing on pulling the bar into my back while I squatted really helped.

It’s hard to say based on the angle, but it looks like your knees are caving beginning in the 2nd frame. Adding some extra upper back and glute work probably wouldn’t hurt.


You’ve got some other good suggestions, but it looks to me like you might have some mobility problems. Did you use to have form like this when you used to squat lighter, or did you notice it more recently? If it’s a more recent thing, then you might have become tighter over time. The three main problem areas (though there are exceptions) for squat mobility are tight hips, groin, or ankles. It looks to me like you have ankle tightness.

When you air squat do you fall backwards/hunch over excessively? If so, you may need to work on ankle dorsiflexion. That’ll help you stay more upright and keep your back from taking over.

It’s okay if you step back from the back squat for a while, but if you aren’t doing things to correct the problem (i.e. mobility or technique work at a light weight), then you are just making it harder for yourself in the long run. Google Kelly Starrett and watch a few of his videos on squat mobility.


As you can see from the stills: the elbows lead, and the back follows

Bring your elbows under the bar, think about keeping your chest up through out. Tightness tips above are valuable


I’ve ‘reset’ my squat a few times, and it always and up like this again. As so as I hit the wall above parallel I can feel my quads ‘giving in’ and my hips rising. I know I need to work on my ankles, but personally I think its mainly a ‘weak link’ issue. I’ve checked out some of Kellys vids and I will start doing some of that.


The entire movement looks like there can be a weakness in any or all of your upper back, abs, hips and quads. Your hips have more muscles than just your glute max, which you are using fine. Improve the movement pattern and all the weaknesses by using a front loaded squatting movement. You can pick whatever you want. Get some bands to place around your feet or knees and perform the movement so that your chest doesn’t shoot forward and your ass doesn’t shoot back - almost like there is a wall in front and behind you. Don’t add weight if you break those planes in front and behind you. Being at borderline will teach you to really focus. It still needs to be light enough for the weak muscle groups to handle, even if the stronger muscle groups (hams, lower back and glute max) aren’t being taxed very hard.

You can still do additional work for the stronger muscle groups so that they also continue to get stronger.


Do you have access to a coach? Do you have the ability to attend a seminar somewhere? I bet you get much better advice than here.

If you don’t then try filming every set you do and start looking for where your form breaks down. It’s hard to tell any of this from some stills posted up here.



Afraid not my friend, I live in the UK so powerlifting/strength stuff is much less popular here.

Yeh the stills are a bit rubbish…the reason being is I recorded from across the gym so you’d have to zoom in quite alot.


Your back rounds quite a bit and your knees are caving in. Try front squats, pausing at the bottom and staying as upright as possible on the ascent (and avoiding back rounding of course), and bottom-up front squats (from pins).