T Nation

New to Squats & Deadlifts


I've been lifting weights for several years but only recently has it approached anything resembling a coherent program. I've begun working with a personal trainer and the first thing they did was incorporate squats and deadlifts into my weekly routines. Before this I had never done either since I was told at a young age that they would lead to back problems especially if I didn't know how to properly do them.

My front squat and back squat are both roughly equal in strength. I use 175lbs for 4x10 straight sets with 90 seconds rest between sets. With the front squat I'm able to go below parallel, essentially until I'm touching my calves, while if I go much below parallel in the back squat I start to round my back. Is this the usual case or am I performing some part of the movement improperly? My weight is on my heels the entire time and my trainer says everything mechanically looks fine but I wanted a second opinion.

As far as the deadlift goes, with straight leg deadlifts I feel my hamstrings working and no strain in my lower back at all. But with the standard deadlift I feel it mainly in my lower back and that worries me a little. I've watched videos and had my form evaluated but I was wondering if there were any tips on how someone just starting to deadlift should proceed to insure proper technique is learned and the risk of injury is low.


Back squat- You're not necessarily doing it wrong, you're just inflexible. ATG flexibility comes with practice. To develop the flexibility in the hips and legs to squat deeper, the fastest method I've found is to take a light weight, squat into the deepest position you can enter in good form, and hold that position for five seconds. At this point, you should be able to go a little deeper. Repeat the process on or two times per rep. Do three sets of five reps. 3-5 workouts later, you should be able to go ATG.

Deadlifts- The fact that you feel the tension in your lower back does not mean the deadlift is hurting your lower back. For right now, the thing you want to keep in mind is that there's no way to mess up a deadlift EXCEPT by rounding your back. So long as your back is straight and your spine is neutral, you're GTGo.


Thanks for the advice. I'll give the squat stretch a try and hopefully I'll be able to hit my heels soon. I think my lack of lower body flexibility is one of my main weaknesses. My hamstrings are incredibly tight all the time although I have been working on stretching them regularly.


You nailed it right there...it's those tight hamstrings that are rounding your back as you get to depth. Work on lengthening your hamstrings and your depth will get better. Do not round your lumbar spine to get to depth to make up for your lack of hamstring flexibility.

Conventional deads are primarily a back exercise...so you should definitely be feeling it there. Like was said above, so long as you maintain a neutral spine, you won't hurt yourself.

Get Rippetoe's Starting Strength DVD...it will clear a lot of this up for you.




Mark Young did an article on this a little while ago.


That is quite a short rest between sets. How can you recover that quickly? Aren't you panting after that set of 10?


Those workouts were a while ago but the trainer I was working with was doing high rep supersets with almost zero downtime. Things like:

10 Squats
10 Pushups
10 Pullups
10 Cable Rows

2 minutes rest

Do 4 sets of this and then go pass out in the corner. It was almost impossible to go up in weight on any of the lifts because adding 5-10lbs to one would tank the others but my anaerobic capacity was massively improving. I also could only take 3-4 weeks of this before really burning out.


This is a conditioning circuit, not something you'd necessarily want to use to train for strength or size.


As for your deadlift form, you will feel it in your lower back, it is the nature of the exercise. However, you need to work on your form probably. Think of the deadlift as not just lifting the bar straight up, but sitting back and almost lifting back and up simultaneously, if that makes any sense. Try and get your ass down when doing them and sit back while pulling up so you are pulling back and up and not just up.


If you really want to get the deadlift right find some who knows what he's doing to walk you through it.


Thanks for the additional comments. I've corrected my form since the initial posting over two months ago. I was just responding the guy asking about my recovery for the exercises I was doing. Now I'm on a strength program by Dave Tate that is working really well. I also wouldn't recommend that type of cardio circuit for anyone new to the movements.

The risk of injury is way too high once you start fatiguing and your form slips which I found out the hard way.