T Nation

New to Squats/Deadlifts

I am a 41yo female lifting for about a year. I want to incorporate free weight back squats and deadlifts into my program but when I attempted them with just the bar I had pain in my lower back. I realized that I have been neglecting strengthening my spinal erectors and the back pain was probably due to weakness there. I have started doing good mornings and back extension to remedy the situation. I figured maybe do that for a month and then try again for squats and DLs with low weight(bar only) until technique is perfect. Does this seem reasonable or does anyone have any other suggestions?

Sounds good to me, if the problem persist try squating with a swiss ball against a wall with just your body weight, and then increase with some dumbbells.
back xtn chair will do, you could also try some yoga exercises to work on your lower back muscles,but good mornings are the best, I think.
TON

[quote]hlc wrote:
I am a 41yo female lifting for about a year. I want to incorporate free weight back squats and deadlifts into my program but when I attempted them with just the bar I had pain in my lower back. I realized that I have been neglecting strengthening my spinal erectors and the back pain was probably due to weakness there. I have started doing good mornings and back extension to remedy the situation. I figured maybe do that for a month and then try again for squats and DLs with low weight(bar only) until technique is perfect. Does this seem reasonable or does anyone have any other suggestions?[/quote]

You’re good, but don’t neglect to stretch your hams and hips, easily done through bodyweight squats.

TQB

A suggestion:

If you have never done free weight squats and/or deadlifts try to get a broomhandle and at home do 2 sets every morning and every night. The point here is to practice your technique here.

How do you breathe during the squats? It seems to me that if you have adequate flexibility and enough endurance in your lower back the pain could be from 2 things:

  1. Not perfect form (easily correctable)

  2. Incorrect breathing parttern

  3. Flexibility issues

The other posts have mentioned the flexibility and you have already started on exercising your lower back. Additionally work on your technique and start doing them every day for at least 30 days (with the broomstick) until you get the proper foot placement, plane of descent, and breathing.

3 exercises I’d suggest are OH squats (start with a broom handle, Pull throughs on a low pulley, and trap bar deads (if one is available).

The OH squats will help develop good posture and hip flexibility. Pull throughs will work the hams, glutes, and lower erectors to an extent. Trap bar deads are a good way to get used to a little weight but the stress is more on the legs and not the back.

Good luck in your endeavor.

If you have weak spinal erectors try SLDL (Stiff Legged Deadlifts) to start. They target the spinal erectors almost exclusively. Start with minimal weight and 15 reps and gradually add weight.

I started with the empty bar after years of lower back problems and gradually worked up to some pretty big weights over a couple of years, and the heavier the weights get the less back pain I have (except for a little DOMS the day after a heavy deadlift session).

[quote]hlc wrote:
I am a 41yo female lifting for about a year. I want to incorporate free weight back squats and deadlifts into my program but when I attempted them with just the bar I had pain in my lower back. I realized that I have been neglecting strengthening my spinal erectors and the back pain was probably due to weakness there. I have started doing good mornings and back extension to remedy the situation. I figured maybe do that for a month and then try again for squats and DLs with low weight(bar only) until technique is perfect. Does this seem reasonable or does anyone have any other suggestions?[/quote]

When you say “pain” in your lower back, is it an actual knife-like, point-specific pain, or rather a tightening? The difference is that one form of pain is something possibly more disconcerning (i.e. disc and/or nerve impingement), whereas the other is most often an imbalance between your hip extensors and flexors, and/or your spinal extensors and flexors.

Though, in today’s personal trainer world of “Dys-Functional Training” (i.e. all the ‘core training’ crap), you’re likely to get advice that your problem is in your core - spinal extensors and flexors - however, more often than not is that it’s an imbalance in hip flexors -v- extensor strength (i.e. rectus femoris -v- glutes+biceps femoris).

On the other hand, it could simply be mechanics only - your form. Common problems are a rounding of the low-back during the descent; shoulders and head moving too far forward/beyond the vertical plane of about the middle of your feet, during the descent; too much pressure being felt in the balls of your feet/toward your toes; too much emphasis being felt on your lower quadriceps (toward your knees) as opposed to mid- or upper-quad region, as well as stress being felt on your hamstrings and glutes during the descent.

One suggestion I have, if you’re curious if your form is correct, is to go to the NSCA-lift.org website, and go to their look for a trainer in your area search engine. Find a CSCS trainer in your area, and do yourself the favor of paying a one-time training session to have him or her assess your technique on this, and other lifts you may have questions about.

hope that helps. - c

[quote]sawadeekrob wrote:
A suggestion:

If you have never done free weight squats and/or deadlifts try to get a broomhandle and at home do 2 sets every morning and every night. The point here is to practice your technique here.

How do you breathe during the squats? It seems to me that if you have adequate flexibility and enough endurance in your lower back the pain could be from 2 things:

  1. Not perfect form (easily correctable)

  2. Incorrect breathing parttern

  3. Flexibility issues

The other posts have mentioned the flexibility and you have already started on exercising your lower back. Additionally work on your technique and start doing them every day for at least 30 days (with the broomstick) until you get the proper foot placement, plane of descent, and breathing.
[/quote]

Spot on, in my opinion, especially the flexibility aspect.

And to elaborate on the last point, remember that proper squatting is a skill you’re trying to learn, not unlike learning to hit a baseball or swing a golf club. You need to perfect the movement, and then reinforce that with practice, and never break form. Doing lots and lots of perfect reps in the beginning stage is the way to go. Besides training your muscles, you’re training yourself to ‘do the move’ as well. Squats are one of the harder moves to perfect, so practice them.

Do you have a friend or a trainer at the gym to show you the correct technique and to critique yours?

I used machines to work out for over 10 years, working on all the muscle groups incuding a lot of upper and lower back. This past summer I started doing squats, both front and back, and deadlifts with my boyfriend, who has been using free weights for years. He showed me the correct way, then watched me do it, using only the bar to start. We work out together all the time, and he is always letting me know how to improve my form.

Today I did 10 set of 3 reps of deadlifts with 135 lbs! The other day I did 5 sets/10 reps back squats with 85lbs. (This probably seem like no big deal to most people on this site, but I am 5’6", 135lb. and it is a lot of weight to me!)

As far as the pain you are feeling, there is definately soreness, but as an earlier poster noted, it is more of a tightness.
Hopefully you can find someone to help you out in person. It is a great feeling to do it right and be able to get stronger at it, and probably best learned in person, as opposed to trying to read a description.

I’m surprised nobody suggested the goblet squat. It’s the perfect exercise to get you in the correct groove.

Start with a light db and increase the reps to 15. Then gradually increase the weight.

If you notice you can’t handle the dumbbell anymore, it’s time to switch to back squats I guess. But you would have had several months of fun with 1 single dumbbell. And gained valuable experience squatting with proper form.