T Nation

now I know why I can't squat

Went to the fysiotherapist today. I went there to tell I had tight muscles and that they wouldn’t ‘lengthen’. It hurt my ability to squat deep. Well, to make a long story short, she said I was incredibly tight, and that my tissue, bones and ligaments were responsible.
Good news: Now I finally know why I can’t squat. It’s the damn tissue.
Bad news: from what I understand this is very hard to make supple. She said there was a chance it would lengthen, but due to my negative nature I’m not very positive about it. Anyone had the same problem or something positive? I saw the squat and deadlift as THE way to my dream (athletic ability to the fullest, dunking in the face of anyone), but now it seems I’m probably not made for it. I know there are bigger problems in life, but I’m really sacred that my hips’ll saty this way. Sorry for the rant, hope I get some response

Are you trying to say that you’re somehow “too tight” to perform a full squat or deadlift?!?

Look, anybody can reach down to their mid-shins and grab a bar, then stand up with it. You included. If you can’t do that, I suggest that you put in for a spinal replacement or something.

As for squatting, you may have poor ankle flexibility. So just use a board or something under your heels and try to progressively use a thinner board as your flexibility improves (through stretching. Stretch!).

Poor hamstring flexibility…I can’t see how that would prevent you from squatting. Bending over and touching your toes with your legs straight, maybe, but not squatting.


Chad Waterbury recently stated that the best time to performe stretching to increase flexibility is after strength training the muscles you want to stretch. So try lots of stretching after your squat/deadlift sessions.


Any thoughts on how one might increase ankle flexibility? My left achilles tendon is way less flexible than my right, and I think it may be affecting my squat. I’ve been doing the standard “keep heel on floor and press against wall, bent knee” stretch. Anything else?

it’s not really my muscles, it’s more the tissue around the muscles that’s awfully tight, and I’m not sure that can be fixed. It’s more thinking out of fear, I’ve just started something which I hope will fix it a bit: stand with the bar, do a back squat, stop until I feel that my back will round if I descend further, and stay in that position for 15-25 secs, ascend. I read Mell Siff had succes with this. Just hope my joints will allow it. Basically anything wide stance is unreachable, tight like a rope.

Go seek out a Rolfer, who also is a weight lifter. I would help but I live in Hawaii.

I agree, a rolfer or a specialist versed in relieving fascial tension would help. Check out Guy Voyer and his techniques. You may be able to locate an associate of his in your area.

You’ll be able to address these issues. I’ve seen them in clients and assuming they want to take the time and make the commitment to correcting them, all will be improving in no time. Any time a professional tells you they can’t help you, be thankful they were honest and didn’t waste your time and money, but look for a more talented practicioner to help you.

Char, ANYBODY can bend over and pick a bar up from mid shin, but no one said it will always be pretty or in a position that any of us would be comfortable loading them in. I disagree with the sentiment that anyone can squat deep, right away without addressing flexibility and mobility issues. I’ve seen too many people that go against your assertion to agree.

I searched for the guy and came up with ‘osteopathy’. Is this what you are referring to? From what I read it sounds good, but just to be sure. BTW, thx everyone for the replies.

To Patman: I think that it depends on why the tendon is less flexible. I have exactly the same problem, but in my case it stems from having been in a car accident when I was 19. There’s a lot of scar tissue in there now, and despite stretching it doesn’t look like there’s much hope of my regaining complete mobility in the joint.

However, I do have about 90-95% mobility, so it’s not THAT much of an issue. When doing bbing squats I find that i have to put my heels up on a board or plate or something, and basically I’ve just gotten used to the idea. If I use a wider PL stance, though, it’s not a issue.

To Rob Coates: I’ve seen people who have issues and can’t do it well, too. But these are people who are either extremely obese, or elderly, or are recovering from an injury like the one described above, or have some mitigating medical condition. I have never met a person who was reasonably young, in good health, and relatively lean who simply could not perform a decent deadlift or squat because of “tight muscles”. I have met a few who thought that they couldn’t - like this fellow - but upon having them stretch for a bit (and not weeks, I’m talking about 10-15 minutes) and then get under a bar with a bit of weight on it, there was no problem.

But I fully accept the possibility that your PT experience may be broader than mine, and that you’ve seen people who are otherwise normal but for some reason can’t do a deep knee bend. (Gotta wonder… but okay.) Nevertheless, what got me about this post was the guy’s attitude of “oh, well, a doc told me that I’m tight, so I’ll have to give up squatting/deadlifting forever”. Hence my rather snippy answer.

Dude, I’ve been trying to squat for two years now, I’ve been stretching for about a year, and it simply doesn’t want to lengthen.

No such thing as “can’t”! The only exception to this rule is if you honestly think you can’t, then your beaten!

Look, do not squat as deeply. Work your way down over a long period of time. Just do the best you can with the way you are built.

None of us are perfect and we all have to overcome physical obstacles. Stop complaining and squat the best that you can.

In the mean time be thankful you have legs to sqaut with!

I’ve had a similar experience to Arnoud’s, in that I couldn’t do a full squat without my trunk bending forward so much I was almost kissing my knees.

A trainer prescribed a program that included lots of unilateral leg exercises, such as cable split squats, then graduating to barbell front split squats, and also stretching my lower body on upper body workout days, and vice versa. Although I still use a wedge under my feet/heels, the wedge has gotten smaller, and I’m going rock bottom now. In my case, this was accomplished in about 2 months. He also recommended that I see an ART guy, but I never did (for work on my hip flexors, calves). I hope that someday I won’t need the wedge. BTW, I’m 6’3", with a 34" inseam (pant size). I think this is a bit of disadvantage for me as well, but it’s slowly getting better (ROM, that is).


Char, you should see some of my clients. It’s pretty crazy what a desk and bad posture can do to your squat. They do improve after stretching, but it’s extremely painful for them.

Arnoud: You will be able to squat if you take the correct measures. Don’t self diagnose and self prescribe rehab. It just doesn’t work unless you have adequate experience to do so.

Guy Voyer will be a little too expensive for you. But if you do a search on Myofascial Release, you may get some more leads.


The trainer seems to be pretty knowledgable. Keep going back to him. 2 months is a good turn-around time. Keep up the good work.

I found one practicioner of myofascial release in my country (I’m from the netherlands). Hope to find some more. So osteopathy isn’t anything for me? By the way, first I have to await the sessions with my physiotherapist, maybe she’ll fix it up. I know I’m looking to far ahead, but I’d really like to use the squat in the future. Again, thanx for the replies everyone.

Arnoud, let me ask you a couple of questions here before we let this thread go:

  1. Can you or can you not, at this point, do a regular deep knee bend (without weight) with your heels on the ground?

If the answer to this question is “yes”, then I believe that your problem is more a lack of balance than anything else. Because it’s basically the same motion, just with weight added.

If your answer is “no”, or if your answer is “Yes, but I lean so far forward that any additional weight causes me to fall on my face”, then my next question is: (2) Have you tried elevating your heels with a board and squatting down that way?

If the answer to (2) is “yes”, what were the results? (Specifically, not just “I couldn’t do it”. Why couldn’t you do it? What happened?)

If you can answer these questions, maybe we can come up with something to help you out.

In the meantime, though, it’s obvious that your current stretching program isn’t doing you much good. Two years and no improvement? It’s time to find another trainer, or at least try something else.

I’ve squatted with a board under my heels, and it helped. I can do a bodyweight squat with hands out in front, but I’m not sure if my back is rounded or not. I currently squat with my olympic weightlifting shoes, and I’m really close to breaking parallel with a close stance, but too much forward lean. I’ll keep you informed though, I’m gonna try deadlifting soon, and my physio is going to try to lean me up next week.

This topic has been covered before, check out the following site:

Hope this helps

Man I wish I could come over and see you squat in the flsh. I bet I could get you to do it properly in a few minutes :slight_smile:

Hope to get some new life in this one. I’m still visiting my physiotherapist. She said my hip gained some mobility, but it’s still tight. The pain in my left hip remains (whenever I abduct my legs), and she told me I had some tight hip flexors and glutes. I can’t stretch them fully, because they compress. I’m not sure what she meant, but to give an example, when I do the kneeling hip flexor stretch, the stretch should be felt in the rear leg, but when I try to get deeper my front leg won’t go down further.
This was only my second session, so I wont quit the physiotherapist yet. I told her I wanted my legs to be supple for squatting deep, and as a result she gave me homework: after a good warm-up (blood circulation is bad in my hips) try to squat, moving the stance out slowly, and do some leg rotations a few times each day.
Well, now that I’m reading this I don’t know what the hell what my point is, but basically does anyone recognises something out of this? I’ve added a few more details, so ya never know.