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Rather Weak Squat - Tips?


Hello all,

After a while of lurking around here and reading some of the great advice that some members have given, I thought I'd go ahead and submit a video of my own weak link -- my squat -- for your feedback.

A bit of background: I became serious again about training this year after about a five-year period of fairly goalless lifting. During that time I dropped a lot of weight and strength, but this is coming back fairly quickly. I had been lifting fairly seriously for a few years before that and using a powerlifting-like template for a year or two, although I have never competed. I'm 187 cm/6'1.5" and currently only 79 kg/173 lb (in other words, a skinny mofo), but I've been gaining well and hope to get back to 85 kg/187 lb next spring. At that point, I would like to try to enter a competition here in my state, although powerlifting here in Germany isn't as big as elsewhere and it's sometimes hard to find an entry.

I'm currently running my third cycle of 5/3/1 as a means of getting back in the game. So far my progress has been OK; my deadlift is sitting right now at around 205-210 kg (451-462 lbs) and my bench press (my traditional weak link) is at 110 kg (242 lbs). My obvious weakness is my squat, which I estimate right now to be at around 120 kg (264 lbs). The discrepancy between my deadlift and my squat is glaring and leads me to believe that I might have some serious posterior chain/quad strength imbalances.

Attached is a video of my last warm-up set for today's squat workout, 5 reps @ 75 kg/165 lbs. I'm well aware that this is a light weight, but I'd still be eager to hear any feedback that you might have.

My initial reaction is that I'm coming forward on a couple of the reps and perhaps not sitting back enough... Quad weakness?

Thanks in advance for your tips!


Hey man kuddos for posting a video

I noticed your feet after each lift you were shuffling/reseting them. This usually means that the hams and quads are not working together and one is taking on the task of the other. In this case for you its your weak hamstrings. I know some other vets are really good a diagnosing stuff and they will be able to explain it better than I can so I will leave the rest for them. I liked your depth!!!

I also think you just need to squat more often. For my squat numbers to go up, I have to squat 3-4 times a week at above 75%.

Best of luck, happy lifting!


I want you to watch that video back, and block out everything in the picture except the end of the bar. Watch the bar and pretend like that is the only point that exists. In an ideal squat, it moves up and down in a straight line. When you can eliminate the lateral movement from the bar path, I think that will go a long, long way.


Great replies guys,

Hey man, I've got some good news and bad news.

Bad news is you're a good squatter... which is also the good news actually. I really didn't see much in your form that needs to be adressed. Your bar path isn't perfect, but I think that it's just going to come with time. The straighter you can get it the better.

Also, I wouldn't advise sitting back more, the best thing you've got going is that you're sitting DOWN, and in between your legs. Sitting back is just going to bend you forward and make coming out of the hole harder.

Your knees come forward very well, and you stay nice and upright, Your walkout is solid, and you only take 2 steps, that's great.

One thing that you can work on is your pelvis rounds slightly, this is where your wavy bar path is coming from. Try doing the unilateral straight leg raise, and rollover into v sit from this video, try not to static stretch your hamstrings as that can take away from your power output, but after you train feel free. Honestly, I'd do the entire video for a warm up, as it covers all your bases.

The only other thing that I see that actually needs improvement, and take this with a grain of salt, is simply your attitude towards your squat. If you keep seeing weakness, it will always be there. I hereby state that you are a good squatter. It helps to say it out loud a few times, I talk to myself before sets all the time...

What happens when you keep telling yourself that your squat is a weakness, is that it actually becomes one. Start saying you're a good squatter, and you're focusing on improving the lift. Never refer to something as a weakness anymore, just something that needs improvement.

I know you're probably thinking that you must be a bad squatter as your pull is so much higher, but the pull comes naturally to you, you're built well for you, and it will always be a strength. Embrace that, My pull needs serious improvement, but I've got my plan, and I'm working my plan everday.

Also, the pull generally comes first to a lot of lifters, it's more brute strength than technique, and what makes you a good pulled also makes your bench a lift that will be something you always have to improve, ie long arms. Although, a 242 bench at your bodyweight is nothing to shake a stick at. That's very good I think.

Speaking of plans... Why don't you give 531 a rest for a bit, and focus more on your squat and bench. Don't worry about your pull as it will go up as your squat goes up.

Do this program for 6 weeks, it's 3x a week so you'll get lots of practice in, and it's very effective, not easy, but very effective. Don't be afraid to lower your squat max by 20 lbs. But honestly, you're young, and I think you'll be fine.


If you're up for it, do this for bench as well. you can either train 3x a week, or 6.

If you do this for bench, you have to do a lot of rows as assistance to balance out the pressing and keep you healthy. I'd do 5 sets of machine or cable rows, and 5 sets of 20 face pulls. DOn't worry about delts or triceps, they'll get plenty of work.

As far as assistance for the squat, do a couple sets of abs, and call it a day, you'll be doing enough, and you squat again 2 days later anyways.

My final thought, is get weightlifting shoes, these will immediately improve your form and help your squat in a big way.

Take care friend, I hope this helps, and feel free to fire off any questions at all.


For me, I don't see any glaring issues with the squat/. For the most part I like your technique a lot. You just look incredibly uncomfortable squatting. Even though this is light weight, you are moving very awkwardly. Your descent is slower than it could be I think, you seem to have a tough time with the transition at the bottom (catching the stretch reflex), as you sort of pause a little bit on a rep or two, and the ascent could be a lot more explosive as well, especially with your style of squatting.

I agree with csulli about the bar movement - but I think it is a by-product of you just being very uncomfortable squatting. You need to make squatting an explosive, down-up movement, and the only way to cement that motor pattern in your head is to do it over and over and over again. I would suggest squatting at LEAST 3 times a week, and giving it precedence over DL training for a while. I would warm up extensively, and at all your warmup weights focus on moving the weight smoothly and explosively, because right now it looks fairly choppy and slow to me.

And on your heavier sets, try to imagine that the weight is just 135, and squat it exactly the same way you would squat a warmup. I think if you can just get more comfortable squatting and make it feel more natural, you will start to make some serious gains.


@ popeye (and others): Thanks for your comments, you're absolutely right that I feel somewhat "uncomfortable" squatting. I've recently changed my stance up a bit and am recovering from presumable patellar tendonitis, which might have added to this, but I might also be using poor shoes (they're for indoor football and have flat soles, but aren't necessarily ideal). Will definitely begin squatting more frequently to feel more confident under the bar.

@ csulli: Absolutely. Going to keep taping my squats to see if there's any improvement in bar path.

@ Larry: Great feedback, thanks! I've been using Defranco's agile 8 to warm up for squats and DL for the past few weeks, good tip. You're spot on about my attitude, too. I think you're right that I need to concentrate a bit more on squatting and benching and I'd like to give another program a go after finishing my fourth cycle of 5/3/1 (i.e., in February). I checked out your link -- great tip; any recommendations, though, for a four-day program? Ideally I'd like to keep on pulling in order to be able to work out some technical glitches there and to reach my 3x bodyweight goal by next summer. And thanks that you've got confidence in me; 28 isn't exactly "spring chicken" territory, but I think I've got some potential in the tank. :wink:

@ N.K.: You're right, explosiveness is something that I lack in both squatting and pulling. It's been difficult for me to find the balance between working on technique and on speed while warming up and during lighter sets. I'm glad to hear that my form is overall in order; I'll try to rely on this and focus on explosiveness during my lighter sets.

Thanks again everyone, really great advice!


I'd go m-w-f and saturday just do a back workout and maybe pull 70% for tight doubles, do 3-5 sets, but I wouldn't pull much heavier.

The program is only 6 weeks long, and you'll come back to your deadlift stronger, as your squat goes up so does your deadlift. I think if you get your squat up to 365-405, you'll pull an easy 550, and I think you can get your squat up there fairly easily man.


If this is your 3rd cycle of 531 and it's actually working for you I would suggest sticking with it, but If you have stalled you might want to try something new. 531 worked great for about 8-10 months for me then I started to plateau and struggled with 531 for almost another year, before finally trying another program.

I tell you this because I found that 531 didn't have nearly enough volume for my squat and bench. My new program (RTS). had me squatting at least twice a week and doing some light weight volume work once a week. I also hit a max effort lift at the end of every 6 week cycle. My training looked like this:

Primary Squat (train it hard)
Secondary deadlift: sumo deadlift
accessory squat: box squat 6-10 reps 4-6 sets

Primary Bench: competition bench
Secondary bench: Close Grip
Shoulders: Either incline dumbell or military press

Primary Deadlift: Competition deadlift
Secondary Squat: Reverse band squat
accessory deadlift: Stiff leg deadlift 6-10 reps 4-6 sets

Bench lockout: Bench against bands/chains
Bench lockout: 2 board press
Bench lockout: 4 board press 6-10 reps 4-6 sets

I break my training up into volume and intensity. I train three weeks of volume followed by 3 weeks of intensity.



Again different things work for different people, but I found that 531 didn't have enough volume for me. The old addage still holds true: if you want to squat more... squat more. If you want to bench more... bench more. I know guys that bench 4-5 times a week. They are world class benchers. If your goal is to get better at squating you need to squat more.


Hey Brett, thanks for sharing your program. You're right in that I should stick with 5/3/1 for a bit; I've been consistently hitting my rep goals for each cycle, though I think this third cycle might end up being a bit more difficult. I'll run it until the end of the fourth cycle, as planned, and then add some more volume to squatting and probably benching, too.

Just curious, though, what kind of accessory work did you do for your lats using that program? Any injury issues from benching so much with relatively little upper back work?

Thanks again.


I think I forgot to write in that I did lats on the bench lockout day as well. I haven't had any injuries and I usually do reps in the 10-15 rep range for lats. The exercises I use are Lat pull downs and either dumbell rows or pendlay rows, and face pulls.

I'm really not benching that much. I think you'll find that I bench about the average amount for powerlifters. Some Powerlifters bench a lot more than me as I mentioned above. The key is to take a week or two off after a competition. In other words do some overhead pressing, incline bench and general light volume work after a competition to let your tendons and joints heal up a little.

You need to learn to listen to your body. I'm sure you have heard that before. I know I heard it all the time, but I never really knew what it meant until I started really using an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion)system. I'm sure there are other ways to regulate volume/intensity, the RPE/Reactive Training System has worked well for me.


I like this idea a lot. My squat sucks but it sucks less than yours. But I used to be where you are and I'm making gains. I'm a poor natural squatter (tall, long legs) but I work hard. Which is what you need to do. I would definitely squat three days a week and would even go in on my "off" days and so some light sets just to get more practice in. Not because your form sucks but because it never hurts to get the extra work in.

If you don't like the program that Larry posted there's also a three a week program that Wendler put out.

Good luck,


larry10 booyah..good stuff.


So, just a quick update: I'm stopping 5/3/1 now after my third cycle and will begin the Russian Squat Routine that you recommended this weekend. Should be fun squatting three times a week. I'll be doing that Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and then on Fridays I'll continue to train bench press using the 5/3/1 template, as I've been making solid progress on this lift in the last few weeks. Going to stop pulling altogether (with the exception of perhaps a couple of speed pulls thrown in from time to time after my bench pressing on Sunday) and I'm excited to see how this program will improve my overall leg strength and thus my drive off of the floor in deadlift. Not much accessory work planned, just a bit of stuff for lats and a good deal of core work (Paloff presses, planches, back extensions).

By the way, I'm now focusing on squatting just past parallel instead of taking it as deep as shown in the video. Will keep you posted!


Good approach man. But honestly---keep squatting deep! you have no idea how great it is that you can keep the deep squat with good back positioning. Great for mobility and flexibility, great for...everything actually. Also the Russian Squat Routine was geared around olympic lifters that squat like you did in that video....deeeeeep.

Nothing wrong with squatting to parallel sometimes, but it is so much easier to build strength out of the hole in a deep squat than just parallel. Perhaps I should rephrase that...if you make your deep squat better, it carries over more to a squat just past parallel than a parallel squat carries over to a deep squat. Train the parallel squat too much and your strength will suck in the deep squat. The opposite is not near as true, outside of just getting used to stopping at parallel. Besides which, the deeper you can squat with proper back position, the easier it is to maintain overall mobility without a lot of stretching. And I hate stretching.


^ I suppose you're right; I shouldn't try to lose the depth that I currently squat with. I'm just a little bit concerned that there's some butt winking going on in my work sets.

I've also got some minor lower back rounding that becomes apparent when I'm deadlifting in excess of about 170 kg or 80% 1RM and I think it's mostly because of poor motor pattern control/not enough practice. I also notice this when I go to absolute fatigue with my squats. My remedy should probably be more practice and real focused concentration on a welded spine, but I also want to try to strengthen my abs a bit more. Not exactly sure if this is linked to a slight butt wink at depth (it's hard to see in the video so I really don't know to what extent it happens), but still something I'd like to avoid.


Quit dancing around before you squat. You say you believe that you have a strong posterior chain, but you squat in a style that takes zero advantage of that.


^ Yes sir. Good point. I'm trying to focus on that a lot more these days. I think I used to want to throw too much of my weight onto my heels while squatting and my body didn't really want that, hence the restless feet.


In the midst of my Russian squat program, it's a lot of fun. Here are three reps from this morning, shot from a different angle than the original video. How's my speed, by the way? Thanks in advance for your help!

OK, need to rotate the vid...


There we go.


It looks really good to me. I like you speed down a lot better than the first video, you are definitely catching a stretch reflex and shooting out of the hole, it looks a lot more natural and smoother than before. Be careful not to DROP into the bottom and lose tightness. Your reps look good, but it also looks like you could be pulling into the hole a little tighter so that you don't hit your sticking point so hard. Also, I think you should be careful as you start your squat - you initiate with your hips back and your chest coming down a little bit, and i think if you were to focus on lowering down without dipping your chest at the start, you would have an easier time keeping your chest up out of the hole.

But overall it's a really good squat, and as I said it looks a lot more natural and smooth than the first video. Keep at it brother.