T Nation

Squat Balance Problem



I've just started squatting with a barbell for the first time ever, and I am finding balance to be a very difficult thing.

It's incredibly humiliating stepping into a gym and nearly falling over with 80lb on the bar. I've tried to use as wide a stance as I can, and that has helped a bit.

Does anyone have any tips on stabilizing my body so that it doesnt sway from side to side?

Thanks in advance.


Can you do bodyweight squats without any balance issues?

If you've never really done them before you may have to give the body some time to adjust...


Does your gym have a Smith Machine? I don't normally recommend these, but you could start off there squatting until you can learn proper form.



Does this mean you've just started squatting? Or have you been squatting some other way? Bodyweight? DBs held at your sides?

Well, you might try DBs, but you won't be able to use a wide stance. Still, at this point, let's try anything that might work, right?

So it's side-to-side swaying, not falling forward or backward? Is it always in the same direction? Try stretching your legs, hip flexors, adductors and abductors one leg at a time. Is one more tight than the other? It sounds like maybe you aren't bending symmetrically as you go down. Have someone stand directly behind you and tell you if your glutes are centered during the descent. You might be coming down way off-center due to some imbalance in strength or flexibility in your legs. That could cause the problem.

So...in no particular order:
1. Try squatting narrow stance with DBs
2. Try stretching to discover an imbalance (and just for the health of it)
3. Get an observer to check your symmetry

No prob. Hope it helps. Let us know.


balance fails by falling forward too?, back, or side to side only?

Do you deadlift? If it is only side to side your glutes are weak. Start with deadlifting. I would try split squats. Can you do zercher squats? Time and patience AND effort.


If balance is a problem when you squat...DON'T DO LUNGES OR STEP-UPS.
You'll flip so fast you won't know what happened. Seriously, try a lighter weight and Focus on perfect form and balance. CONTROL.



Hi everyone and thanks for all the kind replies!

I have been squatting with DB held at the sides for a while, without problems. However, when it comes to squatting with a barbell behind my back, that's where i start to sway from side to side. I think I may be simply unused to holding a barbell behind my neck in such a way.
When I think about it now, I will probably get used to this. I might for now, just stay with DB squats.

But would holding my arms in a wider grip along the barbell be a good idea or is it better to hold my arms closer to my body?

Thanks again for the tips.


There are two schools of thought (obviously) over the width of your grip, but in your case I would think whatever helps keep you stable. I start out shoulder width or a little wider but as a set progresses I tend to move my hands out wider and pull the bar more tightly to my back.

I like jp_dubya's advice about deadlifting. Strengthening your glutes and lower back are always good, and it may be what you need.


I'd avoid using the Smith machine as a crutch. Just suck it up and use the bar - there's no shame in being a beginner.


Generally I lean your way on this, however some people may benefit from smith squats for learning the movement. For me it was mistake, I believe, leaning on the machine first, but I wouldn't be prepared to rule it out for everyone. Maybe every other set, bar only, or maybe even with a broomstick would be a useful routine for a little while.

I do wholeheartedly agree with the no shame in being a beginner statement. Anyone who has a problem with an honest noob learning the ropes should be forced to endure singing lap dances from Susan Estrich.


since nobody mentioned it , I would suggest using a bare-bar when back squatting , until you got this worked out . instability with ANY weight on your back/shoulders could spell " fuck you up bad "


Definitely go with just the bar for awhile. Make sure you are centering yourself on the bar, as well. I'm always amazed when I see someone squatting with the bar a couple inches off-center, and they just gut through it like it's supposed to do that.

If your worried about not getting the work in, do a few sets of just the bar, then follow up with DB squats maybe to get the work in.

Also, are you squatting in running shoes? The extra cushion in the heels can cause instability, though I've never seen it in that light a weight. But as you said, you are a beginner so that may be part of it. Get some Chuck Taylor's, or some Adidas Sambas(what I use).

They are flat soled, as well as thin soled, which will provide a more stable base. If you can't get some, or don't want to spend the money, just squat barefoot. Works just as well.

Lot's of good advice from the other posts here as well. Good on ya for wanting to stick with the squats even though they are hard. Most people won't even try them cause they're 'dangerous'.


Hmmm... yeah I guess I will stick to DB squats and squatting with just the bar between sets until I am comfortable to try adding weight.

Unfortunately my gym doesn't allow Deadlifts (at least to my knowledge. It's a pretty small gym), but those Zercher Squats sound like a nice idea to use in the meantime as well.

Thanks for the help everyone. I've been reading some article on Squat form which hopefully may help me as well.


Possibly also your core is very weak. Hit it hard a couple of times a week.


If you used the words "nice" and "Zercher squats" in the same sentence, you must be a beginner.

Any chance of you posting a video?



One of my friends has a huge problem with squats too, and deadlifts especially. I told him to use dummbells to start with for both lifts. Also you could do some oblique activity after your workouts.


I am a beginner.


Watching experienced people train can make it seem like the movements are simple and easy. Just remember that they were new once and stumbled, shrugged, tripped and trembled their way through the learning process too.

Almost all exercises, even the seemingly no brainer ones, have more to them than meets the novice eye. You'll get it man. One day you'll be helping someone else, remembering how it was at first for you too.

Maybe someone at your gym can watch you and help out.