T Nation

Squat Critique


#1

Hi everyone, I figured this would be the best place to get some form advice. Here's a squat workout from today, where I failed 375 for a single. I try to work up to a moderately heavy single on every day on my main lift, and having paused 355 prior to this, I felt I had it. However, I obviously didn't. I hit a 300 lbs Front Squat last week and a paused 305 beltless high bar Squat, if that means anything regarding my strength in similar movements.

I know I obviously need to be stronger, and that my elbows shoot back, but I'm not sure what to do as pulling my elbows 'down' is the cue I probably concentrate on the most.

Any advice would be appreciated, and if you need information on my routine or diet, along with more videos I can provide that as well.

Here is another video from a few weeks ago, two angles with a paused 345

Thanks in advance


#2

I’ll leave the form critique to others. All I’ll say, Spidey, is that I spent probably 2 years working up to heavy singles or doubles on my main lifts and just spun my wheels the whole time. Just a cautionary tale from one meat head to another I suppose.


#3

You fail where I failed. You also drift backwards from parallel like I do. People suggested working the hip hinge. I’ve since thrown in pin squats and lots of heavy kettlebell swings. My sticking point is improving and I’m not moving backwards as much anymore.

When I first started the pin squats my hips were shooting up first to get to the spot where they are comfortable in lifting the weight, so I really had to focus on moving everything together off the pins and really using the hips. The day or two after I usually have a lot of DOMS in my adductors and upper hamstrings as well as my lower glutes, right where the IT bands meets them, so that’s what’s weak. So maybe give those a try, from just below parallel see how you squat the weight up.

I would also read “Squat Mechanics: A Deep Analysis” by Ripptoe, lots of good pointers as well as cues in there.


#4

I can only speak from my own experience, it looks like your trying to stay too upright on your descent. Basically trying to high bar squat with a low bar position. Out of the hole your body shifts the weight to where it should be.

If you want to stay upright, try a higher bar position. Other wise, at the top, squeeze your ass and tighten your abs to pull your ribs down. Maintain that core position as you descend.

Mark Rippetoe has covered this extensively and is a good resource.


#5

The only thing that every fixed my squat from was barbell hip thrusts
SRSLY they seemed to solve all my problems form wise

It seems like weak glutes ruin lives


#6

On the topic of glutes, try some glute activation drills. Im usually double skeptical of the faddish kind of things but I think theyve helped me with my squat and DL a little the past few months.


#7

Really hard to say, only I see you doing something I did too. As some other people said, you failed the way I did, which was forward plummet, as I like to call it. I had NO idea how to fix this, and then my programming switched to my heaviest sets of squats all being done with high bar or Oly style.

In my extremely amateur opinion, I’d recommend heavy front squats more often, heavy high bar squats more often, and reasonably heavy good mornings. I did that and now I can hold myself up when I’m struggling, far far better than I could before.


#8

Are you squatting for a bigger squat, or for bigger quads?

Looks like your hips are shooting up way too fast, and you’re kinda caving forward. Turning it into half a good morning, you know? Have you tried putting the bar higher on your traps and forcing your elbows forward?

I also suspect you’re not training your abs heavy.


#9

I see the same problem as everyone else. It looks like the problem is both a lack of glute activation and ab bracing. They work effectively together to keep your hips in the correct position. Since they aren’t being used correctly, your hips shoot back to load your lower back and hams.

A couple things have helped me: 1) Doing beltless work to learn how to brace my abs; 2) Front squats to focus on bringing up abs and mid/upper back strength. You’ll have to drop your training max low enough that you can consistently engage all these muscles with every rep. If not, they will continue to be untrained as the stronger muscles pick up the load.


#10

What I would say is:

  • Too loose / relaxed. Listen to Chris Duffin’s talk on setup and breathing, you need to push and hold your breath down into your abs and belt. Also, work on your upper back. The bar is moving too much before you squat.
  • Widen your stance. It is a personal choice, but to me it looks silly trying to squat low-bar with a narrow stance, especially with long legs. Where are your hips supposed to go? If you widen your stance, push your knees out on descent and sit back with your torso leaning so the bar remains over your feet, you’ll gain masses of stability and power from the hole.
  • Drive your head back out of the hole, just before that weird sticking point.
  • Practice is vital. If you want your low-bar squat technique to improve quickly, drop high-bar and front squats for a couple of weeks and make it up in extra low-bar volume and frequency, or at least reduce the time you spend on the other variations. Short term, interference can reduce motor learning / movement patterning in the focus lift.

The reps look decent, but some of these issues are present in those sets too. Also, just curious, is that really a pause squat? I never do them (knowingly), but I always assume “paused” means 1-2 seconds at least. If that slight pause you did made the lift much harder, perhaps you should put more focus on lower back + abs training - stability is vital.
Good work anyway, you look like you’ve made some great progress since I last checked your log. Keep it up!


#11

Do you wear weightlifting shoes? They could be causing the shift towards more vertical torso / poor posterior chain control as well. Perhaps try flat shoes for low-bar, or just adjust even more to make up for the heels.


#12

Your hips rise much faster than your shoulders, hence the huge sticking point.


#13

I just rewatched the video and noticed something else. IMO (this will contradict other posts), you should experiment with using a narrower stance. I’m not sure why you’re using such a wide stance when your knees automatically cave in when coming out of the hole. In general your knees should be tracking over your toes regardless of what style squat you choose. When your knees cave in, you automatically put your back angle at a disadvantage for the lift. With a narrower stance, your quads would help you to maintain the correct back angle as you drive out of the hole. Try that and see how it feels. Your goal is to maintain back angle coming out of the hole regardless of what stance width you use.

Otherwise, if you want to build your wide stance squat then lower the weight to keep your knees out so that your hip drift doesn’t affect your back angle.

I forgot that you said you front squat before I finished writing the first post. How did you fail when hitting your max for front squat?


#14

[quote]lift206 wrote:
I just rewatched the video and noticed something else. IMO (this will contradict other posts), you should experiment with using a narrower stance. I’m not sure why you’re using such a wide stance when your knees automatically cave in when coming out of the hole. In general your knees should be tracking over your toes regardless of what style squat you choose. When your knees cave in, you automatically put your back angle at a disadvantage for the lift. With a narrower stance, your quads would help you to maintain the correct back angle as you drive out of the hole. Try that and see how it feels. Your goal is to maintain back angle coming out of the hole regardless of what stance width you use.

Otherwise, if you want to build your wide stance squat then lower the weight to keep your knees out so that your hip drift doesn’t affect your back angle.

I forgot that you said you front squat before I finished writing the first post. How did you fail when hitting your max for front squat?[/quote]

To me, knees caving is a form problem to correct, not a physical / programming issue to be worked around. If someone isn’t able to squat properly without such faults, there is cause to focus on technique (with moderate, not light, weights).
If someone can’t do a proper snatch, should they try to shoulder raise / high pull the bar up instead? No, because that would not be the optimal method for lifting the most weight. They simply have to persevere and become a better lifter.
This isn’t even a major problem tbh, the squats look ok - there’s no need to narrow the stance just to stop knee cave; stance should be dictated by physical structure and injury history etc., not proficiency.


#15

#16

Oh wow I’m really happy so many people chimed in. I’ll try and address people separately.

usmccds423: This isn’t my ‘main’ work. I just have noticed I’m much better at reps than I’ve ever been at heavier stuff, and the difference between 85% of my max and 100% wasn’t much because I just wasn’t used to heavy weight. I’m basically just trying to ‘over-warm up’ before my working sets, because I feel like having something genuinely heavy on my back/in my hands is helping a lot

Haldor: I’ve never tried pin Squats, do you have a video of how you execute them?

Alrightmiami19c: I actually moved from a much higher bar position to this, kind of hybrid Squat, because I was tipping over with Oly Squats. I’m extremely long femured, and while I still use them 1-2x a week to get ‘better’ at them, the problems I have with this are honestly exaggerated with them, at least so far.

Spock: I’ll be honest I’ve done hip thrusts for periods of time and never found they did a thing for me

Cparker: Any particular drills you have in mind?

rsamaya3: I actually Front and High Bar Squat as frequently as I do this lower bar style. I’ve leaned away from goodmornings, as those seem to be the position I fall towards naturally, so I figured doing them would only worsen the habit.


#17

[quote]lift206 wrote:
I just rewatched the video and noticed something else. IMO (this will contradict other posts), you should experiment with using a narrower stance. I’m not sure why you’re using such a wide stance when your knees automatically cave in when coming out of the hole. In general your knees should be tracking over your toes regardless of what style squat you choose. When your knees cave in, you automatically put your back angle at a disadvantage for the lift. With a narrower stance, your quads would help you to maintain the correct back angle as you drive out of the hole. Try that and see how it feels. Your goal is to maintain back angle coming out of the hole regardless of what stance width you use.

Otherwise, if you want to build your wide stance squat then lower the weight to keep your knees out so that your hip drift doesn’t affect your back angle.

I forgot that you said you front squat before I finished writing the first post. How did you fail when hitting your max for front squat?[/quote]

This is my Front Squat last week

I Front Squat and HB Squat about as often as I do this lower bar position. The lower bar, wider stance is actually because narrower and high bar was causing me such issues. I fall forward with Oly style squats easily, I assume just because I’m so long femured, that I have so much ‘leg’ they don’t have anywhere to go with a narrower stance, almost like the problems in Squat I posted here are even worse. I switched bar position and stance width pretty much because I just could not figure out how to keep the bar over my heels/mid foot with an Oly Squat

My knees caving in has always been an issue. last training cycle, I REALLY worked on it, and it’s actually improved a ton if you can believe it, now slightly coming in on the ascent, where as they used to buckled like a newborn gazelle.


#18

[quote]halcj wrote:
What I would say is:

  • Too loose / relaxed. Listen to Chris Duffin’s talk on setup and breathing, you need to push and hold your breath down into your abs and belt. Also, work on your upper back. The bar is moving too much before you squat.
  • Widen your stance. It is a personal choice, but to me it looks silly trying to squat low-bar with a narrow stance, especially with long legs. Where are your hips supposed to go? If you widen your stance, push your knees out on descent and sit back with your torso leaning so the bar remains over your feet, you’ll gain masses of stability and power from the hole.
  • Drive your head back out of the hole, just before that weird sticking point.
  • Practice is vital. If you want your low-bar squat technique to improve quickly, drop high-bar and front squats for a couple of weeks and make it up in extra low-bar volume and frequency, or at least reduce the time you spend on the other variations. Short term, interference can reduce motor learning / movement patterning in the focus lift.

The reps look decent, but some of these issues are present in those sets too. Also, just curious, is that really a pause squat? I never do them (knowingly), but I always assume “paused” means 1-2 seconds at least. If that slight pause you did made the lift much harder, perhaps you should put more focus on lower back + abs training - stability is vital.
Good work anyway, you look like you’ve made some great progress since I last checked your log. Keep it up![/quote]

Yeah I vary between ‘slight’ pauses, 3, and 5 second pauses. Slight pauses are more because forever I’ve been a ‘dive-bomb’ squatter, which made this weird goodmorning thing even worse, so for these I ‘concentrate’ on just pausing enough to basically not try and bounce like I usually do and fuck up my form. That’s why I made sure to put ‘slight’ pause so people didn’t get upset lol. I do incorporate longer pauses though.

I’m not sure if I could go much wider honestly, while hitting depth at least. I’ll look at Chris Duffin’s videos, I really have liked his videos so far and have been trying to learn to ‘brace’ correctly, but it’s not something that comes naturally for me. lol. I haven’t considered dropping other variations, I would have thought that a bad idea had you not recommended it lol

I appreciate the comment on my progress, I feel I’m starting to figure things out a bit lol


#19

[quote]Quick Ben wrote:
Are you squatting for a bigger squat, or for bigger quads?

Looks like your hips are shooting up way too fast, and you’re kinda caving forward. Turning it into half a good morning, you know? Have you tried putting the bar higher on your traps and forcing your elbows forward?

I also suspect you’re not training your abs heavy.[/quote]

For now I want a bigger Squat. My quads actually are stronger body part size wise, grow pretty easily, but I pretty much try and get stronger on a few big lifts and hope the volume will help with growth.

I do a good deal of beltless work, but no I don’t train abs directly much at all, and when i do it’s BW stuff


#20

If it helps, my routine is pretty simple.

Monday: Heavy Lower
Tuesday: Rep Upper
Wednesday: Light Lower
Thursday: Light Upper
Friday: Rep Lower
Saturday: Heavy Upper
Sunday: Off

I have 4 days I just rotate through:
A: Squats, SLDL’s, High Pulls, laterals/rear delts
B: Flat Bench, CG Bench, BB Rows, curls/extensions
C: Front Squats, Sumo DL, Leg Curls, laterals/rear delts
D: Incline Bench, Wide Grip Bench, Chins, curls/push-ups

Heavy usually just means setting a rep or volume PR with 3s or 5s (or 3x3, 5x3, etc)
Rep usually just means setting a rep or volume PR with 7s or 10s (or 3x10, 5x7, etc)
Light just means I do a variation to make it harder, so High bar, beltless, long pauses, deficit, etc.

I try to work up to some ‘heavish’ single one the main lift every day, because I felt 85%-100% was just an area where not only my form broke down quick, but I was also ‘intimidated’ by weight that just felt heavy when I unracked it, so I started doing ‘over-warmups’, or daily ‘minimums’ as opposed to a daily max.

This has been working very well for me so far, and is influenced a ton by HeavyTriple, who I lift with IRL now and again and is a good friend.