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Squat Help Needed - 4 Wks Out!


Basically, my forward lean is pretty bad. Not as bad as it used to be, but still not so great.

I have a very short torso in comparison to my legs, so it seems that even with a lighter weight, I still have this leaning problem. I find it difficult to keep a strong arch at the bottom, which sometimes makes lighter weight hard to get out of the hole. Also if I lose my arch completely, obviously my back will compensate in the movement which I can't have.

Background: I was working with a coach for a few months prior to January, and he had me doing a lot of box squats to work on my technique and teaching me to sit back more. Which was all great and everything, except I lost most of my feel for regular back squats, and I still lean forward even if my knees are parallel to my shins on a box.

So I know that I will inevitably have some lean but there is still definitely room for more improvement. I'm worried I'm going to miss lifts at my meet in 4 weeks unless I can find some way of correcting this. :frowning:

Any help is very appreciated.


Ms. Angel Face,

I, too, have disproportionately long legs relative to my torso, and I have also had some issues in the past with pitching too far forward. I use a wide stance squat (yes, raw, and so far, I haven't had any problems with hitting depth or with my hips getting too beat up), so some degree of leaning forward is necessary and normal.

The two mantras I use are (1) sit BACK and (2) keep the UPPER BACK TIGHT AND ARCHED HARD (experiment with achieving this and maintaining it throughout the lift). I used to focus on arching my lower back, but due to a hyperlordotic posture, focusing on arching the lower back only resulted in hyperextension and injury.

Now, back to the upper back. This may be one of those things you've read but you glossed over because it never seemed particularly important. I mean, what the hell does the upper back have to do with anything? From personal experience, it means everything. Then, on the ascent, try to swivel your elbows directly under the bar and focus on moving the traps through the bar FIRST.

If you are pushing with you legs and moving your butt first, you exacerbate the pitching forward problem. When you focus on moving your traps first and leading with your chest, your hips follow (i.e.you automatically force the hips THROUGH). Big different in mechanics and feel.

I wish I could draw something quick, but think about this: Imagine you are in the hole. There's an imaginary bar just over your head. If you ascend hips first, the back of your head will hit this bar. The only way to avoid hitting the bar is to ascend with the chest up, so that your face narrowly evades the bar (i.e. goes just in front of the bar).

I have no idea if that ridiculous image helps, but it works for me. If you're squatting raw, I wouldn't focus on box squatting for any longer than necessary to learn the concept of sitting back, for the reason you've mentioned. Hope this helps.

I love you.

edited to add: I hope you have a sense of humor. :wink:

One more thing: Please stop calling. I want my sweater back.


First thing! For your first lift, open with something you know you can hit. That'll make sure you hit at least your opener and it'll give you a feel for the next two.

Second, the commands that have helped me lately have been: on set up find my point on the wall, area ahead of me to focus on. For me it's normally something like a banner hanging on the gym wall, a bit higher than eye level... depending on how I am facing. I burn a hole into it with my eyes.

Keeping my grip tight on the bar and a pull into my back for stability DEEP breath into the belly, pushing my abs out and head up. I am elongating my body and arching my back to get stable.

Next start to sit back making sure to keep tightness not only in the torso but in the glutes and hamstrings. Also remember to push your knees out as you descend.

In the hole, remain as tight as possible, a lot of newer people do a butt wink as I call it, your ass ducks under right at the end. Focus on making sure to stick it out.

Once you come back up, remember push the knees out, keep your head up and push back, and if need be once you start up push your elbows forward. Odd command I got from a friend that seems like it won't make a difference, but it can.

Talk to some of the guys helping out at the meet and some of the other competitors for some tips too right before, the best bet is have someone to shout the commands while lifting. For me, in the hole I have someone remind me of my knees, just out head up, half way elbows.


I think Majik's got it dead on. Tight arch, elbows pulled forward under the bar, knees pushed out hard, and head looking up and pushed back into the bar. That's the first movement I make in the hole, is to toss my head back into the bar, like i'm trying to pop the bar off my back. When you do that, your really get good momentum coming out of the bottom (you have to, otherwise you will dump the bar).

One other thing that might be worth thinking about is where you hold the bar on your back. If you carry the bar lower on your back, you will have a bit more forward lean than if you carry the bar a bit higher up on your traps.

2 weeks out though, don't do anything too drastic to try and change your form. trying to change too much now means you'll be doing extra volume, which 2 weeks out is a real poor idea. Wait until after the meet if you think you need DRASTIC changes. And feel free to contact Clint about coming out and training with us if you feel that having a new set of eyes checking your form out would help.


yep, this is said better than how i said it: "elbows pulled forward," and "toss...head back into the bar."


I think the elbows forward action is a balance thing. It transfers your weight forward allowing you to raise your torso farther back without losing your balance.

If you do this, make sure you maintain upper back tightness, it is easy to lose that "shoulders together" position when the elbows come forward.


Not sure it's about "balance," but rather, a matter of leverage. The relationship between elbows, hands, and upper back are relatively locked into position with respect to one another when the bar is in position. If you raise your elbows up, the bar pushes down on your upper back, which can preclude the arch and cause you to round. If you push your elbows forward/down/under the bar, the upper back can arch.

I don't mean to come across as nit picking semantics or whatever, but for someone learning this stuff, terms like "balance" might thrown a person off.

I truly wish I had learned and heeded all this good advice in the beginning!


Thanks so much for the replies, everyone.

Squatzenheimer - Thanks for the tips, that was quite helpful. I do try to arch hard, and itâ??s not that I lose it and get loose at the end, I just feel like I haven't gotten the technique down perfectly to be able to hold it that strong without hyperextending or something. Upper back is always as tight as I can possible get it. I had recently widened my stance somewhat because a closer stance makes it very difficult to get my hips through, and it did help some because I was able to get my hips through easier.

I do rise with my chest first, and I feel as though I'm pushing it up as much as I can, but I'm pretty sure I can get my back straightened out more. Maybe it's a matter of sitting back more, I just don't know how, hah.
I cut out box squats for the reason that I am a raw lifter, and found that they weren't really helping my back squat issue anyway.

And I threw your sweater away, so you know.

majik - Definitely. I wouldn't put my opener very high. I never butt wink, that hasn't been a problem for me. I always stay quite tight at the bottom, it is only the lean that is a bother. When I'm performing the squat, everything feels tight and I feel like I'm driving my head and traps into the bar, and that I'm leading with my chest. But when I see it on video, I'm always leaning forward quite a bit.

chrisarmes - I have a medium-ish bar placement. Not low bar for sure. When I tried squatting low bar that just amplified all my squat issues, so I switched back to a higher bar placement because it was the only thing that was keeping me slightly more upright. My elbows go down in line with the bar when I'm squatting.

I probably need to sit back more, but whenever I do that I still lean. What I've noticed, is that the bar is over the center of my foot when I'm squatting, but in order for it to get there I have to lean forward.

I'm not saying that I'm going to blame it all on my leverages, because it's obviously a technique issue. I'm just trying to figure out a way of sitting back more, staying more upright, and yet having the bar completely balanced.


Pfft, what do you guys know??? On a random note, when do you guys train? My current gym isn't too far from where you guys are... I think.

Also, my gym owner mentioned a powerlifter possibly joining that has a roughly 850-900 lb squat... confused the hell out of me as I don't know who it could be!


Good call, I didn't think of that


I would actually love to go there and train with you guys, I just don't know how it would work, since you all train quite far and I don't have my license yet. :frowning:


PM me and I'll send you Clint's e-mail (it's his turf and he should sign off on it before I say come on out).

As for who it could be, I'm not too sure. If you get a name, let me know and I'll find out


Some of our guys make a decent trek to get there. I'm sure theres a way you could catch a ride if needed. Where abouts are you coming from?


Damn you, Sneezing...think about the kids.

Other than seeing a video, which I'm fairly confident would help me to understand what's going on, I'm not entirely sure. One thing that comes to mind - and I'm just brainstorming, so this may not apply at all to you - is that a wide stance squat is benefitted greatly when the focus is on spreading the floor with the feet, rather than pushing down through the floor. Sit on a box, spread the floor, knees out...now how do you ascend? Do you try to push through the floor, or do you spread the floor and squeeze through with the glutes?


I live in Woodbridge. So your gym is all the way on the other end of Toronto.


If I had a license it would take about 40 mins. to get to The Anvil from where I live...but until I do it's at least 1.5 hours taking buses and subways.


This. I live west end, work in markham, and train in the east end. Driving does make a huge difference, but finding a ride, even if it is only once in awhile to train with a group like that is worth it.


Perhaps I could find a ride a couple times a month or something. It would be great.


@ Stardust: The first few months I was going, It was about that for me to get from Richmond Hill down to Finch Subway and across. It sucked hard, but was more than worth it for the experience. PM me, I'll put you in touch with Clint. If he gives the ok, then we'll find a way to help you out if we can.


after your meet, i would try doing safety squat bar squats for a while, that will bring up your upper back weakness, plus, do arched back good mornings as an accessory