T Nation

Squat Improvement

The Problem: Weak hip flexors.

How I think I know this: When I hit parallel with “challenging” weight, I feel a twinge in my hips and my hips pretty much collapse causing the lift to fail.

Ruled out knees, because I can do lunges with heavy weights.

Ruled out posterior chain, because I can deadlift “challenging” weights.

I have been working really hard on my squats the past 18 months, but once the weights get heavy, my hips give out.

Analyzing the problem, I realized that I wasn’t held enough as a child and that is the real cause of this weakness/imbalance. Actually, this hip flexor weakness probably has plagued me my entire life - I was never fast off the line, while lateral movement is/was no problem.

The Solution (this is where I need your help obviously): I have been doing the following -

  1. On squat day-
    5 x 5 as heavy as I can go to almost parallel.
    5 x 5 atg as heavy as I can handle (about half of the heavy sets)
    Band Good mornings
    Band Pull throughs

  2. On deadlift day-
    Barbell lunges
    Step-ups

I’d really appreciate any insights or suggestions you might have to strenghten my hip flexors.

I say phooey on your weak hips. If you’ve been working squats hard for 18 months, and you can dead, and you can lunge–phooey.

I wouldn’t even worry about it. If that is a physiological weak area/point for you work around it with box squats and leg presses. That is more than enough workload to offset what may be simply a form issue or just overall weakness.

I could be wrong…

But I think it’s more likely that your hip and knee extensors are weak. I mean, your hip flexors are antagonist during a squat and not really that involved in the production of force needed to lift.

I mean… I’m pretty sure everybody’s hips give out at a certain weight. My posterior is plenty strong… when I squat like 335. If I tried to squat 405 then it wouldn’t be so strong.

If you want to strengthen your hip flexors, stuff like hanging leg raises would probably work well.

Leg raises, situps instead of crunches, pullups in L position. Sprints, bleachers.

How do you know hip flexors is the week link?

[quote]on edge wrote:
How do you know hip flexors is the week link?[/quote]

Kinda sounds like I don’t know! It’s really a guess on my part.

I’d really like to be able to squat (with good form) more than I can bench someday.

Do you all think the program I am doing will help?

You have a really hard time squatting to parallel, so your solution is to start off your squat day by doing partial squats??? Which part of this makes sense?

Edit: ok, that was a little harsh. But you shouldn’t be doing partials at all, that would accentuate your weakness. Nevermind starting a workout with them. Plus two 5x5 squat exercises one after the other might be a bit much.

I would suggest higher reps for at least a 6-8 week cycle, like 2 sets of 12 reps at max weight preceeded by a pyramid: 135x15, 225x12, 275x12, 275x12 going down as far as you can on every rep, increasing the max x12 weight as much as possible.

As the main acting muscles tire in a longer set any weak supporting muscles have to increase their involvement. And this gives you a lot of practice going as low as you can, that will improve your deep squat better than partial squats.

And keep following your squats with a couple of sets of 15 reps with good mornings, SL deads or hyperextensions, followed by a couple of sets of high rep hanging leg raises or situps.

[quote]dswithers wrote:
I would suggest higher reps for at least a 6-8 week cycle, like 2 sets of 12 reps at max weight preceeded by a pyramid: 135x15, 225x12, 275x12, 275x12 going down as far as you can on every rep, increasing the max x12 weight as much as possible.
[/quote]

Excellent suggestions. It makes sense, so I will give it a try.

[quote]cap’nsalty wrote:
You have a really hard time squatting to parallel, so your solution is to start off your squat day by doing partial squats??? Which part of this makes sense?

Edit: ok, that was a little harsh. But you shouldn’t be doing partials at all, that would accentuate your weakness. Nevermind starting a workout with them. Plus two 5x5 squat exercises one after the other might be a bit much.[/quote]

I agree. You probably aren’t activating your glutes properly, and probably have tight hip flexors. Any pre-existing injuries or imbalances? Buy a foam roller, and work on mobility/flexibility. And no one else mentioned FORM-check on that. I would also recommend switching to front squats, for now at least.

[quote]t-sama wrote:

Kinda sounds like I don’t know! It’s really a guess on my part.

I’d really like to be able to squat (with good form) more than I can bench someday.

Do you all think the program I am doing will help?
[/quote]

Unless your an absolutly phenominal bencher it sounds like you need to quit worrying about finding your weaknesses. Just make sure you have a balanced lower body routine that includes ALOT of squating.

I really appreciate all the responses.

Not sure that the problem is tight hip flexors. I use a foam roller and stretch at least 3x per week. I’ve had my form checked - it doesn’t suck.

I am not a phenominal bencher by any stretch. I understand the point about not looking for weaknesses, but it’s not like my elbows give out on my bench.

Front squats are another good idea. They really helped my form.

An update-

I took Sasquatch’s advice and started using the box squat. One month later and the difference is like night and day. WOW!

I added over 100 pounds in a month to the 5 x 5 workout I have been using. I would not have believed it possible. Using the box squat also allowed me to break down the weak points - hip weakness was forcing my back forward, so I couldn’t use my glutes in the lift.

Of course, me being me, I am doing the 5 x 5 squat workout twice a week, which is probably overkill at 40+. My body will tell me when it’s time to slow down.

Thanks again for all the good advice.

6 month update…

The result? Hit 405 this afternoon at 191 and almost 43 years of age. The squat was to “legal” depth per my spotters.

I realized the the problem was hip flexors and posterior chain. The solution? Squat at least twice a week. Good mornings once a week. That simple.

I use an EFS box every time I squat mainly as a depth gauge, use a wide stance, keep the bar low on my traps and most important keep my feet pointing forward which seems to have made a big difference.

Thanks for all the advice.

Good job man.