T Nation

Squat Problems

Hello all,

I’m coming off of a knee injury from my time in the Army, and have recently been back to squatting in the past few months. The problem is I’ve noticed a loss of leg strength and my squat has stalled the past month, whereas before it was recovering.

Also, I notice I seem to “good morning” the weight when I get fatigued or I do high rep sets. I’ve heard this a result of weak hamstrings? Any advice on that front would be appreciated.

For background, I’m 22 years old, 190lbs, and the last time I did a 1RM my squat was 365. I’m doing 5/3/1 BBB and I’ve been doing this off and on for the past 2 years.

Thank you!

Based on what you say your issue is really falling forward as you come up. A video would be helpful, btw. There may be stuff going on you haven’t described contributing to your squat issues.

One fairly simple way to stop falling forward is to stick your chest up throughout the squat. Head driven into the bar, traps into the bar etc mean the same thing basically, they get you keeping your torso more upright. What do you do with your elbows? Do you pull them into your sides or do you shoot them out backwards? If you shoot them backwards, that will definitely pitch you forward. Do you initiate the squat by shooting your butt back or straight down? If you shoot backwards, try going straight down instead as that often can help you stay more upright.

If you’re already using those cues and it still happens, then for my money the issue may be that you’re not getting tight enough. How well do you brace yourself when you squat? Do you get big air into your belly and back and squeeze down on it? Do you drop so fast you can’t stay tight?

If you’re both keeping your chest up and getting tight and you still fall forward, then I would suspect your back is weak. That’s an easy fix: lots of rows, pull ups if you can do them without messing your elbows up, ideally squatting with the safety squat bar for a while, good mornings and front squats. Also deadlifts. Speaking of which, how is your deadlift? If you find you’re deadlifting less than you squat I’d take that as a pretty strong indicator that your back isn’t strong enough. If your deadlift is higher than your squat then probably the back isn’t the whole problem, but is still going to benefit from some extra work.

Also worth looking at is how wide your stance is and where the bar sits. I’ve found that if you have a higher bar position but naturally tend to squat with a fairly large degree of torso lean you’re going to get pulled forward, so sitting the bar lower can be a big help. On the other hand, if you squat with a very upright torso, a higher bar position may work better.

Without a video I can’t really tell you much about your specific case. Hopefully some of the above strikes a chord and helps you out.

Not to contradict anything MarkKO said, there are a couple of possible explanations for this. First of all, it is NOT due to weak hamstrings - when you lean forward you are shifting the weight to your hamstrings, and the reason your body does that is because they are stronger. Greg Nuckols has a couple of articles talking about this, he says that it is a quad weakness. Based on what he says, the solution is to build up your quads with high bar/SSB/front squat, leg presses, hack squats, etc. Even if your quads aren’t the main issue that can’t hurt.

Another theory (can’t remember where I read this article) is that the issue is due to either glute weakness or the glutes simply not firing properly. So glute activation work before squatting like glute bridges and that kind of thing should help, and as long as you keep squatting and deadlifting (and trying to maintain proper position) the issue should sort itself out eventually. Good mornings and SLDLs should help to build up the glutes and get them firing as well, just focus on squeezing you glutes when you do them.

On Mike Tuchscherer’s forum there was some discussion about this and it is worth noting that him, Blaine Sumner, Layne Norton, and several other top lifters squat with a forward lean simply because they are able to squat more weight that way. He says that squatting with forward lean and a good morning squat are not the same thing, good morning squats are a technical error whereas forward lean is making use of your leverages. Try filming your squat from the side, if the bar moves forward as you come up (as opposed to going up in a straight line) then you have an issue.

I have some experience with this because I used to squat with significant forward lean and sometimes fall into a good morning, the things that helped the most were SSB squats and squats against bands - if you get out of position on those they will really throw you off so you learn to not lean excessively. Also, end the set once you start to lean forward. Grinding out ugly reps will only reinforce bad motor patterns.

Post a video filmed from the side.

video from the side at waist height and a front diagnoal view same height would really help.

Thanks for the response guys, I attached this video to see if it would help to specify what my issues are.

Much appreciated again

You can start by getting your back tighter, close your hands when you’re squatting. Close them tight.