T Nation

Squats and Lower Back


I'm having issues with my lower back when doing squats. My lower back seems to tighten up and give out way before my legs do. Don't get me wrong...My legs do get a great workout. As I sit here and type, I can still feel it in my lower make muscles after being home for 2 hrs.

I have tried leaning forword a bit and also doing squats in a more upright position, legs more in front and more inline with the body. I can't even do leg presses after squats because my lower back cramps up so much. Anyone else have this problem of the lower back giving out before the legs?


Cramp as in tight or cramp as in a muscle spasm?


No spasms, just tight and sore as if I did a set of 20 hyperextensions.


If you put your heels on a small board or some plates, it should move your hips forward and cause your spine to be more vertical... taking your lower back out of the exercise some.


What body type are you? Long torso, short legs? Hard to evaluate without seeing you, but as a former PL'er, I'll give you my 0.02.
Keep the bar as low on your back as you can. You may have to slightly widen your stance and point your toes out a bit more. This will allow a slightly more upright performance and should increase your depth.
I have to respectfully disagree with any recommendations of heels on plates, etc. This leads to an unnatural movement and quickly shortens your Achilles tendons resulting in decreased range of motion. Good luck.


If you ask me i think your lower back is just weak and needs some work if its giving out before your legs...id start doing some deadlifts...romanian deads, and just regular deadlifts...maybe some Good Mornings also, but definitley deads..good luck bro


It may be due to a lack of a warm-up prior to squats, or more likely that your abdominal strength is not up to par.

My advice would be to incorporate some bridging and reverse curls/leg raises. If you can do full leg raises, they'd probably be the most beneficial.

Good luck!



Two words: Front Squat.


Second that, since replacing back squats with these baby's my Quads have blown and my back no longer feels compressed....


If it helps, one of the things I found useful was adding an auxillary exercise to each leg day. On squat day, I do good mornings as well, and on deadlift day I add in front squats after. That way both days give you quad, ham, glute, and lower back work. Also, make sure you have a strong core, as that will go a long way toward resolving problems in your lower back.


Two more words: Activate glutes.

Make to do some warmups with movements that "turn on" the glute muscles. And static stretch your hip flexors too.


Front squats are a good alternative. This is the best article I've read on back squatting http://danjohn.org/squat101_files/frame.html


when i first started squatting my lower back was the first to give out as well because my lower back was weak...i kept squatting & it went away after about a month or two because squatting strengthened my erectors. not that this will necessarily work for you though. your form has to be good...if your doing some serious rounding of the lower back in the hole then you may want to try & remedy that.


I had the same problem and when I asked Cressey he said to work on glute activation, hip flexibilty and core stability. After I did that my tightness went away in about a week or so.


Are all you guys dumb? Use a friggin' weight belt! Then, you can do dead lifts the same day.



Im with the others, it sounds like your back is weak and will catch up.
Mine was the same, i couldnt do any deads or barely squats.
The longer I did them the stronger my back got.

Now its not an issue.


I have the same back cramping issues, and it’s pretty bad. My back is not weak, I can deadlift 565 and we’re talking about cramping after 200-300 lb back squats. Although, maybe the lower back is not engaged as much in deads IDK. But in any case, I also have really bad anterior pelivic tilt, and after a set of high bar back squats, I’m walking around the gym with my hands on my lower back in pain and pelvis forward. I"m in the middle of the Smolov mesocycle right now, so I’m really having to power through it.


Are you using a belt on your work sets? I stopped using a belt for many years, end result stiff back after work out(not during). Back to using a belt I squat better and have no stiffness.

Your problem is probably due to lack of hip flexibility/hip alignment, and will need some rehab exercises and stretching, and massage release.


Who doesn’t love a thread come back to life after a 9yr coma.

I am glad I stand by my previous comment about heel/hip adjustment.

In addition, try rolling your arches on a golf ball… enough so for a little pain so you know you’re getting it loose. The posterior chain is all connected. Loosen the arch, hams, glutes, and lumbar come along with it.