T Nation

Squats

I have a problem with my squatting poundages. I weigh 195lbs 8%bf 5’9". I can leg press press huge amounts with knees to chest for reps, depending on the angle over 1100lbs, I can rack most leg extension machines for repitions, but i have problem squatting on the free bar. I used to squat heavy on the smith machine, both half and full squats, 315lbs adjusted with clean form and pause for reps and sets. Now when i go on the free bar i struggle with 275 to get 8 reps. i understand that the stabilizers are being worked, but i can do more weight using dumbell squats. My hams and glutes are strong, I can deadlift freebar 405lbs for 8 reps. Its just really frustrating not being able to squat heavy for reps. I feel that I lean too forward and that my form messes up. I make sure that i go all the way down when using 225lbs and atleast half way down when using 275lbs. Any advise or similar senerios from other t-men? Thank you.

You probably just need to spend time squatting. You might not have any weak muscles but just need to get them used to the movement. There’s not any correlation between leg press, leg extension and squat performance.

I have the same problem. I am 6’6" 280lbs, And like you i can stack out any leg extension machine, and do many complete reps with a loaded leg sled. But, awhile back I could onlt do about three sets of 275lbs at 8 reps. 315 felt like I had a Volkswagen on my back. But, like Kelly recommended, I stops doing all other leg exercises(except hamstring work)and just focused on my squat. Now after a month I am squating 315 for sets of 10. I haven’t touched the sled or extension in a month and i have gained about 3/4 of an inch on my legs (calves still suck though. You can get it just work on it! i always used the excuse that me being very tall limited me from going veary heavy on squats(physiologicaly it my be true to some extent), but put my nose to it and i was able to get to the mext level. Only to squats for a momth - see what happens. The worst thing that could happen it that you legs stay the same size and you poundage goes now where- you’ve lost nothing. The best thing that could happen it that you get very comfortable with the heavy weights you poundages go up and you legs get bigger.

What exactly prevents you from going past 8 reps at a weight that you think you should be doing more with? Are your quads, in fact, burning? Or is it a case of your lower back deciding that your leg workout is done, etc. I think Kelly is right … just spend more time at it. Your stabilizers will adjust. And be sure to work out some of the complementary muscle groups that will help you along the way, particularly your trunk area.

If I could suugest one thing, it would be to purchase Ian King’s Massive Leg tape available at the Biotest store on this website.No, I’m not a paid promoter of this tape : )
Ian’s squat technique will be extremely difficult at first but stick with it. It works big time. I went from a 315# two rep max to 405# 2 reps in 12 weeks. My legs grew larger as well. Did one quarter reps at 455# for 8 reps. Hope this helps. Keep me posted, and keep squatting.

try doing some heavy lower back work if u feel u are leaning forward. try some good mornings and look up some of the westside barbell techniques for lower back.

if you are doing knee to calf, OL squats, start some overhead squating. Those poundages real be really pitiful for a while, but should help your reg full squat.

also, (generally) machines train muscle, while free weights train the movement.

I guess it depends on what your goals are. If you want to squat heavy weights for competition or just to feel good then just do freebar squats. Start with weights that you can do with perfect form for a few sets, then up the weight until you get a bit ragged on form, then stop. You will gradually get better and the weights will go up. My guess is your lower back is what’s limiting you. Look into what the Westside Barbell program consists of and take things from that. You will get better at the squat if you follow their program.

I would suggest using a wider stance. I wanted to get my squat up last year for football so i tried a wider stance it went up alot im not gonna sit here and brag because im not the type plus no one would believe me ne way, but since your hams and glutes r strong u should have no problem with this.

I had a very similar problem, I am guessing you are tall. You need some flexibility so that you can squat comfortably. The rest is just working hard at squatting. Here is the tip: Do calf raises, stiff legged deads (with a totally flat back) and leg pressess on a sled. The trick is to do them one legged, let the weight press against you until your knee touches your chest, even if your heel comes off the plate, use a heavy weight (when you fail, you can use your fresh leg to get the weight back up). This will increase your ankle flexiblity BIG TIME, especially when the knees are bent. After a couple of weeks doing this, you will be able to full squat comfortably.

I am sort of going to agree with Colin, it sounds like you are describing a lack of flexibility and a lack of stabilization strength. Take this with a grain of salt since I can’t see you, but generally speaking most people will squat much better if they improve the flexibility in their gastroc/ soleus (esp. bent knee), adductors, and hip flexors. Also your lats and pecs could probably use some attention in the flexibility program. Good luck.

thanks for the responses. My goal for squatting is strength and to increase quad size. I prefer to do them knee to calf. I must say that my lower back is preety strong since i’ve been doing a lot of deadlifts and stiff legged deads for a couple of months like some of yous suggested. I know that the wider stance will allow you to put up more weight but i want to isolate my quads since my hams get worked pretty hard during their dealift workout. One thing i must say is that i’ve never really focused on doing accelerative training where i accelerate the weight up. I always do slow controlled reps since i’m trying to build mass. I might incorporate that in my upcoming routines to see if there is a difference and if i get good results. Thanks for the advice, PK

WEll, if u want to give your quads a good burn after squats i always do a few sets of lunges and leg extenions. these seem to really target my quads ( and make it a lil bit harder to walk!) but thats the fun of it.

I agree with Kelly. After doing Smith machine squats for a while, it may take a good amount of free squat reps to get the coordination of the movement down. It would be a good idea to get Ian’s tape as Paul said, and Colin had some great ideas to improve your range. I’ll add that you might want to include some toe up training into your normal calf routine, and work calves only unilaterally to emphasize the stretch. Understand also that most useful squat technique won’t lead to the greatest poundages. If you want to lift big weights just for the sake of lifting big weights, then you can adopt a powerlifters style squat, which will also take a while to learn. Dave Tate’s stuff at t-mag can surely help you with that. It would be a good idea to master both techniques really, as they both have their uses in a training program. You might also want to back off the weight for a while and do lots and lots of squat reps. I mean take the weight all the way down to 135 or so and start knocking out perfect sets of 20 reps for a couple weeks until your neural pathways are developed.

Hey greek, I had the exact same problem. I mean exactly. I could “half squat” (kinda like a power lifter) 385 for about 10, and I could do stiff legged deads off a block (the bar would go just below my feet) with over 3 plates, but I could not even do a free hand full squat. I was (and still am) capable of doing the splits, touching my knee to my head and so forth. So in general I am very flexible, but just a couple of the muscles involved in the squat (at the hip and ankle) would not co-operate. I stretched every way I could and nothing. Until I did one legged leg pressess all the way (heel coming off the plate). The next week I could do free hand full squats easy. You need to specifically stretch the muscles you will stretch in the squat with heavy weights, you need your hip flexed and your knee bent. I stumbled into this doing these. I have been fighting this for years. Good luck.