T Nation

Squatting and Arch

To start, I’ve been having some low back pain for a few months that has been an issue with squatting. Finally decided to go see the doctor and just had a physical therapy appointment a couple days ago. First thing the therapist did was correct my posture, my chin was too far up/out and hips tilted back.

Then she wanted to see how I squatted - it was always my understanding that I should arch my back as much as possible and keep it arched throughout movement. However, I was told by the therapist this is bad for the spine and it should kept neutral - because of my posture, this means actually flexing my abs to keep my back from arching, and also having my head down. Is this right? Is overarching a problem (I had never heard about)?

doesn’t looking down while squatting put your spine in an awkward postion? i’m sure iv’e heard that somewhere, sorry i cant be of more help but then that but im not a qualified therapist so…

I am not sure how much this will help, but this is a really good article by Dave Tate from EliteFTS about squatting. It’s specifically about the box squat, but a lot of the same principles should apply to a normal squat. Give it a read.

http://articles.elitefts.com/articles/training-articles/efs-classic-squatting-from-head-to-toe/

And I don’t want to sound like a “know it all” but my experience with most physical therapists is that they don’t really know much about lifting at all. Maybe try the box squat for a while. It might alleviate some back pain.

Vid of said squats

Over-arching can absolutely be a problem, because it disables the abdominals and shortens the hamstrings during the squat (two major muscle groups that work to protect your lower back during that exercise).

Obviously you don’t want to be doing squats while in a “crunch” position, but yes you want a neutral spine with your entire core being tight, and yes looking up can put your spine in an awkward position if you don’t know what you’re doing (the preferred option is pushing the neck straight back into the bar to keep your body direction pointing upwards).

Don’t look at the ground when you squat, but don’t try to look at the ceiling either. Your physical therapist actually sounds pretty smart. lol

[quote]Sprankton wrote:
I am not sure how much this will help, but this is a really good article by Dave Tate from EliteFTS about squatting. It’s specifically about the box squat, but a lot of the same principles should apply to a normal squat. Give it a read.

http://articles.elitefts.com/articles/training-articles/efs-classic-squatting-from-head-to-toe/

And I don’t want to sound like a “know it all” but my experience with most physical therapists is that they don’t really know much about lifting at all. Maybe try the box squat for a while. It might alleviate some back pain.[/quote]

Odd when you log in and the first thread you read answers your question! I appreciate this information. I just started incorporating squats into my workout (Only been working out a couple of weeks) and I literally can’t do it with proper form because it feels like I’ll fall over backwards. I thought I was just doing something wrong until I read this article and he specifically states, "Many times for the intermediate or beginning squatter, the hamstrings arenâ??t yet developed and â??sitting backâ?? into a squat is impossible without falling over backward. "

Thank you!

[quote]stockpower wrote:

[quote]Sprankton wrote:
I am not sure how much this will help, but this is a really good article by Dave Tate from EliteFTS about squatting. It’s specifically about the box squat, but a lot of the same principles should apply to a normal squat. Give it a read.

http://articles.elitefts.com/articles/training-articles/efs-classic-squatting-from-head-to-toe/

And I don’t want to sound like a “know it all” but my experience with most physical therapists is that they don’t really know much about lifting at all. Maybe try the box squat for a while. It might alleviate some back pain.[/quote]

Odd when you log in and the first thread you read answers your question! I appreciate this information. I just started incorporating squats into my workout (Only been working out a couple of weeks) and I literally can’t do it with proper form because it feels like I’ll fall over backwards. I thought I was just doing something wrong until I read this article and he specifically states, "Many times for the intermediate or beginning squatter, the hamstrings arenâ??t yet developed and â??sitting backâ?? into a squat is impossible without falling over backward. "

Thank you![/quote]

Practice my friend, practice. And hamstring work. And milk and creatine in your socks.

Actually that Tate article says “Your butt should also be sticking out with your back arched as hard as possible.”

I also get occasional lower back pain on the squat, so have been seeking advice on this question, and
all I find is contradictory emphatic statements about “neutral” vs. “hard arch”. That is the internet for you…

Mark Rippetoe seems to be more in the “neutral” camp.

[quote]mr popular wrote:
Over-arching can absolutely be a problem, because it disables the abdominals and shortens the hamstrings during the squat (two major muscle groups that work to protect your lower back during that exercise).

Obviously you don’t want to be doing squats while in a “crunch” position, but yes you want a neutral spine with your entire core being tight, and yes looking up can put your spine in an awkward position if you don’t know what you’re doing (the preferred option is pushing the neck straight back into the bar to keep your body direction pointing upwards).

Don’t look at the ground when you squat, but don’t try to look at the ceiling either. Your physical therapist actually sounds pretty smart. lol[/quote]

That is good to hear. Doing it the way she suggests definitely allows me to go deeper and I can also sense it is going to be using my ab and lower back muscles a lot more. I have never felt my abs or hamstrings worked from squats before lol. I had just assumed I wasn’t going deep enough to hit the hams and that I couldn’t go deep enough because of flexibility. I will find out tomorrow what this feels like with weight

Its just strange because i’ve Never heard/read this before. Its always “keep your back from rounding, keep your head up, keep your back arched” that I hear

[quote]mda wrote:
Actually that Tate article says “Your butt should also be sticking out with your back arched as hard as possible.”[/quote]

Yes, I was reading through that article and that jumped out at me right away LOL. This is exactly what I’m talking about.

I’ll see what I can do about a video

[quote]mr popular wrote:
(the preferred option is pushing the neck straight back into the bar to keep your body direction pointing upwards)[/quote]

just a general statement. i used to squat like this for a long time. But recently (roughly month and a half ago) i was stepping up the weight after about 5 reps had an excruciating exertion headache which lasted the rest of the day. I’ve read online that people that are prone to migraines (such as myself) will get this when under physical strain. I also read that this position of the bar on the neck may have “pinched a blood vessel or nerve” causing the headache. I’ve since stopped putting the bar directly on my neck instead resting it just under my neck. I haven’t had such an headache since.

Has anyone else experienced this?

I was taping some bw squats in my bedroom yesterday and holy shit it was pretty ugly. This morning I tried again and I feel like I’ve got a little better handle on it. The breakthrough is thinking of sitting down and pushing my hips forward instead of pushing up. Any thoughts on this? I will be doing legs later tonight, but since my camera is on my laptop I’m probably not going to be able to get any videos of real squats. I will try my phone.

try going down a little further if possible :slight_smile:

[quote]Vinnie85 wrote:

[quote]mr popular wrote:
(the preferred option is pushing the neck straight back into the bar to keep your body direction pointing upwards)[/quote]

just a general statement. i used to squat like this for a long time. But recently (roughly month and a half ago) i was stepping up the weight after about 5 reps had an excruciating exertion headache which lasted the rest of the day. I’ve read online that people that are prone to migraines (such as myself) will get this when under physical strain. I also read that this position of the bar on the neck may have “pinched a blood vessel or nerve” causing the headache. I’ve since stopped putting the bar directly on my neck instead resting it just under my neck. I haven’t had such an headache since.

Has anyone else experienced this? [/quote]

The bar should never be on your neck in the first place you idiot.

wouldn’t the degree of back arching vary depending on whether the lifter is doing high bar or low bar squats? with a low bar squat, i can see how arching the low back hard would be important, as the technique generally requires a more horizontal back angle compared to high bar.

thogue, most of what you see online is information propagated by people who have read a lot but not necessarily thought it out. Consider that squatting with maximal or near maximal weights puts a large shearing force (ie makes you round your back), particularly at the turnaround point (bottom). The way to prevent it is to never allow your spine to get to the rounded position. The way to do it is by arching hard, so any force making your back round will (at worst) put your spine in a neutral position.

By contrast, for a new lifter learning the squat, you have to allow your body to adapt to the stress of squatting, which means providing it with optimal conditions, ie good posture. Squat with good posture - only move at the joints you need to, and rather than focusing on a preventative movement, use light weight and PAY ATTENTION to the feeling in your lower back. Rather than trying to arch your back, try to lengthen your spine - this tightens the erector spinae and supporting musculature without putting your lower back into hyperextension.

You’ll find a lot online about the problems with hyperextension of the lumbar spine, but I believe the point is best made by Bret Contreras, who also makes the very good point that loading the hamstrings (as Tate says the hard arch does), can reduce the load on the glutes.

So for now, neutral spine. Later, if heavy squatting becomes a focus (which it probably should), sparingly use a hard arch for situations where the force is high (fast or heavy squats).

[quote]mr popular wrote:

[quote]Vinnie85 wrote:

[quote]mr popular wrote:
(the preferred option is pushing the neck straight back into the bar to keep your body direction pointing upwards)[/quote]

just a general statement. i used to squat like this for a long time. But recently (roughly month and a half ago) i was stepping up the weight after about 5 reps had an excruciating exertion headache which lasted the rest of the day. I’ve read online that people that are prone to migraines (such as myself) will get this when under physical strain. I also read that this position of the bar on the neck may have “pinched a blood vessel or nerve” causing the headache. I’ve since stopped putting the bar directly on my neck instead resting it just under my neck. I haven’t had such an headache since.

Has anyone else experienced this? [/quote]

The bar should never be on your neck in the first place you idiot.[/quote]

touche