T Nation

Squatting Difficulties


I am, 32, 6'1 161 pounds, skeletor yes I know!

Starting lifting again after a approximately 4 year break. I used to benchpress in the Army. When I left the Army I was approximately 215 pounds and benching 300.

Due to having a largely sedentary job as an environmental consultant, no lifting, and not needing to have manhandle my soldiers my body gravitated back down to what I guess is my set point 160 ish.

Anyway after my wife told me I was looking a bit thin I started picking up the weights again approximately a month ago. I have been a lot of overhead presses, bent over rows, dead lifts, and a curl here or there.

I have an olympic bar and about 300 pounds of weight and some dumbell handles. And have been working out on my lanai (a porch in Hawaii).

Deadlifts feel great and I may be doing them too frequently though I haven't gone over 260 yet. And the overhead presses feel really good, though the most I've repped with on the barbell is 95 for 6.

Squats just seem to defeat me though, I feel like as I descend I am getting into some sort of modified good morning position. My arch stays good but I feel at the bottom position that im am just way too far bent over.

I have tried a variety of bar positions and it doesnt seem to affect the resulting position, though a wide foot position seems to help a tad. On every squat attempt I try to go as low as I can while maintaining my balance.

Oddly enough Dan John's ( I think they are his anyway) overhead squats seem to give me the best or most upright upper body position when I am the low point of the movement. The most I have tried for those is 65 pounds for 8 reps. Does anyone else's traps "sound off" too when doing these?

Anyway any thoughts on form for squats? I am performing them in barefeet for the most part. I was just curious why deadlift felt great , and squats are just making me feel stupid! Should I expirement more or just keep on with the overhead squatting till I can lift more signigicant amounts of weight?


squatting isn't easy for most. Good form is imperative as you move up in weight.
Maybe try front squats for a while. Overhead squats are great as well. Dumbell squats--even lunges could be used until you get comfortable with the back squat.


Try front squatting. It'll help you to keep an upright torso, and it's killer for the back. OH squats are great though.

Check Dave Tate's article on squatting from head to toe for ideas. It's a bit hard to throw out suggestions without a picture, but try to push into the bar with your head/traps on the way out of the hole. Break the hips first on the way down. Tate's article should help though.


Sounds like you have some flexibility and trunk strength issues. Overhead squats will definitely help work that out. Don't be afraid to squat with the bar only to concentrate on form.


Have your wife take a picture of you at the bottom of the squat from the side and see if you are leaning too far forward or if its just in your head. I hate the squat but I do it religiously because I love the overall effect it has on my physique. The first two or three warm up sets always feel awful. I just make sure I arch my back and squeeze my lower back muscles. You might also try one of Coach Poliquin's tricks. He recommends placing a board ( such as a 2 x 4) under the heels to shift the tension onto the vastus medialus. But it could also help keep your back more erect.


First off thanks for the thoughtfull replies. Okay I think I am making some progress by going backwards. I have been practicing just using the bar and focusing on maintaining a good posture and alignment.

After a bit of practice I think I have somewhat weak and inflexible hip-flexors. Im going to incorporate a bit more warm-up and perhaps some flutter kicks prior to squatting. For at least the next week im going to continue to practice with just the bar. I like to do it after waking up (to get the blood flowing) and then in the evening after to work to relax a bit. When my form is good I will add some weight and recheck.

On a positive note deads are coming along nicely, Monday I pulled 265 and the arch was perfect and the weight poppped right up. Next monday I will try 275. I am considering setting a goal of a 500 deadlift before I hit 180 in bodyweight, though im not sure how achievable this is.


Back squats without a rack are a pain. My back squat just disappeared on me last week. I was doing this OHS, to front squat, to back squat progession, and suddenly I couldn't back squat worth crap.

Dan has this exercise called the goblet squat. Load a dumbbell, stand it on end. Place your palms against the weight on top (like a goblet) with the fingers pointing up. Hold the dumbbell at chest height and squat down from there. You can do them to warm up or as a workout. Combine them with front squats until you think you're ready to back squat again.


One of the best things you can do is to learn to box squat properly. If you are folding too much, you probably have weak hamstrings. Find somebody who's experienced in Westside methods or buy one of their dvds. Learning proper box squat technique will pay huge dividends.


I used Westside pretty early on when I started lifting and I leaned to squat that way okay. But with my frame to move any serious weight I had to use a veeeeerrry wide stance and with that form I couldn't go very deep...just an inch or two below parallel.

Problem is I never leared to squat well with a narrow/shoulder width stance so when I squatted this way I couldn't get to parallel w/o folding forward into a good morning. I kept trying to sit back, and I don't think my body is built to do that with a narrow stance.

I also found inspiration in Dan John's OH Squat article. He was squatting down between his feet, not back, and his torso was upright. I started doing OH squats and front squats and letting my knees go forward. Then is started using this form (knees forward and slightly out) with high bar back squats and I am much happier with my form now.

Just keep your back arched as your get deep, sit down, and let your knees go forward. I don't know how that form sounds to others but it has worked well for me.

Oh yeah, I am a little over 6'1" with long legs.

And squatting with shoes will definately help. I deadlift and box squat (wide stance) with flat soled shoes but full/front/OH squat with a slightly heeled sneaker (shell toes). I would get O-lifting shoes if I could O-lift worth a shit.


Some good advise so far, but I think the problem is simply weak legs. Check out Robertson's articles, look for one for squats for persons with bad levers.

The fact that you can good morning with the arch tells me it's not a back weakness and probably not a flexibility issue, it's a leg weakness.

Basically to correct, do one legged stuff. If you do bi-lateral exercise, the back will take too much load and the problem may never correct itself. Uni-lateral is the way to go until the legs are up to par with the back.



Yeah just work those hips and whatnot.
But its great you just started using the bar. Use light weights to work on your form..then keep adding more over time. Youll get used to it, no doubt about it.


Okay so tonight
10 bodyweight squats
10 (r/l) bulgarian squats bodweight
10 front squats bar
10 rear squats bar
10 rear squats bar
10 front squats bar + 2(10s)

added just a smidge of weight to the last to see if it affected my balance.

From what I can tell so far, I seem to have an easier time if I go to a wide stance. I have to make a concerted effort to "spread the ground with my feet" or I get some mild trembling in my legs and the knees want to gravitate inwards.

With feet just outside of shoulders I can go ATG with the wider stance it feels like I am about 8 inches short of the ground.

I've also noticed I have to tell myself look up , or my eyes will gravitate to the floor.

Thanks all for the suggestions so far!


Saturday Dec 10, went pretty well.

I did
Bar x 10 with a 3 second pause for a stretch

Back squat with 95 x 5 for 2 sets
Front squats with 95 x 5 for 2 setx

on the third set of front squats when i cleaned the weight up, my vision got blurred and I felt like I was going to fall over, so I set the weight down then set myself down too.

The following focus points seem to help me.

Chest high,
shoulders back,
look forward or up,
"sit back"
spread the ground,
smooth up.

Im going to keep practicing with moderate weight since I don't clean or overhead press all that much, till I join the gym in January.

It's a 24-hour fatness but they have a few squat racks so I'm looking forward to it.


A few days (or earlier) after your workouts which bodypart seems to have been hit the hardest ? Feeling DOMS in the quads is probably normal but to have an 'uncomfortable' back like in Deadlifts can give a few pointers to your technique.

Do you knees kind of cave in inwards at all as you fatigue in the Squat ?

Are you squatting with the heels flat or elevated ?

What is your warmup for Squats ?


My knees definitely want to collapse in as I progress into sets.

For a warmup I strectch some do some bodyweight squats with a pause at the beginning.

Sunday I did sets of front squats with just 65 to practice form about 5 sets of 8-10 reps and they all felt rather good.

Wife observed and it seemed like my alignment and posture was pretty good throughout the movements.


I had a similar problem and found it was a balance issue. Try wearing a shoe with a pretty wide sole. Also, find something about a 1/2 inch tall that you can put under the heels of your feet. It will keep you from feeling like you are going to fall backwards, and keep you from leaning to far forward.


Firstly to address the issue of knees turning inwards on the ascent...this is a hallmark of weak quads. When I encountered this problem years ago, I simply dropped the weight and worked on an assistance exercise, which happened to be one legged squats with no weight, supporting my 'spare' leg behind on a chair. The other issue is, when turning your knees inward you place great stress on the medial ligaments of the knee.

I don't recommend raising the heals as it places undue stress on the patella region, just as you don't want the knees to come forward of the feet whilst squatting, raising the heals makes this much easier. Increasing flexibility, particularly in the hip flexors and having no imbalances in strength are the major factors in getting a good squat down.

Foot stance is also important, having a narrow stance with the feet straight loads the back, there are also issues with mega wide 'toilet' stances too. There must be articles on here about stance I can't explain everything just here.

On warming up, there are two general factors, to warm up through the full range of motion, and to show the body an idea of the weigth handled in the actual work sets.

You should not stretch 'cold' muscles and stretching I keep to after the workouts. If you were going to do say 400 lbs for 4 sets of 6. Then a typical warmup would be empty bar for two sets of 6, 135 lbs for 5 reps, 220 lbs for 3 reps, 315 for 2 reps and about 375 for 1 rep. By this time you should be ready to handle your desired weights for the proposed number of reps.


Sounds like weak abs preventing you from being able to stabalise in a more upright position. To compensate you are bending forward too far and putting the stress on lowerback.


Edwin, it might be an idea to search for assistance exercises for the squat and also look at a programme to increase your flexibility. There are quite a few exercises about. Sometimes the way to improve your Squat (or Deadlift) is not to Squat at all. It a learning curve.


Thanks for the suggestions so far, just did a 20 rep set, only 65 but it felt like my form stayed tight throughout the set. Practice seems to really help a lot , I'm gettting excited about having a squat rack come January!