T Nation

Squatting Dilemma

I unfortunately have been out of the loop of weight lifting for about 2yrs since High School and have lost all flexibility that I once had. I’m unable to squat with a proper technique. If my heels are planted then my back wants to bend way forward to maintain balance instead of staying arched. Does anyone have any advice on how to get rid of this problem so I can squat with proper technique without risk of injury?

Try reading Squat 900 lbs. by Dave Tate. It is a very detailed article from an expert powerlifter. Included in the article is a link to another article explaining the importance of box squats and their help in learning proper squat technique. Here is the link to the article: http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=459775

If you can’t mantain proper form then the weight you are trying to lift is to heavy or you have a serious mechanical deficiency, or both.

Man, don’t go and injure yourself right away. Back off the weight, take some time and learn or relearn how to do it right. With good form, good nutrition and some common sense you can expect to make rapid gains for several months anyway so my advice is to spend time on this site researching and learning. There’s a great post on squatting even today called squats in 05’, check it out.

By the way, welcome back to the game.

Go to the training archives and read Six Tips to a Sexy Squat (or something like that)

I am not an expert but I would get a broom stick and a box and practice technique. It has helped me.


Look up stretches for glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings and calves. Hold the stretches for 30-40 seconds each every day for a week (takes about 10 minutes) and also do them all just before squatting. Technically you should not stretch just before exercising but I’d make an exception in this case.

Yeh, I have a feeling it’s more physiological than form because I have been using just the bar and under 100lbs to try and force my muscles to stretch a tad without risking injury. I’ll give those articles on stretching a read through though. I appreciate your help.

Also, forget the weights…if squatting is that unconfortable for you start with the broomstick (as suggested) and work up to the empty 45lb bar.

Some additional cautions:
STAY AWAY from the SMITH machine…I didn’t make any gains until I went with freeweights.

STAY AWAY from the leg press/hip sled…it only leads to muscle imbalances.

Once the flexibility is no longer an issue,I had to address the neurological issues,muscle recruitment and co-ordination.King has written some great stuff on this.Once these two were solved the weights went up and the mass went on.Good Luck!

Read these three articles; they should help you out quite a bit!




Not only will it help you develop the necessary flexibility, but also some key tips to improving the technique of squatting performance. Good luck!

Stay strong

From a glance it sounds like your gastrocsoleus complex is tight and needing the stretching. In my experience and from reading through t-mag articles, your leaning over too much may be from the calves and hip flexors needing to be stretched before attempting the squat.
I’m against stretching the quads or glutes, because it could also be possible the glute muscle fibers are already lengthened and stretching them would be counter productive.
If the glutes are the problem…your knees would buckle in and/or out during the squats (your attempting to recruit hamstrings which wouldn’t be correct).
Points to remember:
-keep feet straight
-keep heels on the ground

  • either suck navel into spine (activate t.v.a) or go into an anterior pelvic tilt and blow out stomach(create air pocket)
    -keep knees directly above your feet (no buckling)

[quote]gustojack wrote:
-keep feet straight

  • either suck navel into spine (activate t.v.a) or go into an anterior pelvic tilt and blow out stomach(create air pocket)



Don’t want to stir the pot too much here, but can you give us some insight as to why you think he should keep the feet straight or suck the stomach in?

Stay strong


keeping his feet straight:
It’s been a few years since he squatted.
I would say anyone just getting started should work from the basic form of the squat first. Basic form for learning a squat (from what I’ve researched) is keep your feet straight. This is in order to promote proper triple flexion, And making sure the quads and glutes are the primary muscles used.
In my opinion, alternative feet positions are fine if you are REALLY trying to train the muscles that are being PRIMARILY used by the alternative feet positions.

sucking the navel to the spine:
I go with Paul Chek on this one. Core stability should be practiced on every exercise. Highly controversial whether to suck it in or blow it out.
In this case, there is excessive leaning forward from the torso. This could easily be from weakened “core” muscles (but than again is could be a number of things). I have alot of success with my clients (who have bad squat form) by teaching the person to suck the navel to the spine when squatting. If they choose to later they can switch to pelvic tilt arched back style like the westside guys do.
what are your thoughts?

Work on flexability, but static stretching will not yeild maximum results. Try AIS, do a search on google and read up.

Basically, contract the antagonist muscle/s to stretch the desired muscle/s and if at the end of your unassisted range of motion, you do not barely feel the stretch, gently assist until you just feel the stretch. Hold the stretch for between 1.5 and 2 seconds. Repeat the stretch as many times as range of motion improves. (About 10 to 15)

Proponents of static stretching advise one to hold the stretch for at least 15 and as high as 90 seconds, the reason is that initially the stretch reflex will engage and it takes some time for the muscle to relax. The problem with this is that for quite some time the stretch reflex did in fact engage, and a contraction did occur. This contraction has numerous negative effects. Waiting it out does result in increased flexability, but not as much, and it hampers recovery. AIS eliminates the problem. First, if the stretch is mild, the stretch reflex takes about 3 seconds to engage, so there won’t be a contraction. (Note: it is important to stretch a muscle uncontracted, so body position is important. eg. stretch the calf seated on the floor, if you stand, you load the calf and force a minor contraction) Second, by doing repetions, you actually are in the stretched position for several seconds (15 x 2 seconds is 30 seconds) and will maxamize your flexability. Third, you won’t over stretch if you stop at the rep that doen’t increase range of motion, with static stretching, how do you know when to stop?.

This style of stretching has helped myself and several other MMA artist. Since trying it, our group will never do a static stretch as the primary flexability tool again, the results are that good. As a side note, PNF gets just as attractive results.

Hope that helps,

When I squat, I lean forward a lot, but I don’t see this as any type of “problem” at all.

If I squat with my back to the wall, so I don’t fall over backwards, I have no tightness or resistance to descending all the way to the floor… without the wall I’ll fall over. Alternately, when I front squat, I lean forward very little.

Is the issue merely one of maintaining a neutral spine while leaning forward, instead of fixing a “problem”?

Negative. My spinal column forces me forward and onto my tip toes. If I keep an arched back and elbows forward like I should then I am forced backwards and off balance even when practicing. I have tried some of the stretching excercises suggested and they seem to be the solution. I appreciate all the quick responses.

Do not draw the navel in and hollow the stomach…this will lead to decreased stability. Chek recomends taking a diaphramatic breath which fills the abdomen…then hold that breath and draw in against the air filled abdomen. Try this and you’ll see the difference between this way and hollowing.

You may find many papers in the archives concerning the Squat, use “Search”.
Good books to read are “Super Squats” and “Brawn”.

[quote]Boss14 wrote:
Do not draw the navel in and hollow the stomach…this will lead to decreased stability. Chek recomends taking a diaphramatic breath which fills the abdomen…then hold that breath and draw in against the air filled abdomen. Try this and you’ll see the difference between this way and hollowing.[/quote]

I’ll go with Stuart McGill on this one:
“Abdominal hollowing is dysfunctional”


OH, OH! I have a good opinion on this one. Mike Clark would be so proud of me.

Assuming you know the proper way to squat, but you’re just too tight, stretching is only one necessary component toward increasing your flexibility. What I would suggest, and Mike would be proud, is SMR - Self Myofascial Release. Get thee a foam roller and break up the junk in your lower body musculature. I’ve seen people’s range of motion on squats increase dramatically from just 10 minutes of moderate intensity SMR.

Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson wrote up a pretty good description of SMR.


Focus on the IT band, Hams, Calves, and peroneals, but feel free to roll the whole body out. My only suggest if it’s your first time, make sure nobody can see your face. I fancy myself as a tough guy, but rolling my IT band for the first time brought tears to my eyes.

But it was so worth it. My flexibility is much better for it.