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Squatting: Weak Abs vs. Lack of Mobility

I have difficulty staying 100% upright with front/back squats.
How do you tell if it is more due to weak abs or more due to a mobility/technique problem?
Thanks

Also interested! I would be lying if I said my core wasn’t super sore after every heavy squat session though.

@Field…hard to say without seeing you squat…lie on a foam roller (back of head to tailbone - longways & see if you feel a stretch)

Do you have trouble bracing your abs? Do you wear a belt for warm up sets? Can you hold standard and side planks for a decent amount of time?

[quote]Field wrote:
I have difficulty staying 100% upright with front/back squats.
How do you tell if it is more due to weak abs or more due to a mobility/technique problem?
Thanks

[/quote]

As converse as this seems, check your ankle mobility, check your piriformis for tightness, and stretch your psoas.

Static stretch your calves (gastroc) for 5 sets of 15-30 secs until you reach max flexibility for the day.

Do extreme ROM split squats, 2 sets, 5 reps each holding for 3-5 secs in bottom position then up.

Foam roller or LAX ball your piriformis.

You would be amazed at what that does for your torso angle in squats.

Cheers,
M

[quote]jp_dubya wrote:
Do you have trouble bracing your abs? Do you wear a belt for warm up sets? Can you hold standard and side planks for a decent amount of time?[/quote]

When doing singles i deliberately tighten and then suck in air, when repping out i might get a bit loose in the abs. Overall doesnt feel like it changes my torso angle much.

Never worn a belt for anything.

Can hold a regular plank for 4-5 minutes before it is very uncomfortable.

[quote]Mutsanah wrote:

As converse as this seems, check your ankle mobility, check your piriformis for tightness, and stretch your psoas.

Static stretch your calves (gastroc) for 5 sets of 15-30 secs until you reach max flexibility for the day.

Do extreme ROM split squats, 2 sets, 5 reps each holding for 3-5 secs in bottom position then up.

Foam roller or LAX ball your piriformis.

You would be amazed at what that does for your torso angle in squats.

Cheers,
M

[/quote]

I have not foam rolled for at least a year. I havent done split squats for at least a year, single leg jumping and regular sprinting has pretty much been my only unilateral leg work.

Hmmm INTERESTING.

Looked at some video of front squatting back in 12.21.11 , wasnt moving as much weight but definitely looked nice and upright in the bottom position , and that was barefoot.

I guess if you dont do ANY mobility related stuff at all for a year you will eventually get suffer.

Have spent time with alot of heavy partial squats/lockouts and less emphasis on nice deep reps.

I probably do more ab work now than i did a year ago and my abs are more pronounced with about the same bf%

So to guess an answer to my question, its probably a mobility issue.

Uhh gee wiz, tried taking my damn shoes off for once. For some wierd reason i appear to just squat better barefoot, elevating my heel an inch or so makes very little difference with how deep i can get.

Maybe i just have extremely good feet, and they just get fk’d up when i put shoes on them.

@Field: If it’s a mobility issue (for many it is) I’ve had the most success with:

Defranco’s Agile 8

The Agile 8

  1. Foam roll your IT band ? Start just below your hip and roll up and down to your (outer) mid-thigh ten to fifteen times, focusing on any tight spots. Then perform ten to fifteen “rolls” starting at your (outer) mid-thigh and rolling all the way down to the outside of your knee. Again, focus on the tight areas.

  2. Foam roll your adductors ? Start just below the crease of your hip and roll up and down your (inner) mid-thigh ten to fifteen times, focusing on any tight spots. Then perform ten to fifteen “rolls” starting at your (inner) mid-thigh and rolling down to the inside of your knee. Again, focus on the tight areas.

  3. Glute/piriformis myofacsial release with a tennis ball ? Take the tennis ball and sit on one your left butt cheek with a slight tilt. Cross your left leg. Roll for 30 seconds or so. Switch cheeks and repeat. Feel free to cry.

  4. Rollovers into “V” sits ? Perform ten reps.*

  5. Fire hydrant circles ? Perform ten forward circles and ten backward circles with each leg.*

  6. Mountain climbers ? 20 total reps.*

  7. Groiners ? Perform ten reps. Hold the last rep for ten seconds. Make sure to push your knees out with your upper arms while dropping your butt down.*

  8. Static hip flexor stretch ? Perform 3 sets of 10 seconds on each leg. Complete all three sets on one side before moving to the other.

CT once mentioned on here that the front squat as works the LOWER back very hard, so that is a potential weak area as well. To add to the problem, the UPPER back can also get fatigued holding the bar in a proper rack. This assumes you’re using a clean grip.

Do you wear Olympic weightlifting shoes to do front squats? If not, you will need more ankle mobility than if you wore OL shoes.

You’ve received some good suggestions for mobility work. I would offer the following:

  1. The best way to get better at the front squat is to…front squat.
  2. Leave ego and other baggage at the door. On warm ups sets, really sink into the bottom position and pause. If you do this, some of your warm up sets will feel like “work” sets which is why you need to leave your ego at the door.
  3. When starting your ascent, lead with your elbows. Really focus on keeping your elbows up. This is assuming you are using a clean grip. If not, then that’s a problem right there. The cross-grip makes it easier to bend forward. The clean grip is self correcting because if you bend forward you dump the bar.
  4. Do not do more than 5 reps or your UPPER back will start to fatigue. I would go so far as to say no more than 3 reps.

[quote]MikeTheBear wrote:

Do you wear Olympic weightlifting shoes to do front squats? If not, you will need more ankle mobility than if you wore OL shoes.

  1. Leave ego and other baggage at the door. On warm ups sets, really sink into the bottom position and pause. If you do this, some of your warm up sets will feel like “work” sets which is why you need to leave your ego at the door.
  2. When starting your ascent, lead with your elbows. Really focus on keeping your elbows up. This is assuming you are using a clean grip. If not, then that’s a problem right there. The cross-grip makes it easier to bend forward. The clean grip is self correcting because if you bend forward you dump the bar.
    .[/quote]

I have squatted in OLY shoes, flat shoes and barefoot.
The footwear and different heel lift doesnt make a dramatic difference.
I think it is something in the hips or lower back.

Yes i prefer the clean grip.

I think this is a simple matter of doing bad front squats and going shallow frequently for x amount of months.

Gotten a little faster at sprinting though, which is kind of what i wanted.

What about using straps instead of the clean grip? Do the same mechanics apply or is it inferior? I’m guessing the former, because one still needs to lead with the elbows.