T Nation

Squatting

I am doing the 5x5 workout to gain strength and mass but mostly for strength. When I do squats, I like to do them “naked” -no belt, no knee wraps but my lower back is very sore the next 3-5 days and that weakens my dead lifts as well. I was a competitive powerlifter about 15 years ago but have forgotten most of what I had learned back then. I was totaling 1400 at 165 lbs. Should I be using a belt or just strengthen my spinal erector muscles

maybe ease off the weight till your back/abs catch up? I’m a noob to squats, and I knew it so I started with low weight and didn’t experience the problem you are describing. Perhaps your pride on your former achievements is clouding your judgement?

I noticed that when I placed the bar too low on my shoulders, I would definitely feel a “pain” in my lower back - like the bar was compressing my spine. So I have to really keep in mind that bar placement. Maybe you should, too. Also read any of the articles about the squat by either Dave Tate or Ian King (the “Limping” series), they’ll give you a really good idea as to the form.

BTW: we don't and haven't used a belt for years. I wouldn't recommend it, but to yes, definitely work on strengthening your lower back (and abs) - but really look at your squat form, too.

I think this is fairly common for strong guys…especially if you’re over the age of around 30. There’s probably not a whole lot you can do besides maybe changing your squatting style and adding restorative techniques such as contrast baths, massage etc. If you do a powerlifting type squat your lower back is going to get hit pretty hard. I guess the easiest thing to just make sure you allow 5 days rest before trying to deadlift.

I am basically sore in my posterior chain from Renegade style training about 3-4 days out of the week. Renegades don’t ever use belts. But one thing we do you may want to get into is active rest. When my low back and ass are really sore on an off day, I’ll do 10 minutes of jump rope just to sweat and 10 minutes of hurdle work. The hurdles really loosen the low back and hips up. That ought to get you ready for the next day. I believe that as a rule one should work well below the max level when power lifting on a regular basis. The lifts are so complex as far as the demand on the body goes that heavy power lifting on a regular basis probably won’t yield as good of gains as working with 60-70% to your max and making gains methodically. Just thoughts. I Ice the posterior chain a lot as well as hot epsom salt baths for recovery.

I was having similar problems until I started doing good mornings and that has helped my lower back tremendously.

KraigY

I’m going to disagree with the others here and say it’s okay to use a belt. However, you might first want to work on strengthening the core and posterior chain. This will alleviate your lower back problems. Reverse Hypers and Pull-Throughs are excellent choices fore the posterior chain. See Coach John Davies’ article “Real Abs” for core movements. Once you have a strong core your lower back is safe and will recover faster and a belt should be worn if you want to squat or deadlift more. In addition to employing recovery methods as suggested by others, if possible increase your work capacity through various means. Feeder and extra workouts that address the lower back would help tremendously.

In his video guide to squatting Ian King suggests high bar placement and a very narrow grip as two keys to minimising lordosis and maintaining a neutral spine position. As for the controversial question of depth he simply suggests not descending past a point where your torso exceeds 45’ tilt forward. Following theses suggestions myself eliminated the lower back pain that was a constant companion on my squatting days. There’s also been a lot hysteria surrounding the use of belts. I won’t mention names. But the stats speek for themselves, I think from recollection it was Fleck + Kraemer in Designing Resistance Training Programs who detailed the injury rates of belt/non-belt users amongst a large group of weightlifters. The results in black and white eclipse any theoretical arguments, the belt wearers showed a dramatic reduction in injury rates in comparison to there non-belt wearing bretheren.

Thanks for the tips and advise. I will read the squatting articles again. I am 38 so maybe I do need to slow it down a bit but it does feel good to be doing over 400 for my 5x5’s. I’ll try a belt again but only when approaching about 80-85% of my estimated max. I did read the Dave Tate article and Simmons said to push out against the belt with your abs, that is something I have never done.
Thanks. Sully.

I would have to see the test study you are talking about in more detail. That all really depends on your training. No doubt belts can prevent injury, however you are only masking the weakness with the belt. I am not really a Pavel follower so to speak, but he often writes about how to have more strength during a lift by tightening the muscles just below your belly button. This technique is also great for sparing your spinal erectors. I don’t think the belt is such a huge factor in training, but consider this…“You are only as strong as your weakest link.” So why bother packing on mass that you can’t control with the spinal erectors? That is like a soldier carrying a sword that he can’t use effectively. I stick to the “Keep It Simple Stupid” philosophy when it comes to equipment.

The “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” argument in reference to belts, is one I’ve never really seen the validity of. Given that there are a multitude of exercise’s that can be performed (some mentioned by the other respondents to this question) to strengthen the muscles concerned, why not wear a belt to increase intra-abdominal pressure and decrease the chance of injury? I can think of no situation in every day life where the body (particularly the lower back) is exposed to the tremendous stress and potential for injury experienced during even a moderately heavy squat workout. Those activities that mimic the squat movement to varying degrees in MU recruitment patterns whether in the gym or the outside world are amply catered for by the regular performance of the afore mentioned supplementary exercises.
Regarding your statement, “So why bother packing on mass that you can’t control with the spinal erectors?”, the wearing of a belt does not eliminate certain muscle groups from the equation when performing the squat, and again any perceived weakness real or otherwise can be easily addressed by the performance of supplementary exercises.
You acknowledge that wearing a belt reduces the chances of injury, and given that the squat has the potential to cause more catastrophic injury than any other single exercise (and is probably the cause of more serious injury than any other exercise) surely the decision is academic? Perhaps we will have to agree to disagree.

I had severe lower back problems after a day in which I did heavy deadlifts and then played 2 rounds of golf. Less than ideal form of the DL and my constant bad habit of swing too hard did me in. It took a while to overcome, so be patient. I did have some chiro work done. I would also highly recommend “Squatting From Head to Toe” by Dave Tate about the box squat. I am a big fan of box squats. Constant use of proper box squatting has strengthened my lower back considerably and it has vastly improved my squatting form. I also would recommend “Forgotten Squat” by John Davies about ‘real’ hack squats. I use these now and I love them too. I do not experience and lower back problems at all when using this movement that seems to be a combination deadlift and squat. It seems awkward at first, and you will get some odd looks, but they are great leg lifts. Good luck and be patient.