T Nation

Stalling Squats

Hi guys, just back from the gym, and I have failed my squat. I’m doing 531, and this is my 6th cycle. I stalled on 120kg (265lbs), for the second time. Last time, I reset my squat 1RM to 115kg, and built back up, taking a few months to get here.

I’m just wondering where to go from here? Do I reset my 1RM again, but move up in smaller increments? or do I carry on with next month, doing what I can, then go back to this month? I have a feeling my form could be a little off too, so if anyone could tell me why I failed this rep, I’d be grateful.

Thanks guys.

control your decent more would be my first tip.

Don’t carry on. Reset again, and fix your form. It looks like you’re kind of “good morning-ing” the weight up, which makes your back responsible for getting you out of the hole. I do the same thing. Take a deep breath before you go down, keep everything tight, and look up as you rise, so your torso doesn’t lag behind the movement of your hips.

First off, I’m not a ton more experienced than you are. There are people here whose word carries a lot more weight than mine.

However, there are a couple of cues I can offer to help. Two of the major mistakes I see: First, you shift forward visibly off of your heels and onto your toes, letting the bar-path carry you forward. Second, probably in part because the weight shifts forward, your upper body collapses. Focus hard on keeping your balance over your heels, and on forcing the tips of your elbows down toward the floor throughout the lift. There are differing schools of thought on elbow position, but all I can say is that I personally have realized better form through the mental cue of “elbows down.” This should force you to expand your chest, and aid significantly in keeping enough tightness in your upper and lower back throughout the lift.

There’s more than this that must be corrected, but start with a manageable number of things to change.

Also, go to youtube and look up “elitefts so you think you can squat.” Watch it several times, compare to other sources on the squat you have seen and read, and figure out how to make all of what you know work for you.

Keep your elbows down. Kind of hard to critique. Next time, if there is, take it from the side and don’t speed up the video. O and also rotate it.

[quote]Halcyonview wrote:
First, you shift forward visibly off of your heels and onto your toes, letting the bar-path carry you forward.
Second, probably in part because the weight shifts forward, your upper body collapses. Focus hard on keeping your balance over your heels, and on forcing the tips of your elbows down toward the floor throughout the lift.
There are differing schools of thought on elbow position, but all I can say is that I personally have realized better form through the mental cue of “elbows down.” This should force you to expand your chest, and aid significantly in keeping enough tightness in your upper and lower back throughout the lift.
There’s more than this that must be corrected, but start with a manageable number of things to change.
[/quote]
Great post.

My advice -
control your descent and feel the hamstring stretch
Elbows down and chest up the entire time. don’t wrap thumbs around the bar
Push your knees and feet out sideways for the whole rep to activate your posterior chain
Exercises to add:
Front squats (light - work on form and keeping an upright torso)
Romanian Deadlifts and Goodmornings - work on hip, glute, lower back and hamstring strength

Can you write out your entire training scheme (exercises, sets, reps, weight) so we can see what your’e doing?

Yeah, I’ve no idea why it plays at 6,000% speed, it was normal when I recorded it. I’ll try and make some others when I don’t have 1.5xbw on my back, and see how I hold up then.

Right, elbows down it is! And I didn’t realise I was lifting my heels up, so yeah, a bit to work on.

Currently training looks like this:

Monday
Squat: 95kgX5, 110kgX3, 120kgX1 (fail)
Good mornings: 70kg 4X8
Leg press: 120kg 4X8 (but, i think I’ll swap this for front squats. Makes way more sense.)

Wednesday:
OHP: 40kgX5, 45kgX3, 50kgX1
Pull downs: 45kg 4X8
Reverse grip curls: 22.5kg 4X8

Friday:
Deadlift: 120kgX5, 135kgX3, 150kgX1
Glute ham raise: bodyweight 4x8
Farmer’s walks

Saturday:
Bench: I didn’t bench for a long while, about 5/6 months, so having gone back to this, I have greatly improved my technique (mainly due to “So you think you can bench?”) and have started doing it Strong Lifts style. My best bench so far has been 60kg 5X5.
Inverted rows: 4X8 bodyweight
Overhead shrugs: 45kg 4X8

I have APPALLING hamstring flexibility, so on my good mornings, I have a very small ROM, but I am going as far as I can.

Thanks for the help guys, greatly appreciated.

exercise selection is soild (if a little sparse, short on time?)
Definetly work on improving your flexibility - there is an artilce on here called ‘3rd world squat’ and ‘neanderthal no more’ which will really help you

Excellent. Just read “3rd World Squat”, and I already try and do that whenever I can. Just started on “Neanderthal No More”, so I’ll see what that says. What other exercises would you recommend then? I want to add in some complexes at the end of training too.

I’d work on getting your elbows under the bar, because from what I can see, and what I also am guilty of, is once the drive stops from the legs, the elbows flare, pushing the chest down resulting in the failed rep.

Drive those elbows down and forward and that should help.

Getting a stronger back never hurt anyone either. Helps with everything. Your squat, bench, deadlift and OHP.

I’ll also add, watching that video frame by frame, you come down nice enough, but on the way up, your hips pop straight up, and your shoulder heigh literally doesn’t change. You’re pivoting around your shoulders. Weak back is the link!

Strengthen that back!

Obviously fix your form and your flexibility, this is paramount.

As far as your programming, you need to reset lower. You said last time you only set your training max to 5kg below the weight you failed at, that’s not low enough. I suggest you set your training max back to where it will take 5 or 6 cycles to get back to where it is now.

For example, if your training max now is 280 (265 is 95%) then reset it to 220 or 230. By the time you get it back to 280, you will blow it out of the water.

I suggest this for any time you reset, not just in this example. So if your press stalls at a training max of 140, set it back to 110 or 115, etc

On 531, if you use 100kg as your true 1rm, the programme uses 90kg as your 1rm, so when i set it to 115kg last time, it was going off lower than that. But yeah, I got back up to this weight pretty quick, so I’ll reset even lower.

After reading “3rd World Squat”, I spent even more time dropped down in the squat position. When I stood up, i noticed that my hips were rising and my back was, as you say, just staying still. Front squats should help with this I think. If it’s happening with no weight, then what chance do i have with a lot of weight? Trying to get my back stronger anyway. My upper body seems to grow WAY slower than my legs, annoyingly.

My question is what are you doing other than the 5/3/1? Do you train squat twice a week? What kind of assistance work do you do? I found when I did more volume work on squat (sets of 10), I gained the muscle in my hips and back to better keep my shoulders up instead of just my hips shooting. The high rep range ensures using weight that you can properly support, but provides enough time under tension for growth.

This is my typical squat week:
Monday:

  • 3 x 10 (5lb jumps in 4 week waves)
  • sled work (push/slow backpedal, glute-ham walks)

Thursday:

  • 5/3/1
  • 10 x 1 speed reps (around 70%)
  • 2 x 10 squat just for some extra volume–close to the same weight as my speed reps

I listed all my training a few posts earlier, but squat wise I’m going to start doing front squats, 4X8, and carry on with good mornings 4X8.

How can we critique a squat you didn’t even finish?

Based on what I seen, stop running out the rack, I’ve never seen someone unrack so fast.

But other than that I can’t give you tips, cause you had too much weight on it. You went down, looked decent depth, started to come up, chest collapsed,back rounded, failed lift, because you aren’t strong enough.

You failed the rep cause you aren’t strong enough to lift the weight. Drop the weight down, do your program, work on form and mobility, eat a lot, rest well and work hard.

Maybe just switch programs 6 months is a decent run…

Isn’t the point of 531 that it can be run indefinitely? Or is it worth having a break and coming back to it later. I really like the freedom it gives you.

I disagree that it’s entirely a strength issue Big Red, I think there is a technique fault in there too. Not saying I’m strong, clearly I’m not (yet), but I think that my hips rising first and chest staying where it is is a hinderance.

[quote]caveman101 wrote:
exercise selection is soild (if a little sparse, short on time?)
Definetly work on improving your flexibility - there is an artilce on here called ‘3rd world squat’ and ‘neanderthal no more’ which will really help you [/quote]

Great advice here. Also on the front squats as assistance. I’ll second the question about sparse assistance- what gives here?

Tim, BigRed isn’t all wrong. I think the problem is that strength is a very subjective thing around these forums. You do need to get stronger. However, I think you’re probably capable of that weight if you clean up your form and reset lower, as other posters have suggested.

Consider slowly adding in some more assistance- especially for lats, hamstrings and low back (DB rows, any of a hundred good-morning variations, dimel deadlifts, romanian deadlifts- there are all kinds of resources out there for what assistance to do for the big three).

Also, while I don’t want to get into a huge diet discussion- sometimes the best way to hit a weight you’ve been missing is to just gain five, ten pounds. It’s always an option. But again, I think the biggest thing you can take away from this is that your form has a few things that can use some attention.

I could tell you weren’t gonna get it from the moment you walked it out. You were already hunching forward under the weight before you even started the descent. Pull the living hell out of the bar down towards the ground and activate your lats and your entire upperback and come out of the rack owning the weight.

It would also be good if you could post videos of full squats with lighter loads so we can see how you finish the lift when you get it.

Summary: KEEP TIGHT!