T Nation

Struggling to Gain Strength/Mass. Squat Form?

So here’s my quick background:

I’m 6’3" and weigh between 173-175. For the past three months I have been averaging ~4,000 calories per day, yet have not gained a single pound. Prior to the past six months, I competitively ran for 2.5 years and weighed just under 165 for that time. However, once I decided to leave running behind and return to my high school football weight of 190, I began weight-lifting again. I quickly got up to 173 pounds and have totally stalled here. It doesn’t make sense to me that I can be eating app. 4,000 calories a day and not gain weight. I don’t run anymore, besides maybe once or twice a week where I do a 1-2 miles trail run/hike.

I am currently using the starting strength program, yet I have stalled several times at 210 on squats, and 220 on bench. I have always had a relatively strong upper body, and a relatively weak lower body. What gives? How can I bust through this plateau of no weight gain and stalling on squat and bench?

I have posted a video of my squat form. It was tough for me to get a quality video because of the small dimensions of my home gym, but I think I’ll still be able to get some critique from the well-versed here on this forum. What do you guys think? Don’t hold back on the criticism.

Notice how your heels begin to come off the ground as you go into your reps? And how you have your knees going over your feet as you go into the hole? Not good.

The heels coming off suggests that you don’t have necessary flexibility. You should be driving your power down from your heel when you come up from the squat. This could also be from your height though; not sure.

You can have knees cross your feet as you descend into the hole, but they should return to being not over your feet once you actually go into the hole; otherwise you’ll be putting a lot of bad pressure onto them. Unless you’re really tall and/or have long femurs. In that case, squatting is not something you should be doing repeatedly. You happen to be really tall, so squatting may not be something you should be doing repeatedly.

In short, your great height makes squatting possibly an exercise you should take it slow on. Your inability to progress likely comes from being tall.

How’s the rest of your SS lifts looking? The rows? The deadlift?

I decided to go with cleans instead of the rows. I’m up to 145 pounds on cleans and they’re still pretty easy, so I don’t feel that I am going to stall anytime soon on power cleans. On deadlift I am up to 225. I still feel I should be able to linearly progress there for a while as well. It’s difficult, but I am able to maintain form and not kill myself by rep five.

With my height in mind, how would you go about your training, then? I have always felt that my height played against me in squats. In high school I maxed out at 300 while several of my teammates had max squats that were 50-200 pounds heavier than mine, yet I could still pound them on the field :wink:

^please refer to magick’s training experience, age, and size, before you make a judgement on his advice.

Saying that tall people shouldn’t squat is flat-out ridiculous.

Your heels barely came up at all. More experience and focus on this issue should be enough. At the very least, it’s hard to imagine that this would have you stalled at a 210 squat.

You also didn’t mention knee pain or injuries, so I’m not sure why magick immediately to “you shouldn’t squat.”

I wholeheartedly disagree that your height has anything to do with your lack of progression. 210 is just way too early to stall from form issues. Your diet is much more likely to be the problem.

You weren’t specific about where your calories are coming from, so that could certainly be one issue as to why you’re not building muscle. 4000 calories of cheeto’s will not create a great physique. What does your protein intake look like? How about quality fat?

If it turns out you are getting good food in you, there are still 2 more possibilities. 1 is that you’re overestimating your caloric intake. It’s really easy to do. 2 is that 4000 just isn’t enough for you. If you’re not growing, eat more. Don’t just throw your hands up and say, “4000 should be enough to gain weight, guess I’m just maxed out.”

The fact that you’ve stalled on 2 distinct lifts at about the same time is a very good indicator that you aren’t eating enough.

Cliff notes: EAT MOAR PROTEINZ

Also: I just re-read your post and you said you were 190 at one point? Have you considered what you were doing differently then? With your diet and otherwise?

Here’s a pretty simple rule for anyone looking to gain weight that isn’t. Eat more. Sure you may already be eating a lot, but a lot might not be enough depending on a lot of factors.

Start eating 500 more calories a day for this month, track your weight the whole time. If you don’t start gaining weight, add 500 more for the next month. Repeat until you gain weight.

I’m very food conscious. All my calories are from quality food, mostly organic. I average 175-200g of protein a day. I get tons of good fat: grass-fed butter, coconut oil, red meat, all the good stuff. I drink a half-gallon of whole milk a day. The one thing I think I did differently in high school is eat a far larger amount of my calories from carbohydrates. I no longer eat wheat products, though, so most of my carbs are coming from potatoes, fruits and veggies.

My problem with eating more is that I don’t have the appetite to do so. I think that’s what frustrates me the most. I struggle to get down 4,000 calories a day, and when I see no gains from eating this much, it gets hard to justify eating even more. However, I guess I could give the eat more suggestion a go. Perhaps more heavy whipping cream :).

And I was skeptical about the comment on my height, as well as my heels coming up after I watched the video.

Who else has feedback on my form?

Oh, and no knee pain/injuries.

Edit: my macro breakdown is around 50:30:20 fat:carbs:protein.

It looks like you’re not pushing your knees over your feet (or keeping them in line with your feet) You can tell since the outside edges of your feet are raising up as you go down.

Also, up that half gallon to a full gallon of WHOLE milk… I made some crazy gains doing that.

Something that has helped me for the past few weeks (I’m doing SS as well, it seems like I might be a couple weeks ahead of you) is an hour of mobility on rest days - I get really bored not working out every day and the extra mobility helps.

the idea of drinking coffee before a workout sounds like it will work… I know caffeine before a run can really shave off seconds

Agree with the gallon of whole milk suggestion
With a dozen whole eggs
I do this 5 days a week when I want to gain weight
Simple easy and effective

I’m 6’3".

I back squat, front squat, hack squat, sissy squat. Hell I’ve done pender and goblet squats.

I have used 10lbs plates under the heels (mostly for front squat).

I used SL 5x5 to get accustomed to a wider stance back squat.

I use a belt for the last set.

I never use the pussy pad.

I weight 235lbs. No idea what my bf is, right now, don’t care (injuries are a bitch).

At 47 years old, I consume a minimum of 3500 calories a day. I imagine I was well over 4500 in my youngers days (I went up to 245, with around 15% BF, sorry, no photos, it was a longgggg time ago.)

What did you eat yesterday>

I had a 6 egg burrito (spinach, cheese, peppers and hot sauce)
4 toasts with PB and a whey shake.
Peri work out stuff (600 calories).
12" sub (turkey, mayo, veggies) with litre of chocolate milk.
1/2 chicken with two cups of broccoli in a butter cheese sauce.

Wasn’t sure if I had enough, so I had a shake with PB before bed.

Just so you know.

Eat more and squat.

Cheers

Check out the app MyFitnessPal, it’s percentages for what I should be eating aren’t for my goals so I don’t pay attention to it but it still keeps track of your P/C/F so I really like it.

On your squat form: You seem to break at the knees first. Try breaking at the hips first and sitting back more.

The parallax of the moving camera makes it impossible to get a sure reference point, but it definitely seems that the bar moves forward as you go into the hole. You want the bar to go straight up and down. This should be solved by sitting back more. This will also make your knees stay back more and keep your shins more perpendicular to the ground. Make sure you are pushing through your heels.

The comments about diet, particularly about eating more protein, are right on.

move on to a different progam. -people often run into a brickwall like this with SS

OP - your form needs a bit of cleaning up (a better angle for a video would help), but it looks like a pair of Oly shoes would suit your movement

Struggling to gain weight means either under eating or over training, usually because of a fear of becoming fat. Like has been said, eat more carbs especially pre and post workout and monitor cals in. if the scales arent going up eat more until they do, because they will!!

Flipcollar- I actually wrote that he shouldn’t squat frequently, not that he shouldn’t squat at all.

I personally think form can screw with gains more than eating and weight. I was stuck at 155 for awhile until I realized my form sucks. I fixed it and made a 50lb gain in a month a half or so.

If eating and weight mattered so much, then you wouldn’t have 137lb ladies deadlift 518 or 150lb guys squat 400+. Size=/=strength. Conversely, strength=/=size. I’d be idiotic to write that eating isn’t important, but I’m not sure whether it’s necessary to emphasize eating so much when people make strength gains while not always eating at a great surplus. Perhaps not optimal, but that is something else entirely.

In any case, I think I saw form issues, most particularly with the knees over the feet. Everything I’ve read, and I’ve read a fair bit because lifting and it supposed dangers terrified me and I wanted as much info as I could get to lift safely, says that could lead to danger. I could be wrong. I understand now why Chris tries to avoid form critiques based on videos-angles really determine a lot of what you can tell. I never claimed to be a trainer and I try to only post in threads that have 50+ views and not a single reply so that the TS feels that someone is trying to help and hopefully get the balls rolling one way or another.

If you’re a really tall guy and squat with impeccable form, then squat as much as you want! Otherwise, focus on form before the weight. I thought this advice applied for virtually everyone?

[quote]magick wrote:
Flipcollar- I actually wrote that he shouldn’t squat frequently, not that he shouldn’t squat at all.

I personally think form can screw with gains more than eating and weight. I was stuck at 155 for awhile until I realized my form sucks. I fixed it and made a 50lb gain in a month a half or so.

If eating and weight mattered so much, then you wouldn’t have 137lb ladies deadlift 518 or 150lb guys squat 400+. Size=/=strength. Conversely, strength=/=size. I’d be idiotic to write that eating isn’t important, but I’m not sure whether it’s necessary to emphasize eating so much when people make strength gains while not always eating at a great surplus. Perhaps not optimal, but that is something else entirely.

In any case, I think I saw form issues, most particularly with the knees over the feet. Everything I’ve read, and I’ve read a fair bit because lifting and it supposed dangers terrified me and I wanted as much info as I could get to lift safely, says that could lead to danger. I could be wrong. I understand now why Chris tries to avoid form critiques based on videos-angles really determine a lot of what you can tell. I never claimed to be a trainer and I try to only post in threads that have 50+ views and not a single reply so that the TS feels that someone is trying to help and hopefully get the balls rolling one way or another.

If you’re a really tall guy and squat with impeccable form, then squat as much as you want! Otherwise, focus on form before the weight. I thought this advice applied for virtually everyone?[/quote]

My main point was that his form isn’t bad in the first place. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough that it isn’t the reason he’s stalled. I’m very convinced of that.

Can 150lb guys squat 400+? Of course. If they’re 5’6. Spouting off weights and lifts means little to nothing without accounting for height. At his height and weight, he will not squat more than 300 lbs. I would bet my life savings on it. So IN THIS CASE, the OP needs to gain weight to squat more. Strength and size are not equal, but they’re related. And size CAN be a limiting factor. OP may not need to eat at a GREAT surplus, but he does need to eat more than he’s eating now.

[quote]Future_pb_dr wrote:
So here’s my quick background:

I’m 6’3" and weigh between 173-175. For the past three months I have been averaging ~4,000 calories per day, yet have not gained a single pound. Prior to the past six months, I competitively ran for 2.5 years and weighed just under 165 for that time. However, once I decided to leave running behind and return to my high school football weight of 190, I began weight-lifting again. I quickly got up to 173 pounds and have totally stalled here. It doesn’t make sense to me that I can be eating app. 4,000 calories a day and not gain weight. I don’t run anymore, besides maybe once or twice a week where I do a 1-2 miles trail run/hike.

I am currently using the starting strength program, yet I have stalled several times at 210 on squats, and 220 on bench. I have always had a relatively strong upper body, and a relatively weak lower body. What gives? How can I bust through this plateau of no weight gain and stalling on squat and bench?

I have posted a video of my squat form. It was tough for me to get a quality video because of the small dimensions of my home gym, but I think I’ll still be able to get some critique from the well-versed here on this forum. What do you guys think? Don’t hold back on the criticism. [/quote]

Why not try going well above 4000c.

Wayne

OLY SHOES. I strongly believe would help you greatly as well performing wall squats before every squat session and ankle and hip mobility on any and all off days. I agree with flip your form is not horrible could use some work espeacially need some focus on your hams and glutes but, wouldn’t take a crap load of work to fix. I honestly think the shoes could almost fix it instantly minus staying abit more upright in the hole. That’s where the wall squats and mobility come in.

Wall Squat- stand a bout 6-8 inches away from a wall or vertical beam. Initiate the lift by breaking at the hips just slightly and then begin to break at knees while pushing your knees out hard. Go to desired depth and explode back up. If you allow your weight to transfer to your toes or bend at the waist to soon you will drag your face into the wall and you’ll only do that once or twice before you decide to squat properly.

As for weight gain if your not gaining about atleast a easy pound a month on morning weight your not eating enough. I don’t reccomend eating so much you become a blob but to get strong you kinda need to atleast be open to the idea of your abs some what going away temporarily. Eat more food more protein. Start using a pro shake powder I usually don’t reccomend that kinda stuff but a scoop of whey with each main meal is a additional 100g of protein a day and 400+ calories a day. Plus if your not buying all the other shit a protein powder is raeally not gonna break your bank to bad. Also eat a high protein high fat meal before bed I use a 5g per hour of casien protein and about the same of fat before bed. So a some tub of Cottage Cheese mixed with peanut butter or almonds works perfectly for me.

Just two cents from a little guy just to clarify abit

21years old
5’7"
220lbs
About 15ish% bodyfat don’t think quite that high but would rather over shoot than be a liar.
365 front Squat
565 Strapped In Deadlift in competition
280 Strongman Log Press

All done with in the past month.

I don’t think I can add much here, sounds like you’ve got some good advice. But I’m also on SS and I noticed a couple of form points which SS describes differently to how you are doing it.

First, you are looking up throughout the squat, although Rippetoe advises against this. A small point, but a point all the same. And second, although I can’t see clearly, it looks like you have the bar almost resting on your neck. Apologies if I have mis-seen this, but if I’m right then the combination of having the bar so high and you looking up may cause you to be going forward as one or two people seem to think you are doing. This would bring the main work onto the quads rather than the posterior chain which might explain your lack of progress.

I’m fairly new to SS so I don’t pretend to know anything more than what I have read in the book and seen in the DVDs, so I’d suggest going back to them and reviewing the squat. Also try posting a vid in the SS forum. Although I’d try and get one that is a bit clearer.

As for food, I totally agree with what everyone here has said. And if you can’t eat more then go for that full gallon of milk. Perhaps take a look at some mass or protein supps? I don’t take them myself but I’m 6’3", 230lbs and can easily (and quite happily) take on 6000+ kcals a day - and I’m a vegetarian!

Good luck with it.