T Nation

Tight QLs from High Frequency Squatting


Hi CT and all the others..

I just finished the 6 week HP Mass program and over the course of the last two weeks I have developed some lower back issues.

It hurts every time I bend forward in my lumbar area and especially after squats.
It was really hard to finish my deadlifts after squatting since my power is noticeably decreased with that kind of pain.

My PT says that 3x squatting per week simply overstresses my quadratus lumborum, which are really really tight right now.

My question is: Since you are in favor of high frequency lifting and I remember you saying you squatted daily for years - do you have any experience with that problem and more importantly can you give me any advice on how to deal with it.

PS: I squat high bar and well below parallel, but just as deep as I can without butt winking.


Personally I haven't had that issue. But a friend of mine who competed at the international level had it and he actually all but stopped squatting for a year... he was "lucky" that he had ample leg strength and was able to maintain his performance on the olympic lifts.

I used to be pretty dumb about mobility work. I started doing more when I went to Dave Tate's place and saw these guys do at least 30-45 minutes of mobility work before their training. I now do more and wish I'd done it sooner in my career.


I can hopefully give you a couple of things to try - speaking as a very dysfunctional person that's had to learn to fix themselves!!

I don't buy your PT's reasoning (I got told this all the time). A well functionally body can cope with pretty much whatever you throw at it provided you build up to it gradually. The PT's job is to fix any unbalances - not just tell you to cut back on training. That's a cop out.

Trigger points in the QL can cause pain. It's pretty easy to resolve with self-massage:


However, most of the time, if a muscle is tight and forming trigger points it's for a reason. It usually means there's something wrong elsewhere.

I've become a big fan of NeuroKinetic Therapy (if you're on fb look them up and follow their page as they regularly post up really useful stuff). Their view is that muscles tend to get tight and painful because another muscle elsewhere is inhibited. You can stretch the tight muscle until the cows come home - it'll stay tight. But find the inhibited muscle and re-activate it and the tight muscle will let go. I found this video from NKT that talks about a possible scenario where the QL is tight and painful because it's compensating for an inhibited Traverse Abdominis and Psoas.

This is of course just one scenario that could lead to QL tightness - there will be others.

If you can figure out what's inhibited then it's a very quick fix as it's a neural problem rather than a strength problem. You just need to fire up the right firing sequences and everything resets itself. A good approach is to find out all the synergists of the QL and test them for weakness. Test antagonists too. The problem usually isn't where you feel the pain.

Just some stuff that might give you some clues. Good luck :slight_smile:


A whole lot of this. I have lumbar pain, too, and find that when I stretch my hips and hamstrings, the pain subsides. I've been doing what's called a "half pigeon" in yoga, and I swear it is the deepest stretch you will ever experience in your hips. It helps, especially before/after squatting and deadlifting.

Also, CT was talking about mobility work; I literally JUST started doing some mobility work before lifting, but not enough yet to be able to tell you it's a game changer, although I'm sure it will become one.


The half pigeon is a psoas stretch (amongst other things). I think perhaps psoas is a likely culprit with QL pain/tightness.

My problems are very different - I never had back pain. However, the psoas was the culprit with me too. I knew it was tight and I used to spend so much time stretching it with very little success. Then I realised it was tight because it was inactive and weak. It wasn't until I started activating and strengthening that my problems started to clear up properly.

A really good technique I found for activating the psoas is to lie on your back, feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Place the palms of your hands low down on your abdomen - so beneath your belly button. Imagine a pully in your belly - underneath your hands. And a chord running to your knee. The chord is loose and sagging. Imagine the pully rotating and tightening the chord - then lift the foot off the floor. This should help ensure that it's the psoas that activates and lifts you knee rather than the rec fem/TFL etc. Because of the amount of sitting we do a lazy psoas isn't uncommon - our rec fem and TFL tend to take over from it. The psoas won't be keen to stretch out if it's weak and lazy.

I can never really get my head around what the role of the psoas is with squatting, but I know it is significant. I would imagine that if the psoas wasn't doing it's job properly during a squat (either because it's tight OR weak) then the QL would go into overdrive trying to take up the slack and stabilise you??

But I repeat - this is all just from my own experiences. I'm no expert ! :slightly_smiling:


Wow thank you so much for giving such in-depth answers guys I really appreciate it.

Now my PT didn't say I should stop squatting (he's competing in powerlifting)
What he did say was that I also have tight piriformis and my hip external rotators in general are are a pain in the ass to stretch and massage.

The funny thing is I already spend about 90 minutes per week stretching and foam rolling so in general my mobility and flexibility is good (e.g. I can put my hands flat on the floor while standing with me legs straight)
What I noticed is that I can relief the pain by stretching my upper hamstrings and the piriformis combined with a few minutes in the scorpion stretch position.
But the next morning or after training all the pain is there again...


I will have to do some research on the psoas since they never really interested me
Therefore I never paid attention to them (maybe a big mistake)


Piriformis is another muscle affected by the psoas - psoas, piriformis and QL often get messed up together. So definitely look into psoas activation - especially as you've been stretching and only getting temporary results.

You probably don't need the more complicated psoas activation drill I mentioned earlier (although it probably helps for fine control). I needed that because my psoas was SO determined not to fire. For most people, just put your foot on a bench so the angle at your hip is 90 degrees then lift your knee. Psoas is the only hip flexor that can fire above 90 degrees. That'll activate and strengthen if you load it. You'd want to do this ALWAYS before squatting - or any training really. Also in the morning when you get up and as often as you can throughout the day. Especially if you have a job where you do a lot of sitting.

And of course - the other thing would be to massage the QL as described in the other article I linked to.

It's not going to do any harm to try this and it may just fix the problem.


Thank you so much for the info.
I will definitely give you an update on how things develop.

Unfortunately I'm on holiday until next monday
Until then I will keep stretching every now and then when I find the time (city trips can be really stressfull :slightly_smiling: )
Maybe one week without training will help too