T Nation

Various Questions on Squats


So after the last ten months of just googling shit I finally decided to sign up here, since I would read a lot of TNation forums that I found during my Googling, anyway.

This might be a bit long, and I have some random questions/thoughts. So any input or answers anyone feels like sharing, that would be fantastic.

Okay, so. I've been squatting for less than a year now. I take a moderate stance and just recently sucked it up and widened my grip out after the bar was uneven and this was the only thing that seemed to fix it. Ive been squatting 185-205 for the last two months. I actually maxed out with 235 one day like four months ago, but pushed it too far that day and did too many sets and got stapled to the floor after my legs were dead tired and my knees buckled in, injuring my lower back and putting me out of the gym for a good month. That brought me back down to 185. It seems that before I injured myself, my squat kept going up at least 5-10 lbs a WEEK. Now, I feel like my squat isn't going anywhere. I'm obsessed with my technique, and try to keep a tight arch in my back, my chest out (the wide grip seems to help that), wear chuck taylors, go as deep as I can for a wide stance, keep my head back/look up (not like, excessively back), you know. But I feel like my squat hasn't gone up (although I have hit 215, but then next session [1 to 2 days later] i unrack 185 and holy crap it feels heavy as shit, and im like WTF).

Also, sometimes I feel like I need to narrow my stance, but I like the 'equalizing' of the posterior chain that wide stance seems to offer. Plus, once I narrow my stance up, I feel like my legs get in the way and I cant go down as low (maybe because I lean forward because i have a mid bar placement on my back?) AND it pisses, PISSES me off how I always see people ragging on ANYONE who doesn't go ass to grass, yet I don't feel that they really understand what is considered deep for a moderate/wide stance squat. To be completely honest, I'm not sure I really understand what is considered deep for a wide stance squat, since Ive seen (what looks very painful) some LOW ass wide stances online, and it looking at those pain inducing 6 inches from the floor WIDE STANCES makes me feel like I'm not even doing a full half squat. My gym placed the squat rack right in front of the mirror, and I unrack the bar and walk forward so I can look up at the ceiling, instead of un racking the bar normally, and just staring at the mirror like everyone else. I usually get some weird looks for doing it 'backward'. (Ive found that not being in front of the mirror helps me keep my gaze focused upwards). Any thoughts on this?

I've also recently started front squatting to bring my quads up to par, and I have to say, oh-la-la. Shit hurts, but shit feels good.



Well, I am not quite sure what specific questions you had. lots of thoughts, not a bad thing, but not too much in the way of.specific questions. Would you care to post some of the core questions that are bothering you?


Well yeah that was a bit jumbly, I suppose. From what I posted I was just wondering how I could bring my squat up, and basically for any thoughts you have based on the things I do, and what you would suggest regarding them.

I was wondering if my moderate stance is really doing anything for me. I wish I had a video to post.

Also, do you think a wider stance recruits the whole posterior chain more than a narrow stance? (Im really into building the whole posterior chain: Glutes, hammies and quads)

Do you think the ability to lift more weight with a wider stance balances out its smaller ROM?

Any tips from anybody on squatting? I've researched so much in the last year about squats, raging from styles, stances (wide to narrow), grip, depth, shoes, reps, speed, etc. But I realized i failed to get on a forum where I can TALK to people who actually lift (since I don't go around my gym giving out questionnaires) and I guess I am just looking for anything else on top of answers to my questions, like how people squat, why they use the style, grip, depth they use, etc.

Id just like to know what works for people, if they feel like sharing. I know I am considered a newbie, as Ive only been lifting a year, but holy shit weren't y'all noobs once too? Help a sister out! :slight_smile:

These are some websites I've discovered throughout the months that I've thought were really informative.

Of course, T-Nation's.


There's a few more really good articles that I cant find the web address to right now, I know I have them stored away somewhere.


A video would help clear things up a lot. You will get a ton more help and better help with one. If you don't want people to know who you are then just wear a hood or something.

The best placement for the camera is at knee level. A side view will tell us if your leaning too much and caving your back and if you're actually reaching depth. A vid from the front or back will tell us more about if your knees are caving in and a view inbetween is more of a compromise.

If your a beginner, I wouldn't trust your perception of what you think is going on with your squat too much. Ideally, you'll have knowledgeable PLers with good form IRL coach your squat. Short of that, videos on forums like these will be good.


I gotcha. I'll get back later when I'm on my computer then to post some thoughts. that's a great article though...really thorough.


Check out the "So you think you can squat" video series at www.elitefts.com. So much really is stance/build specific. Regarding range of motion, in theory what you have read should be true. But leverage is a major "x" factor. Personally, I destroy my "wide stance" best with my close stance despite the improved range with the former. I use a little bit of forward lean (making sure to track my knees over my toes).

This allows me to violently drive my head back into the bar while in the hole - simultaneously keeping my backside tight and turning it into a makeshift trampoline to propel me up. This is what an actual squat suit does with much greater effect! This all generates good force out of the hole and often pushes me right through the mid range. For some reason, I get none of this "wide." FYI... Brett Contreras just put up a pretty good article addressing some of this stuff.


Yeah I've watched all the so you think you can squat videos. Also, Ive seen all of Louie Simmons ones too, not to mention all the Bret Contreras articles and Kellie (forgot her last name), who also works and trains with Bret, and numerous squat vids/ articles all over the internet.

My form basically looks like a mix between what the guy in "so you think you can squat" video preaches, and a wider stace like Simmons advocates.

It just seems like Ive been stuck in a hole for the last 3-4 months, not being able to move up past 185 (although ill max out on every workout at 205 or 215) I could probably do like a 1 rep max of 235, but i figure what's the point. If i cant do a set of at least three, why do one at all. But then i remember watching this video that talked about loading the bar up 40- 50 more lbs than you can normally squat and just unrack and walk out and hold the weight for ten second periods, to get your body used to the weight. Do you think this is a good idea?

Im just trying to figure out why I cant seem to get past 185. I usually obsess over technique, and keep my head back for leverage out of the hole too, even though it seems to work with my wide stance. (It's actually a moderate stance).

I force my knees out, keep a tight arch, keep my chest out, (wide/moderate grip) mid bar placement, (middle range lean) feet slightly turned out, sit back and down, stare up, go down slowly and try to explode up (which usually isnt that much explosion, especially after i get into my 4th set).

My back squat routine goes a bit like this.

After warmed up-

185- 8 reps
185- 7 reps
195- 5 reps
195- 5 reps
205- 5 reps
205 (sometimes 215, if the former feels light) 5 reps.

I usually get 30- 40 squats in, and take about 2 minutes in between each set.

Does this seem right? What are yalls sets/reps looking like? Anything you do different that you would suggest?



Fletch's suggestion to post a video is a good one. Posting video has been really helpful for me in terms of eliciting feedback.


It seems to me like you are mostly going by feel on your squat training, is this true? If so, it would probably be beneficial for you to follow a proper program instead. A few years down the line you can program yourself based on what you've found to work for you, but usually newer guys are better off using a pre-set program.

The Madcow intermediate program worked pretty well for me, and is recommended to a lot of folks, perhaps you should try it out. Takes all the thinking out of it, and lets you just go lift weights.


I only skimmed through your posts but my advice is that you should NOT listen to what Loui, Tate & co preach regarding squat form. It makes me sad whenever I read or see beginners do WIDE stance raw squats and mention Loui&co. It may work well for a very small minority of raw lifters but the overwhelming majority do it differently (multiply is different it seems). I think looking at and learning how Oly WLer squat is a great starting point for a beginner. You can always alter your form later on.


Well took me a while to get back here but hopefully I can give some helpful advice. First, we really do need a video. It is so hard to coach yourself when you are in a spot like you are that it helps if you can get some objective look from the outside. Second, this is not a weak squat for a woman so hats off to you, and third, you need to look at following a written program for your squat. The problems you write about--feeling stuck in a plateau, not going anywhere, are most usually attributable to not having the right technique, mental game, or exercises in place.

If it is technique related, videos and coaching fix that. If it is mental, that's on you. If it is exercise selection related (i.e. you are not addressing your weak points or your program is wrong on volume or frequency or whatever) then following a well-designed pre-written program will help you keep on track because the tendency is to aimlessly switch things around when you are stuck without any real pattern or plan to the changes. This isn't just you, this is everybody, even coaches--Dave Tate got John Meadows, John Berardi, and a bunch of other people to write his programs for a while because he was stuck and as he writes "a retard about training myself". If anybody knows how to coach, it's Dave. So it's not that he didn't know his stuff, but that it really helps to get an outside influence to take a look at your programming to give you a mental break from banging your head on a wall--go mindless, just follow the program :).

If you are actually hitting depth and actually have solid technique, not criticizing but there's no way to know without a video for sure, then the problem is your program is not addressing your weak points, or your volume/frequency/intensity is not matched up.

Can you write everything you do on all leg days in a week?


To the questions:

wide stance recruiting more p-chain--depends how you do it vs. a narrow squat. Typically yes.

Ability to lift more weight balancing out its shorter ROM? I'm not sure what you mean by that. The purpose of the shortened ROM is specifically to lift more weight, so from a powerlifting stance that is exactly why it is often used. Again though as others have said, the ability to lift more in one specific kind of form is dependent on body types, flexibility/mobility, and limb leverages, so the answer could be yes or no for any specific lifter. There are guys hoisting massive weights raw with wide, medium, and narrow stances. From a physique standpoint the only concern is: are you getting the development you want in the areas you want? Not the weight on the bar. The wide stance is irrelevant to your physical development.

Tips on squatting will be dependent on what we see from a video, where you break down, etc.

Your 215 for 5 reps squat is killer for a woman only lifting a year. That's why we want to see a video.

I personally have squatted both wide Louie Simmons style and narrow. I did wide for a long time, I do narrow olympic style now. I liked both. I squat the way I do now because I wanted more quad development and also--primarily--because I wanted more mobility and less knee problems. My hips were getting bound up, tight and sore, and my IT band was pulling my knee out of tracking and causing problems. I squat narrow, high bar, and with a close grip.


Louie is advocating the very wide stance you see at Westside for lifters wearing a squat suit and briefs. Matt Wenning who does the "So You Think You can Squat Videos," trained there. Unless you are wearing briefs and a squat suit, you should be listening more to Matt Wenning's video. Gear wide squatting and minimal/raw squatting are different animals.


Man, thanks everyone for the replies. I'll get to that video, asap.

My weekly routine is a bit like this. I just recently started going to the gym every other day, instead of once every two days. I felt like I was getting bored and wanted to be at the gym more often. But this has only been in the last week or so.

On one day, ill train back squats (185), and right after that, glute bridges (255-285)(These have been skyrocketing, for some reason), and back (90-100- though not freeweight).

Then I skip a day.

Following day, front squats (just started these a week ago, only hitting 135) and then quadrupled pendulum hip extensions (on smith machine, since our gym doesn't actually have the machine 85lbs) and arms at home.

So my actual workouts are split up about three days apart, even though I go every other day.

I've started looking into foam rolling too, as a warm up. I feel like my back rounds when I get really low, and I've been looking for a way to avoid this, even though I've read just about everywhere that lower back rounding at the bottom of a squat is pretty prevalent. I just want to get the most out of my squat.

I have been seeing results, but I feel like I could be seeing more.

I've been thinking about implementing a lower bar squat into my routine for a variety of reasons, more glute activation (more posterior activation!), more depth without having a lower back arch, etc.

I'll try and post a video soon.


One thing about the wide stance is that there is a lateral force on each foot-both feet push outwards to counter the pushing of the opposite foot. Wide squats can be just as good for the quads therefore because the quads are the muscles pushing the feet outwards, but the quads are much less active at the beginning of a wide squat, and more active at the finish when the knees are getting closer together. Close squats work the quads in the stretch position which is a big deal to adding thigh mass. I have gotten leg size from wide and from close in combination, but generally wide, pretty heavy, and full lockout (lots of 2s and 3s) and close lighter, and not locking out, even maybe only coming up 60%. If you can't squat below parallel close, then in my opinion it is worthless if not counter productive.

As for the posterior chain, well there are two basic close stance squat methods. One is to try to sit straight down, spreading the knees a little, but the other is the way that Fred Hatfield squatted, basically keep your knees as close together as possible, bend a lot at the waist. Your chest is almost on your knees at the bottom. The first one builds the quads, the second is basically a bent knee goodmorning variation which is a pure posterior chain movement. The first one sometimes leads to groin pulls. The second though requires that your back be very strong already.


Mertdawg since we are on the subject of locking out, what is the benefit of locking out during squatting? I've noticed how other people in the gym don't lockout on every rep, they just keep going. But to me, if I don't lock my knees on every rep, it just feels wrong. Should I not be doing this?

Also I wanted to ask, for Mertdawg or whoever else cares to respond.

I admit, I've been jumping around all over the place as far as sets/reps.

I've done 7 sets of 8 reps, I've tried the 5X5 program, which I actually liked, but felt I wasn't doing enough squats ( I try to squat till I hit 35-40 reps, or until im dead)and random other routines. Anyone have any suggestions of a written program (like has been advocated in earlier comments) or what you think I should do?

This morning I went to the gym and decided to squat outside the rack. I was actually able to get into a little wider stance that felt a lot more comfortable to me, (I have long legs and a short torso)and due to the new stance width I babied it just to make sure. First the bar, then 65, then then 85, then 135, 155, and by the time i got up to the second set of 175 holy heck I was dead!

Should I just warm up and jump right into five sets of 175-185 and work up from there? I used to just warm up and jump in at 185 and I felt like this was actually helping me, since I would be 'fresh' at 185 and not wore out from like four sets of baby weight, but I'm really not sure. Opinions on this??

Much appreciation, really. You guys have given me so much insight.


I have never noticed this at all. I would suggest people having this problem have been ignoring mobility and soft tissue work, and also dynamic warm-ups and flexibility. The rest of your post I agree with.


My advice depends on what your primary big goal for squats is--is it more weight, or is it leg development? Yes yes we all want both, but what's the one you're willing to set aside in order to accomplish the other?

If it is strength, I would suggest a westside template--you can use whatever squat form you want, doesn't matter, and I would go to a 3 rep max instead of a 1 rep max--or the Cube Method is getting good results. You could actually just google "powerlifting squat programs" lol.

I would not necessarily suggest 5x5 immediately like some will here--the reason is that if your goal is strength, AND if you're already squatting to depth with good form (we have to know first) then 225 lb for a female is a big squat and I feel like you might get more mileage out of something else. 5x5 does work well, and would probably still result in good gains to be truthful. Depends a bit more on your psychology and how often you like to squat (which seems pretty often, with back and front squats 2x a week each).

If you like frequent squatting then the 5x5 might be a good program--it is geared more towards strength and you are squatting 3x or 4x a week depending on what versions or modifications you are following.

If it's physique development, that's a different story altogether.


Aragorn, after a bit of thought, I realize the main reason I ever set foot in a gym was for physique. I'm willing to set aside 185-225 squat and squat lighter weight or whatever will help me bulk up. This is kind of weird to say on a forum but I feel too top heavy and want to equal my body out. I have seen some results, however. I guess I just assumed that lifting heavier progressively would further bulk up my butt, hamms and quads. It absolutely seems to be the case with glute bridges, as Ive reached 285 and my glutes and hamstrings seem to have taken off, but I don't wanna ditch squats.

You gave me a good program and info for strength, but just when I was about to read your physique part I realized you left that out. I'm not trying to tone, I want to build. Build build build.

I have another question though. In my first post I said that I would squat 185 and max that day at 215. But two days after that, when I unrack the 185 it feels crazy heavy, and it makes me feel like I'm not accomplishing anything. Does this ever happen to you? Where you work with a certain weight and it feels light one day, then like three days later it feels like your trying to push a train??


If you want to build leg mass (it will help the whole body, but your lower body will explode in size) and have the mental fortitude, might want to try out a 20 rep squat program. Make sure your form is good. Can do it power squat or olympic squat style.

Not for the feint of heart they are brutal but will build leg and overall body mass guaranteed. Been thinking of doing it for a month or so myself to gain some more mass back, then go back to my regular program