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Weak Link in Squats


Alright T-Nation members i need your help. I have been a long time reader but don't post very often because the answer is usually easy to find if you just look :wink:.

Anyways i have a problem with my Back Squat, it won't go up. I swear every other lift increases at a nice and steady rate but this lift. Even my front squat has gone up a ton in the last few months. But my back squat has barely moved. My first thought was my posterior chain must be weak, but then again my Deadlift is my strongest lift (almost 2.5 times my bodyweight now) so i am lost, what could it be?

PS. I squat Ass to Grass with about (1.3times my bodyweight for 5-6 reps) if that makes a difference.


I'm no expert but here's some stuff I did when I was in a funk with my squattin'.

Access possible weak links.

Lower back

I'm a strong believer that many lifters abs aren't up to what they should be if they want to squat heavy.

If you've been doing a high rep routine, switch to a low rep routine. Or vice versa.

Recently I was on a low rep routine and I got stuck for months, so I switched it up to a higher rep progressive routine.

I dropped the pundage, did 4 sets of 8 reps and every week I added 10lbs to the bar.


How would one test to see if their abdominals are their weak link? Front Squats take a huge amount of stability but i seem to have ease in this part of the lift.

I currently use all rep ranges from 4-20 (on different days of the weak). But i do tend to put back squats on heavy day most of the time, i will definately keep this in mind!


I'm not a strength coach but one way in which I would test ab strength would be an isometric hold leg raise. You sit on the floor, legs out. You're body should resemble an L. You lift your body up a few inches off of the ground by placing your palms on the ground and doing an isometric hold. Your legs and ass are in the air a few inches and you have to retain the L shape. The longer you can hold yourself off of the ground the stronger your abs are. Anything over 30 seconds is good. Strive to hold for a minute and you're doing great. Your body will shake after a while. This is a good way to see if your abs are up to par.

Note: If you haven't been working your abs consistantly, start now because they would be a weak link if you're not keeping them up to par.

As far as what you said about your rep range 4-20, but you tend to go in the lower range for heavy squats (if I remember correctly), try doing what I did and switch to lighter weight and higher reps. It couldn't hurt!

If my isometric hold ab strength description was confusing, I'll try to find a video link for you. It's similar to a leg raise (people do these on the pullup/dip station) but you have to do it on the ground, holding yourself up and holding the position for as long as you can. I weigh 200lbs and just tested myself, I did it for 25 seconds (painful).


I'm in pretty much the same boat as you are. I have a slightly higher ATG squat (1.6x bodyweight), but I also have a 2.5x bodyweight deadlift. While I don't have any solid answers for you, here are some things that have been pointed out to me by more knowledgable people.

A big deadlift doesn't necessarily mean that you have good posterior chain strength. There are plenty of ways to deadlift incorrectly. For example, I still currently deadlift with my hips a little too high when I start. This means that I don't really use my hamstrings and am pulling mainly with my lower back. I know that technically you shouldn't be able to stiff-legged deadlift more than you deadlift, but if your hamstring strength sucks, you will. So, although you do have a good deadlift, it doesn't say whole lot about your squat unless your form is spot on.

It's also generally more useful to know what exactly goes on during a squat, since you could have a weak squat for any number of reasons. For example, when I squat close to max, I tend to tip forward and sort of "good-morning" the weight back up. I don't know exactly what this means (I'm guessing weak glutes and hamstrings again), but it'll help others if you state that. One way that I've tested for "creative technique" when squatting is first squatting with a heavy weight that I know I can do with good form. Then I squat with a weight close to my max. In an effort to get the weight up, my body will do some funky stuff. I can finish the rep, but I'll certainly know that something went wrong.

Also, as a previous poster said, it never hurts to train your abs/lower back/quads/glutes/hamstrings in order to get your squat strength up.


I think what Kir-Dog is describing is an L-sit/L-hold, which is a beginner's gymnastic floor exercise. The Crossfit folks like the exercise a lot (yeah, Crossfit and poodles, yada yada). You can check out:
It's not only a good test of ab strength, but a good ab exercise in itself.

It should be noted that this is a tough exercise! Most people I know can't even start the exercise. If that's true for you, you could try doing L-sits in a dipping station or with paralettes. This will allow your legs to drop (cheat) a little bit. Of course, if you have to do that, then as Kir-Dog points out, you probably need to work on your abs.


Good link, that's what I was talking about. I tested myself on the floor, not on the parallel bars. I'm not sure if one is harder than the other.

My dad, a great track athlete in his prime, says that he used to be able to do this for minutes with out problems. He said he could walk on water too but that one is far fetched. Regardless, he's the MAN!


I always find my quads start to cramp when I try to do L-holds... Anything I can do to prevent this?

Thinking about it now my quads cramp at any given opportunity, flexibilty issue i'm guessing, but where??

Sorry to hi-jack.


Wow those aren't easy, i can hold them for maybe 15 seconds. Will definately start trying them more. I used to not do any ab work and figured i would get a strong core from compound lifts, now i have about 5 sets of abs every 2-3 days on average, still not a lot but better than nothing.

As for the form issue, i do tend to lift with my hips a little higher if i go under 5 reps but i always though that would involve more hamstrings (due to being more similar to a SLDL). I also remember being told that you should be able to leg extension a lot less than you leg curl, well my seated leg curl is almost as high as my extension. I don't know if that means anything but thought i would put it out there.


Are you stalling on part of the squat or can you just not support the weight on your back?

If you can support the weight it's not your abs.

If you still feel it's your abs try arching your low back, it helps me support my squat weight.


You could try the article by Mike Robertson: