Why Squats Are Killing Your Lower Back

squats-exercise5 Reasons Why Squats Are Killing Your Lower Back

Try finding a Squatter who has never experienced lower back pain at least once during his Squatting career. There was a time where I had to stop doing Squats completely for several months because I couldn’t do them painlessly anymore – too much sitting was my culprit. Maybe that sounds familiar to you.

Fast forward today and I’m not only 100% free of lower back pain, I also Squat 400lb raw at 165lb bw. From my personal and coaching experience, here are 5 reasons why Squats might kill your lower back, and what to do about it.


1. The Bar Is Too High.
When you Squat high bar don’t try to sit back like when Squatting low bar. This is a guaranteed way to stress your lower back because the barbell is too far away from your body’s center of gravity. Either Squat high bar and keep your torso upright, or put the bar lower and sit back.

I am NOT against high bar Olympic Squats, but when you’re doing StrongLifts 5×5 I recommend you to Squat low bar because that gives you much better leverage (you’ll lift more weight, and thus gain more muscle/lose more fat)


2. You’re Squatting Too Deep.
First, you can not Squat “ass-to-grass” low bar or your lower back will round at the bottom – you need the high bar position for that. Next, if you’re going to Squat rock bottom with the high bar position, then make sure you’re flexible enough for that otherwise your lower back will round at the bottom, and this will hurt once you’re Squatting weights heavy enough.

The fact is that most guys do not have the hip flexibility to Squat “ass-to-grass” because they’re too sedentary (not your fault, I’m also a desk jockey). That’s why I advise you to Squat low bar and stop when you hit parallel. It’s safe on your knees, safer on your lower back, and you’ll Squat more weight.


3. You’re Not Staying Tight.
So you’re not Squatting too deep, but your lower back is still rounding at the bottom, now what? Well make sure you’re not losing tension in the bottom of the Squat. Here’s how to stay tight:

  • Tilt your tailbone back – Squat down by sitting back with your hips, and keep your lower back tight by pushing your tailbone towards to ceiling.
  • Pinch your psoas – this will automatically pull your lower back straight, pinch the muscle between your belly and your upper-thighs.
  • Tighten your upper-back – you can’t keep your lower back tight if your upper-back is loose. Lift your chest and keep your shoulder-blades tight.

Be warned, this position will not feel that comfortable if your hips are all tight from sitting a lot. Just keep practicing, you’ll quickly improve if you stick with it.


4. You’re Not Using Your Glutes.
If you’re a desk jockey like me, you’ll tend to Squat with your lower back too arched. But hyperextending your lower back is as bad as rounding it at the bottom. One trick to keep your lower back neutral is to engage your glutes when you Squat. Here’s how:

  • Push your knees out – make sure your stance is at least shoulder-width and then rotate your hips outwards as you Squat.
  • Grab the floor with your feet – this creates a hollow in your feet and allows you to push your knees out better (wear the right shoes).
  • Stand tall – finish the lockout portion of all your Squats by moving your hips forward and contracting your glutes hard.


5. You’re Not Using Your Abs.
Never Squat with your belly pulled in to activate your TVA like some of those idiot personal trainers will tell you to do. This is a guaranteed way to suffer a hernia because your lower back will round.

You should always take a big breath before you Squat, fill your belly with air, and then push your abs out. This increases pressure in your belly, adds support to your lower back, and will automatically boost your Squat.

One trick to learn how to use your abs correctly is to wear a powerlifting belt when you Squat. Wear it one notch loose, pull air into your belly and then Squat while pushing your abs against the belt. I own the Inzer Forever Belt 10mm single prong and highly recommend it (no affiliate link, not paid to say this).

It should be clear that if your lower back hurts on Squats, it is almost always a problem of technique, not of the exercise. Don’t be one of those Squats-hurt-my-back-whiners. Tape yourself, fix your technique and pass on the word.

More info at: http://stronglifts.com/squats-exercise-lower-back-pain/

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Author: gertlouw

In the deepest south of South Africa you will find me. Dwelling in the most beautiful city in the world, Cape Town. I live close to God and try to follow in the footsteps of Christ as led the Holy Spirit. Other passions include Karate and Judo and wrestling (and off course surfing for many years). Karate I did for many years, Judo 4 yrs and for a short period kickboxing until I was knocked silly one time with blood all over and teeth protruding through my lip, but if I have to choose over, I would choose wrestling…simply because of the brutal power against power game with your opponent. Love it. Love my home theatre hobby, my youtube channel and spending time with family! And off course me and my son's new adventure https://mediax.photography ...and love flying my drone - DJI Phantom 4 Pro For those interested, this blog is my database of all my fitness and transformation knowledge. And NO (!) I am not getting any money for it and neither do I promote anything on it or getting sponsored by anybody. My blog is simply where I want to help other guys living a healthier life and become the best they can be, inside and out and ultimately it is my legacy I want to leave my one and only son – now 13 y/o and already eager to get his 6-pack! So donations very welcome! Just click the donation button... I started my healthy living after a very close call with death at age 40. After much hardship one of my main aims now is to assist other guys with healthy living and transforming themselves inside and out. I don’t know how much grace will still be given me, but I live now every moment to be the best I can be. To be the best bodybuilder I can be, the best father, best husband and best friend to those whom my paths crosses. I want to live a life worth living and not just do what excites me or pleases me. Feel free to contact me directly if you wish. Reading this far, the last bit important info on me you need to know, is that my anchor in life is Jesus Christ. Please bear in mind, English is my 2nd language and as a result their might be spelling, grammatical and other language errors in my blog – I do apologise for this! Wish you all many blessings. Gert Louw

4 thoughts on “Why Squats Are Killing Your Lower Back

  1. Admiring the time and energy you put into your site and in depth information you offer. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same old rehashed information. Fantastic read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  2. Great article and advice as well as perfect timing as I find myself easing back into a more fit lifestyle!

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