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Old 05-04-2007, 06:20 PM   #1
Rene Renteria
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Default Back Squat form help or suggestions

I posted this to the CF forum but am not getting many comments and would like to ask for some help here. If your form looked like this, what would you try to change?

Link to squat video (w/f s)


Iím looking for help with my form, particularly about that butt tuck I have at the bottom of the movement. Also whether my knees get too far forward, that sort of thing. I know that on the last couple of reps in the video I get a bit forward; Iím not very smooth in and out of the hole (no sniggering!). I'm also slow, both up and down.

I am wondering if my form is possibly or likely going to hurt my back. My pelvis tucks under at the bottom of my squat, which is only just below parallel. The tucking starts even before parallel. The depth in the video Iíve posted feels quite deep to me. (Itís not that deep, but thatís my perception when squatting.) In videos from the front, it seems that I do track my knees in line with my toes.

Should I be trying to increase the weight of my back squat even with these form issues? Would moving to front squats be better?

I have always been inflexible. I was doing CrossFit WODs somewhat to fairly regularly over the last couple of years and included OHS with PVC in most of my warmups, for example. But my squat ROM just does not seem to have improved. So if itís not working, I need to change something, right?

I have been doing a Starting Strength program recently, after a period of getting detrained (yet again!), to get my base strength up and then plan to add metcon back in once I reach some weight goals. Right now, Iím still barely at the ďNoviceĒ level in the book--weights for 3 sets of 5 reps: squat 190, power clean 135, bench press 150, press 85 (ugh), deadlift 265 (1 set of 5). (Iím 5í9Ē+ and between 155 and 160 lbs.; yes, Iím pretty weak.)

I now am using dynamic flexibility drills (from ďMagnificent MobilityĒ) as my warmup to see if that will help improve my ROM or at least make reaching my current ROM limits more easily. I need at least 95 lbs. on my back to force me down into the hole past parallel because of how tight I feel in the hips, hams, and ankles.

Any comments are much appreciated!

PS--Those are the TDS safety stands from New York Barbell. You can see that theyíre not very wide. I set up way to the back of them b/c I figure if I need to dump the bar, itíll be forward, not back. I havenít dumped yet.
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Old 05-04-2007, 07:52 PM   #2
Pierre Auge
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OK here's what I see:

1. you engage the lift from the knee (on the way down) - you are low bar back squatting but letting the weight drive you down by pushing the knee forward rather then engaging by pushing your butt back!

2. your stance is too narrow - its hard to tell from the angle but I can almost guarantee that if you widen your stance by 2 inches and angle your toes out a bit more then you'd like too it will allow your pelvis track more efficiently.

3. You need to allow the hamstrings to engage - I'm betting you feel the vast majority of muscular tension in the quads when lifting. If you're front squatting or Olympic Back Squatting fine, that would be the point but you aren't you need to get stronger first.

4. The posterior tilt at the bottom of the movement will almost assuredly be solved by pushing your butt back some and letting yourself lean forward more. (folding at the hip) This is a posterior chain exercise and your doing it with your quads. This is also causing you to shift the weight onto the toes.

5. From the bottom you need to drive the hips up! - When you are in the hole you need to think of pushing up against your sacrum... Think of reaching for and sliding your ass up the wall behind you. This should be a life changing experience for you because you wont even notice the weight on your back at this point until it gets REALLY heavy. This is driven from the hammies...

6. lastly you need to DRIVE your knees out (apart) as you drive your hips up - this will engage the adducters, small muscles yes but important in the proper lifting of really heavy things!

Here are my cues for you -

Initiating the movement:
Plant your heels
Push your butt to the wall behind you

Getting out of the whole:
Slide your butt up the wall behind you!
Hips forward (to lock out)

Thats it! I mentioned that this would help correct the posterior tilt, let me explain why I think this. Because I see it all the time! Your posterior tilt comes from a strength imbalance between your front and your back, NOT A FLEXIBILITY ISSUE perse. The flexibility is there, your spinal errectors are not strong enough to keep your sacrum supported in place. Your hamstrings aren't even doing anything at this point. Your glutes are tight and the psoas is getting lazy. This is causing your pelvis to roll under (posterior tilt). You need to do something that will get all of the muscles doing what they are designed to do.

The torso muscles basically have one primary job - keeping your spine intact. Or as we CrossFitters like to say midline stability. (the swing arm of your crane) Get them strong doing this properly and it wont be an issue anymore. My posterior tilt vanished almost immediately after spending some time with Rip. I in turn have been teaching these things to others in far worse condition then you and they are doing just fine...

just for reference I weigh 150
(I'm not trying to show off I have far to go myself)
BS 280
FS - no idea
Bench 195
Press 135
Clean 200
Snatch 155
DL 322

I was where you are about 2 years ago. And only marginally better about 8 months ago since then my numbers have all jumped drastically! Technique is everything...

Do that and you will be good to go! No ifs ands or buts about it you'll do well!
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Old 05-05-2007, 07:42 AM   #3
Chris Forbis
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Great stuff in that post Pierre. I'm pretty sure I have similar problems to Rene so I tried following these tips today during my back squats. Seemed to help...
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Old 05-05-2007, 09:00 AM   #4
Robert Allison
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Nice post, Pierre.

I have had some problems with the back squat as well, and have been re-reading the section in SS that deals with the squat. Your thoughts seem very much in line with that, but helped me see some things a little more clearly, Good stuff.
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Old 05-05-2007, 09:08 AM   #5
Robb Wolf
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Great post Pierre. Not much to add. Rene, just think tight! and try to minimize "wiggle" during the movement. If you have read any of Pavels stuff emulate that full body tension.
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Old 05-05-2007, 09:10 AM   #6
Elliot Royce
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I only recently realized what Pierre means by driving up with the hips. Basically I just think of moving the top of my butt straight up, and as he says, it's a very direct sensation of the hamstrings engaging.
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Old 05-05-2007, 02:41 PM   #7
Gary John
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Pushing the knees out is a big one. Pierre covered it. I started so late in life at this stuff, that the little things make the difference. Lots of RDLs and SLDLs off blocks are a good foundation for the back squat. RDLs will get you pushing the butt back as a more natural motion. I think working the hamstrings carries over to the squat.
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Old 05-05-2007, 03:23 PM   #8
Derek Simonds
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Great topic and an incredible post by Pierre. Watching the video reminds me that I need to video tape my squat form so I can check it out.
What we think, or what we know, or what we believe, is in the end, of little consequence. The only thing of consequence is what we do. -John Ruskin

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Old 05-05-2007, 04:36 PM   #9
Greg Everett
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just to add to pierre's epic post--work on some hip flexor activation drills to help actively pull yourself to the bottom--it will both improve your depth and your lordotic maintenance.

for example, lie on your back with the lumbar arch intact. bend your knees to 90 degrees, raise the thighs to vertical. have a partner hold your feet and attempty to pull your legs (straighten them) while you attempt to pull your knees to your chest. your partner should provide plenty of resistance, but should slowly allow you to get your knees to your chest. make sure not to let go of that lumbar arch in the process. throw in a couple of those immediatey before a set of squats and see what happens.

that drill from pavel t, by the way.
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Old 05-05-2007, 09:23 PM   #10
Pierre Auge
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I've got one simple rule that really works wonders:

You get good at what you do!

The only way to get really good at Squats is practicing lots of squats with little or no weight. If you can make an unladen squat/deadlift/press feel the same as when you are loaded then you are doing it right. Thats all I can say, squatting will give you the flexibility to squat - deadlifts will give you the flexibility to deadlift and pressing the same.

It goes for everything - a gymnast isn't uber mobile because he/she does tons of flexibility training. It's because their skills require it of them. Learn the skill - learn the flexbility.

My motto could be this:

Skills are not trained they are learned. We train with skills we've learned. We do not train them into being. Training is the application of skill while practice is the development.

Pavel T. has some good neuroactivation drills he uses which I really like. All the zipping techniques, strength focus and breathing skills he teaches are uber cool too!
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