Squatting with a barbell: I fall backward or my torso bends too much forward.
February 13, 2009 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Squatting technique with barbells: I either fall backward or I bend too much forward.

I am having *exactly* the same problem as mkawa2k3 describes here:


And I mean, exactly. That includes the knee issues when he started playing with his stance. As far as I can tell, the videos don't look like me. I have the bar lower on my delts.

How can I keep my knees from hurting? How can I prevent myself from tipping over or bending forward too much?

(I want to do *this* kind of squat, if possible, because it's the most balanced version in terms of which muscles it works.)
posted by zeek321 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total)
(I've carefully read the squat chapter of Starting Strength.)
posted by zeek321 at 2:12 PM on February 13, 2009

Is there a way for you to post a video of yourself? Do you have a digital camera?

What kind of shoes are you wearing?
posted by ODiV at 2:18 PM on February 13, 2009

As Rippetoe explains in Starting Strength, keeping the chest up does not mean keeping the torso upright. You need to keep your back arched as your torso inclines forward to keep the bar over the middle of the foot. If your lower back is rounding, you need to stretch your hamstrings. I find forward leg swings work well.

Is your balance problem with an unloaded bar as that Stronglifts poster describes? Because it's totally different when you've got weight on the bar.

For what it's worth, here's me squatting 235 lbs. a few days ago, I think it shows pretty good form.

As ODiV says, taking video of yourself is immensely helpful for improving your form.

In any case, good on you for working on this, hang in there and keep at it.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:28 PM on February 13, 2009

Also, are you doing back extensions and situps to strengthen your core? How is your deadlift?
posted by ludwig_van at 2:30 PM on February 13, 2009

You should take a video of it, register at T-Nation and ask the same question there.
posted by creasy boy at 2:33 PM on February 13, 2009

Also, how much weight are you using? I know my form degrades drastically if I try to use more weight than my core can adequately control, even if my legs can more or less handle it.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:58 PM on February 13, 2009

Thanks for the tips (and video) so far, everyone.

*I'm wearing vibram fivefingers. There's nothing under my heels.

*I think my core's pretty strong. I haven't done a deadlift in quite some time, but I have decent-sized "cables" running down both sides of my spine. I used to do tons of core stuff, and I kept it up for years. (Abs/TA/Obliques, lower and upper back.)

*Bar over middle of foot (supposedly I know this, but it's so easy to forget). Thanks.

*I had crazy-tight hamstrings. I've been carefully and consistently stretching them with a comprehensive set of stretches for the past few weeks. Maybe they just need more time, and this is the key issue.

*I don't have easy access to a camera right now, but, if I'm still having trouble, I'll definitely post a video to the places recommended above.

Because it's totally different when you've got weight on the bar.

Holy crap, really? I've been "practicing my form" with the unloaded bar, but I could easily add quite a bit. If that would fix things, that would be hilarious.
posted by zeek321 at 3:02 PM on February 13, 2009

Oh, totally try it with some weight. Not a ton, but some! You could also try air squats - no bar, just try to squat down with proper form, but let your arms do whatever they need to to keep you balanced.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:58 PM on February 13, 2009

@restless_nomad -- I'll give it a shot.
posted by zeek321 at 7:00 AM on February 14, 2009

Not sure if you are still reading this but a few things that help me.

I was always told to drive through the heels, almost like you are pushing them through the floor. Well slightly forward of my heel closer to the middle of my foot. I get it in my head when I am squatting and it seems to help. I just use my toes to stabilize myself.

I second that a little bit of weight will possibly help you out. It gives you something to push up against...which sounds dumb and obvious but I think it helps stabilize you. I have a harder keeping my balance with air squats than I do with a few plates on there.

Another thing I do when I have light weight is I drape my arms over the bar, I mean way out there on the bar and just resting them there. It helps me feel the weight a bit more and forces my form to be better when I am warming up. I am taking the weight with my shoulders rather than trying to hold it with my arms.
posted by WickedPissah at 7:10 AM on February 14, 2009

Wait, are you saying you've never tried it with any weight, and you've never taken video of yourself? How do you know that you're leaning forward too much, or that your back is rounding? Sometimes you just need to stop worrying and squat. You're very unlikely to injure yourself with 85 pounds or whatever. And the best stretch for the squat is the squat itself.

I am taking the weight with my shoulders rather than trying to hold it with my arms.

That's the only correct way to do it -- wrists should be straight, as described in Starting Strength. Supporting the weight with your arms will lead to injury with heavy weights.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:19 AM on February 14, 2009

I use a manta ray when doing standard squats. I use it mostly to avoid the discomfort of the bar on my shoulders when lifting heavy, but I also think it improves my form a bit. The bar stays a lot more stable throughout the lift.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 11:31 AM on February 14, 2009

If your lower back is rounding, you need to stretch your hamstrings.

If anyone's still keeping score, here's what I think is happening.

I took a guess that it was flexibility issue with lateral hamstrings, abductors, IT-band, something in there. Even though I'm doing some pretty comprehensive stretching, it looks like something was getting missed. I'm pretty sure everything in this area needs to lengthen during the squat.

The reason I think that's the issue is because I "roll/fall backward" when I'm sitting cross-legged. I think the same thing is happening in the squat.

Here's what I've tried so far:

1. This helped the most, I think: On my back, I straightened my leg, rotated it inward so that my foot was pointing medially and moved my leg up and towards my shoulder carefully feeling for the best angle to create a stretch sensation. (I kept my toes pointing medially the whole time.) It was pretty tender and tight somewhere in the region identified above. I never held it for too long, maybe a gentle 1-3 second stretch, a few seconds of a break, and then again and again, many times, sometimes with longer breaks in between. Both legs.

2. I also spent a lot of time in a deep, deep squat, like butt almost touching the ground, knees fully hyperflexed, knees spread apart. It's very hard to keep my feet flat and not fall backwards so I tried a little bit of feet flat and some on the balls of my feet. (I've been doing gastrocnemius(sp?)/calf stretches, too.)

3. I sat on a bench and bent a knee and put my ankle on the other thigh, then I reached upward with my body to put a curve in spine, rotating my hips forward as my chest reached upwards and forwards, and then I reached off to both sides and forward and down, not letting my back round.

I played around with those three things, gently, carefully, and repeatedly for maybe half an hour. Then, with no weight/no bar, I tried carefully air squatting and it felt infinitely different and better. When I spread my knees, carefully pushing my knees out over my toes forward and laterally, it doesn't feel like my knees are getting torn apart. It was also easier to keep my back from rounding.

I'm going to give my knees a few more days to recover while I keep up this stretching routine, and we'll see if this'll do it. (Crossing my fingers! I may need to wait a couple weeks for enough flexibility to be safe.) And, maybe I'll need one or two more habit changes or changes to my stretching routine.

Thanks for jogging my thinking everyone!!
posted by zeek321 at 12:10 PM on February 16, 2009

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