Frustration with Squats

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Re: Frustration with Squats

Post by crookfit » Fri Feb 09, 2007 4:33 pm

Matt Z wrote:Squats have always been a difficult exercise for me. I have good form and depth, I'm flexible, and I can squat a fair amount of weight, but for some reason this exercise always feels somewhat akward and uncomfortable, even on my lightest warmup sets. Likewise, with squats I have to concentrate very hard on maintaining proper form, while every other exercise I do is second nature.

With front squats, on the other hand, the actual squatting gets much easier, but keeping the bar in place becomes a real challange, and I find that the amount of weight I can lift is limited more by shoulder strength than it is by leg strength.

Still, I'm reluctant to give up squatting completely, since I fear that my leg development and overall strength will suffer for it.
I used to think I was back squatting properly until I bought a book called "Starting Strength" by Mark Rippetoe. He dedicates 40 pages to squat technique! I've had to read the chapter several times, but I have been making small improvements to my technique that has made the back squat much more comfortable for me.

A few things that helped me a lot:
1.) lower bar position (Just below traps) - puts less stress on your lower back when you are in the bottom of the squat.
2.) Pointing the elbows back as far as possible to support the bar. This is important with the lower bar position. As long as the elbows are back, the bar feels extremely sturdy! If the elbows come forward you start trying to “hold” the bar up with your arms. This puts stress on your wrists and leaves them aching.
3.) Holding my breath on the way down, and most of the way back up. This helps keep my body rigid and tight during the movement.
4.) Driving with my hips, and not the “legs”. This one is hard to explain, but the book did a good job of helping me understand it.

I highly recommend getting the book and identifying and correcting technique problems. It has really changed my outlook on squats. I don’t dread them nearly as much as I used to.

Good Luck!


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Post by Matt Z » Mon Feb 12, 2007 10:05 am

I don't think I have the flexibility in my shoulders for high bar squats ... at least not right now. Any suggestions for shoulder stretches?

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Post by Matt Z » Mon Feb 12, 2007 10:09 am

PS.) I tried doing the no hands variation of front squats on Thursday with an empty barbell. The bar rested directly on my windpipe, and I had to actually lean backwards slightly to keep it from rolling foreward.

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Post by TimD » Mon Feb 12, 2007 10:29 am

There are many shoulder strethes, and they are listed in the E and M directory, but what I've found is that only 2 do the trick for me. 1. Dislocates with a towel or woodn dowel or pvc. Take a towel or whatever, hold it down with a somewhat wide grip (your flexibility will determine grip width)and let it down in front of you. Keeping arms straight, lift it over your head, then lower it down behind you, then back up and down in front. 2.Overhead squats with a dowel or PVC and a snatch grip. This will loosen up just about everything.
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Post by Matt Z » Mon Feb 12, 2007 11:32 am

I tried hang snatches a few times a while back. I was actually really surprised at how easy it was to get the form down (the complete opposite of my experience with cleans). I didn't even bother with the assist lifts. I just heaved the bar upwards, dropped underneath and caught it overhead. The only problem I had was lowering the bar under control once I got it there. Not only was this akward, it also seemed to irritate my shoulders, which is why I stopped doing snatches.


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Post by Matt Z » Fri Feb 16, 2007 10:25 am

I did some very light Overhead Squats yesterday as part of my stretching routine at the end of my workout. Surprisingly, I got a pretty good pump in my quads after several sets of 10 or 12 each (I didn't rest much between sets). In fact, my quads are even slightly soar today.

PS.) I tried doing Overhead Squats with both a snatch grip and a shoulder-width grip. I noticed that I felt a little more stable with the narrower grip, althought I think the snatch grip will work a lot better as a shoulder stretch.

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Post by Matt Z » Fri Feb 16, 2007 10:48 am

The only time I felt unstable doing overhead squats was when I descended a little too quickly using a snatch grip and allowed the bar to drift a little too far backwards. However, overall I felt pretty solid with both grips.

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Post by Matt Z » Tue Feb 20, 2007 9:29 am

I did some weighted Overhead Squats on Friday with a shoulder width grip. I went up to 135 lbs for 5 reps (two sets).

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Post by TeeBee » Wed Feb 28, 2007 1:41 pm

It took me a year to finally find my proper form for the squat. It was exciting when everything finally clicked.

And yes, squats suck . . . that's why they're so good for you.

I do an okay workout on the leg press machine -- only THEN do I head over to the squat rack. I can't warm-up my legs by doing light-weight squats; they have to be pretty well warmed-up already. Being warm also helps me maintain proper form from the get-go.

I don't fuss over foot placement too much. How wide to place my feet comes naturally. I mean, I put the bar on my shoulder, back up two paces, and I'm ready to go. Basically, if it's comfortable, you're good.

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Post by Matt Z » Tue Apr 03, 2007 8:54 am

I tryed doing low-bar squats on Friday (without my Manta Ray). At first, the bar didn't feel especially secure, but once I added a little weight it settled in nicely and didn't budge. Also, it was surprisingly comfortable, even at 300 lbs, and overall the exercise felt great.

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Post by KPj » Fri Apr 06, 2007 7:38 am

I know i'm a little late on this thread, but just read through it for the first time with great interest. I have just started front squating and have got poor wrist flexibility. I don't do the arms crossed way because I feel really awkward trying to keep my chest up / out this way.

The olympic style feels natural with light weight. It didnt at first but through stretching my flexibility has improved slightly. I thought that this week it would be 100% but when I loaded up the weight I got a lot of pain in my wrists so it seems I have some more work to do before my wrists are felxible enough. I might try the wrist strap thing in the meantime. I will update this thread when/if I get the flexibility to do this.

Also, I am currently correcting imbalances which involves increasing shoulder mobility. Alot of my issues with lack of mobility in my shoulders is that I have a lot of overactive and tight muscles. Soft tissue work has had a positive effect already. other than that I do a lot of dynamic stretching and not as much, but still alot of static stretching.

Just thought the above was relevant to the thread...

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Post by TimD » Fri Apr 06, 2007 9:15 am

KPJ, here is an aricle on FS that shows a couple of methods of avoiding wrist pain (might be useful until you get your wrists flexibility back). Also keep in mind, that in the front squat, the bar is racked solidly on the shoulders, and you don't actuall grip the bar. In fact, you may on have the index and middle finger even touching it. It's not until you get to the up position that you grip the bar and set up for the press/push press/ or jerk.
http://jva.ontariostrongman.ca/FS.htm
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Post by flair » Fri Apr 06, 2007 9:23 am

Why not substitute lunges for squats? I find that I target the same muscle groups with lunges but the lunges feels much more natural to me.

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Post by KPj » Fri Apr 06, 2007 9:48 am

Thanks Tim, very interesting. Think I need to take a step back and play around with the form again. The "No Hands Front Squat" is something I will try. Seems like a good way to get my head round it.

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Post by Matt Z » Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:26 am

I did low-bar squats again on Friday. So far so good.


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