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Lower Back For Higher Squat:



VIP Strength Advisor
Sep 15, 2010
Often times the difference between an elite lifter and a novice is the ability to self evaluate. Self evaluation can come in the form of evaluating technique, evaluating your training program and evaluating your needs to improve each lift.

If you are doing your own self evaluation, then you are probably using tools such as still pictures, feedback from those you trust and video. Video is the best because you can look it over hundreds of times before you see problems or points of interest.

One common problem that all lifters constantly want to improve is their forward lean in the squat. Improving your lean involves evaluating your technique and evaluating your training that may be causing your lean. Technique is important as it sets you up in the hole to stay upright. Your training program is just as important as it determines your lower back strength, ab strength and hip strength to stay upright.

Ok, technique first. Narrow stance squatters have a longer descent and therefore push their glutes back farther behind the bar. this makes it very hard for lifters to keep their back straight, because with your glutes behind the bar so far, it requires the lifter to almost roll the back to achieve legal depth. However, the advantage of narrow squatting is that heavier lifters with big quads, can use their stomachs, belt and quads as a launching pad to blast out of the hole and stay upright.

Wide stance squatters don't have the luxury of having their stomach, belt and quads to launch off, but they do have the advantage of placing their glutes and hips closer to the bar in the descent and a shorter bar path. Pushing your knees out and sitting down and back will keep your glutes under the bar and your back straight. The most important part for a wide stance squatter is to bring your hips forward and up as you ascend. This requires tremendous glute, hip and abdominal strength.

Another important part for wide stance squatters is to recognize that you must break at the waist and push your knees out at the same time before the descent. If you break at the waist first, the load goes immediately to your legs and it's much harder to push your knees out. Narrow squatters have to essentially accomplish the same thing by pushing their hips through and up to get them from behind the bar to directly under it.

Use video to evaluate your squat and see how your depth, lean and general power look. You'll often get a different viewpoint when you see yourself on camera as compared to how you felt. My college football coach used to tell us on Sundays when we would watch the game film from the day before that,"...often after watching film, you'll notice you didn't play as bad as you thought you did and you didn't play as GOOD as you though you did either". In other words, film takes the emotion out of the experience. How many times have you hit a big squat in a gym and thought you finally had everything down and then you go back and look at the video and notice there are still some things wrong. The same can happen with bad squat days. Get the camera set up at a side angle to watch depth and evaluate your lean. Put the camera in front to watch your knees, bar position and descent.

Let's shift gears to training. Ab strength is extremely important in the squat. A strong lower back is often indicative of ab strength as well. They go hand in hand. Don't neglect your ab work. Endless amounts of sit-ups and crunches will not accomplish ab strength that you need. Your reps should be weighted, low and varied in exercise. Exercises that keep your feet anchored are best as the squat and deadlift don't require your feet to ever come off the floor. General exercises that will help ab strength are med ball sit-ups, weighted spread eagle sit-ups, standing crunches with cable, selectorized weighted crunches, stability ball weighted sit-ups and incline weighted sit-ups. Neglecting your core body exercises, will contribute to lean and hurt your deadlift also.

For hip strength, you need to train your abductors and do the "in and out" exercises that all the guys so often avoid. The abductor machine is an excellent machine to train your hips to help keep your knees out and give you hip strength to push your hips forward in your ascent. You can also do "pop ups" off the floor or kneeling squats to increase hip strength.

Lower back work exercise is extremely important because you get benefit in two lifts with strong lower back work. Any type of deadlifting, pulling, or extending will help train your lower back. Some common exercises that many lifters use are good mornings, both arched and rounded back, hyperextensions, and reverse hypers.

Lower back training should be done on both deadlift and squat days. If you don't deadlift, they should be done twice per week, once on your squat day and again 3 days later. Never ever, train lower back before your squat workout, but it's ok to train lower back first and then do deadlifts. If you are deadlifting every week, this might benefit you because you don't need to go heavy every week if you train the deadlift every 7 days.

Some last tips...if all else fails and you still can't prevent leaning there are two last things you can try. First, try some high bar squats in the "off-season" to put more work on your lower back. Second, evaluate the effectiveness of your suit. It's ok to have a slight lean without your suit, as long as your suit takes care of it. If you still can't prevent leaning, try a suit with wider straps or a tighter suit.


Strength Pimp
Feb 27, 2011
Good reading... I'm not a powerlifter - but I think we can all agree that squatting is hugely important for development of mass or strength. I wasn't until a couple months ago that I started playing around with stance width as you spoke about in paragraph 4. I try and vary the stance widths from week to week. You think thats a good strategy to make sure I have proper overall leg development?

One other thing I will definitely take home with me is the add/abb machine work. I thought those were basically "kegal" machines for women... never really thought they had a use lol.