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.