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back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 7:44 am
by scarecrow
I'm trying to improve my squat weight. Working in the 5-8 rep range. Recently, when I reached approx. body weight, i started feeling a pain in my lower back when i did the squat. So, I skipped legs the next week and the following week went heavy with leg press instead. This time also I got a pain. I'm a bit worried. I don't want to hurt my back (I've always had a lower back problem plaguing me), but I want to progress. Also, I get the pain while doing heavy military press.
Does anybody have any suggestions??

Re: back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 7:50 am
by Dub
I think you should film some footage of your form. Form is one of the most usual reasons for unintended pain. Also we could possibly see some disfunctions during the movement. But I'm thinking it could be some tightness issues in the posterior chain also. Some who has more experience around the issue could inform you more about soft tissue work (foam rolling in example). Stretching or increased hamstring work might also help.

Re: back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 8:47 am
by stuward
Try letting your spinal erectors deload for a week or 2 by not squating or deadlifting during this time. Instead, focus on single leg exercises like split squats, step ups and turkish get ups. This will allow you to maintain some intensity on your legs and get some core stability work in. Also start with some glute and core exerses. I'd recommend Glute bridges, 2 legged with a barbell across your hips or single legged, weighted or unweighted as appropriate. For core, this has been covered here extensively recently but include strict pushups and chinups in your program and include some anti-extention and anti-rotational exercises.

Re: back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 10:29 am
by hoosegow
Desribe the pain. Do you think it is more muscular or nerver related?

Re: back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 11:29 am
by _Wolf_
Leg Presses are worse on your back than Squats. Thats a bad swap choice to make.

Are you doing Hip/Ankle Mobility and Glute Activation warm-up drills?

Re: back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 5:10 pm
by xshawnxearthx
Lower the barbell down your back a little bit. I found that the pain went away when I lowered the bar a few inches.

Re: back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Fri May 11, 2012 5:22 am
by beliteweight
I think you should start stretching your muscles. Have a good stretch session for each muscle group once in a week.

Re: back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Fri May 11, 2012 10:46 am
by mrbigmuscles
I had this same problem first time I squatted heavy, and like you I've had intermittent low back problems over the years (I'm not yet 30). I narrowed it down to 2 issues: tight piriformis (especially left side); and tight hamstrings. What I've done to solve it:

1. stretch piriformis and hamstrings and warm them up for a good long while before squatting or deadlifting

2. keep lower back arch tight and in the correct position - maintain the same curve you have when standing. This involves keeping those muscles as tight as possible. I find this limits my ROM - can't quite reach ass to grass. That means when I WAS making it ass to grass I was rounding my lower back which is bad, bad news for your lumbar spine.

Hope this helps, it's worked for me.

Re: back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Sun May 13, 2012 7:02 am
by Jungledoc
beliteweight wrote:I think you should start stretching your muscles.
Which muscles should he stretch? Why should he stretch those particular muscles? How should he stretch them?
beliteweight wrote:Have a good stretch session for each muscle group once in a week.
So he should stretch muscles regardless of whether they are tight, shortened, in dysfunction or whatever? Just stretch them for the heck of it? How in the world would that help him?

Re: back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Sun May 13, 2012 7:19 am
by Jungledoc
mrbigmuscles wrote:I had this same problem first time I squatted heavy, and like you I've had intermittent low back problems over the years (I'm not yet 30). I narrowed it down to 2 issues: tight piriformis (especially left side); and tight hamstrings. What I've done to solve it:

1. stretch piriformis and hamstrings and warm them up for a good long while before squatting or deadlifting

2. keep lower back arch tight and in the correct position - maintain the same curve you have when standing. This involves keeping those muscles as tight as possible. I find this limits my ROM - can't quite reach ass to grass. That means when I WAS making it ass to grass I was rounding my lower back which is bad, bad news for your lumbar spine.

Hope this helps, it's worked for me.
The piriformis is an interesting suggestion. I wonder if you and the OP are really talking about the same problem. Maybe you could each describe the pain (especially anatomic location) a little more precisely?

Re: back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Tue May 15, 2012 10:22 am
by mrbigmuscles
It's a kind of sharp pain that I associate with disc problems (I recently had some upper back disc issues also). It gets worse as I get out of shape and flabby, and better as I get stronger. I actually have some rightward curvature (like this: )) in the lumbar spine that a PT told me was due to left hip and lumbar inflexibility. Hasn't bothered me since I started weight training seriously, provided I use proper form - if I round my lower back even a little with heavy weight, the next day it gives me problems.

edit: Oh and it's piriformis and hamstring, from what I can remember. You can really tell when I sit cross legged "guy style"; my left knee ends up about 6 or 7 inches higher than my right.

Re: back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Wed May 16, 2012 6:00 am
by Jungledoc
Like, ah, where?

Re: back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Thu May 17, 2012 6:28 am
by mrbigmuscles
Oh, right. L5-S1 I think, radiating to the left occasionally.

Re: back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Wed Jun 20, 2012 3:06 pm
by Drake Van Steed
You have what I would call a "back problem." A lot of research and pain has gone into my assessment. I had a back problem too. I quit squating and deadlifting and doing anything else that aggravated my back problem. My back problem is no longer a problem. Since I quit squating in 2004 my legs look exactly the same and function exactly thte same. My back feels better. So, my suggestion is don't do anything that aggravates your back problem.

Losing body fat sometimes helps too.

Re: back pain with heavy squats

Posted: Wed Jun 20, 2012 5:12 pm
by Oscar_Actuary
Drake,

What exercises do you do for your legs now?