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Help with Squats and StongLifts

tehbry

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I'm in need of help... and today it's about squats. I'm working on the StrongLifts program, and loving it. I am not very strong overall, but I'm working on it. I love squats - I love the full body effect, I love the work it takes, and the strength I've built from them, but I struggle with them. Here's why: I am only 5'9" and I have long legs/shot torso. Not only that, but the length is in my femurs. I struggle with hamstring flexibility, and am finding it impossible to go parallel, or lower without my lower back bending. How can I fix/alleviate this? I have a great low bar position. I do not bend at the knees. I do 'sit back' and use my butt. I understand the form needed to do this exercise. I am not mechanically setup to be a squatter. My long legs keep the weight very far back relative to my 'pivot point', and disable me from balancing. I will keep working on hamstring flexibility, but I don't anticipate drastic improvement. My PT says it's unlikely to make a massive improvement in flexibility at my age and level. I really want to keep my lower back protected. What can I do? Help? Should I do leg presses instead? Should I do 'split squats'? I really don't want to give up this exercise, but find that as the weights get heavier, the more the lower back suffers. This sounds whiny. Apologies. Thanks, experts. Videos (Also posted on page 2 with Notes):
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Eason

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Have you tried the stretch SL recommends? Sit in a squat, grab your toes and alternate raising one arm up and to the side.
 

tehbry

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Originally Posted by Eason
Have you tried the stretch SL recommends? Sit in a squat, grab your toes and alternate raising one arm up and to the side.

Thanks for this suggestion, Eason. I'm not a member at StrongLifts, but have looked through a lot of articles on the site about lifts and stretching. I haven't seen this particular stretch.

Did find these:
http://stronglifts.com/the-only-6-st...uld-really-do/

Originally Posted by dissapointedengineer
Tried elevating your heels?.

I've heard that lifting your heels is exactly what you don't want to do, as this puts more pressure on your knees. In fact, I try to lift my toes, and put as much pressure pushing up through my heels. If you think otherwise, I would like to hear why.




Also, I can get a bit more balance if I widen my feet and point them out more (45*), but I feel this makes my groin vulnerable to injury. And it seems more like a sumo squat variation.
 

globetrotter

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is there anybody at your gym you can ask? it strikes me that you don't want to fuck around with squats, the potential is there for hurting yourself. you want to see if somebody can look at what you are doing and advise you. good luck
 

Kajak

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Originally Posted by tehbry
I've heard that lifting your heels is exactly what you don't want to do, as this puts more pressure on your knees. In fact, I try to lift my toes, and put as much pressure pushing up through my heels. If you think otherwise, I would like to hear why.

As in, use a heeled lifting shoe. You're right in that if you squat on your toes you put more stress on your knees, but if your shoe (or your heel is on a 2.5lb plate *sketchy warning*) is elevated in the heel it can help with this.
 

embowafa

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Originally Posted by Kajak
As in, use a heeled lifting shoe. You're right in that if you squat on your toes you put more stress on your knees, but if your shoe (or your heel is on a 2.5lb plate *sketchy warning*) is elevated in the heel it can help with this.
I've never heard that this is good practice. (not to say it isn't...just that i haven't heard of it) Nearly everything I've read says to squat in shoes with little to no padding in the heel and definitely do NOT raise the heel. I don't know...I'd rather squat a lower weight with proper form than force the issue and increase my risk for injury.
 

Hartmann

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Originally Posted by tehbry
I will keep working on hamstring flexibility, but I don't anticipate drastic improvement. My PT says it's unlikely to make a massive improvement in flexibility at my age and level.
Squatting takes a lot of muscle synergy. You really need flexibility in a lot of areas, not just hamstrings -- hip flexors, adductors, glutes, ankle/achilles tendon, etc. I found I had to work on all these to improve my form. I wouldn't take your trainer's word as final. You can improve flexibility, it just needs a lot of time. Stretch every single workout. Finally, if you can't do back squats, try front squats.
Originally Posted by tehbry
I've heard that lifting your heels is exactly what you don't want to do, as this puts more pressure on your knees. In fact, I try to lift my toes, and put as much pressure pushing up through my heels. If you think otherwise, I would like to hear why. Also, I can get a bit more balance if I widen my feet and point them out more (45*), but I feel this makes my groin vulnerable to injury. And it seems more like a sumo squat variation.
Lifting your heels is different from "elevating" them. Squatting on your tiptoes is horribly unsafe -- putting a block under them or using weightlifting shoes to elevate heels is safe. You should still drive with the heels even when they're elevated, however. Also, how wide are we talking about here? Wide is fine as long as your knees stay in line with your toes and don't cave inward. The bad feeling you're getting from wide squats is probably because you're tight in the thighs/hips/ass and you feel strained. You can try lowering the weight and squatting wide to work on your form and strengthen up those muscles.
 

tehbry

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Originally Posted by Hartmann
Lifting your heels is different from "elevating" them. Squatting on your tiptoes is horribly unsafe -- putting a block under them or using weightlifting shoes to elevate heels is safe. You should still drive with the heels even when they're elevated, however.

Also, how wide are we talking about here? Wide is fine as long as your knees stay in line with your toes and don't cave inward. The bad feeling you're getting from wide squats is probably because you're tight in the thighs/hips/ass and you feel strained. You can try lowering the weight and squatting wide to work on your form and strengthen up those muscles.


Thanks. This makes a lot more sense to me. I should note that I've been doing my squats in 'running shoes'. I'm going to try some flats vs heeled shoes for comparison.

I agree that flexibility is key here. I think I need to stick at lighter weights, improve flexibility, and increase my functional strength, rather than just focusing on putting up heavier weight.

I'm going a bit wider than shoulder width apart on my feet, with them turned out to 30-40*. This is to try to keep my knees tracking evenly with my feet. I do find that the wider my legs, the better I can keep my back and all muscles tight, but again, not too wide.

I have a question: is it better to err on the side of feet being too wide or too narrow?
 

Nouveau Pauvre

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Switching from running shoes to bare foot made a huge difference for me. Now I use my common projects but there's no reason you can't use 30 dollar canvas vans.
 

Henry Boogers

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I am a bit taller than you, so we may have slightly different issues, but I had a problem getting below parallel myself. I found that I did best in flat shoes with no compression (chuck's or lifting shoes) - though a sturdy shoe with a slight heel lift is also an option. My strongest recommendations are:

- find the right shoe
- experiment with knee width (you mentioned this)
- stretch, stretch, stretch
- watch some youtube videos of ppl squatting deep right before you lift to help visualize the movement
- video tape yourself*

* this has been by far the most important tool for me to visualize the improvements that are needed and it helps me visualize while lifting. You would be surprised how much your hip/knee/butt positioning can help and how far off from ideal it really is. I found that sitting down into the hole put me in a better position to get below parallel and then the last step:

- practice getting deeper and start with embarrassingly low weight. Stretch it out, get comfortable and gain some muscle memory for those heavier lifts.

I fixed the depth issue, but through videos (still shot below) I discovered I am heavily favoring my right leg. I hope to fix the deficiencies in the left and clear 500 this year:

 

Henry Boogers

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Originally Posted by tehbry
I have a question: is it better to err on the side of feet being too wide or too narrow?

This truly depends on your goals, but for getting deeper I would generally say wide. Watch the youtube video posted just above my last post and notice how in that stretch the guy flares his knees out and his ass drops into 'the hole'. You need to find the most comfortable foot position to enable a less exaggerated version of what you see in that video.
 

rjmaiorano

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I have tremendous flexibility issues in my hips because of surgery. Because of the same surgery, legs are disproportional and shit just gets painful even trying to get to parallel squatting. And if I can't do a lift correct or with proper ROM, I don't do it. Squats aren't integral to my goals so I just focus on DL's, romanian DL's and legs presses (That I can go full ROM on oddly)

My Ortho told me to not bother with squats so I don't. Maybe not the best annecdotal advice out their, but it helps stopping injuries that I would otherwise get.
 

tehbry

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Originally Posted by Henry Boogers
This truly depends on your goals, but for getting deeper I would generally say wide. Watch the youtube video posted just above my last post and notice how in that stretch the guy flares his knees out and his ass drops into 'the hole'. You need to find the most comfortable foot position to enable a less exaggerated version of what you see in that video.

Thanks for all of your input and advice. It's really helped steer me in the right direction. I'm going to try flat shoes, and keep my legs a bit wider. Basic morphological science seems to tell me that since my legs are relatively long, it's natural for them to appear wider than someone with short legs. Especially since my femurs are as long as they are.

Going to give this a go today in my workout and see how it feels.

I'm going to setup my camera to take some videos - I agree this is one of the best things you can do. Thanks.

Originally Posted by rjmaiorano
I have tremendous flexibility issues in my hips because of surgery. Because of the same surgery, legs are disproportional and shit just gets painful even trying to get to parallel squatting. And if I can't do a lift correct or with proper ROM, I don't do it. Squats aren't integral to my goals so I just focus on DL's, romanian DL's and legs presses (That I can go full ROM on oddly)

My Ortho told me to not bother with squats so I don't. Maybe not the best annecdotal advice out their, but it helps stopping injuries that I would otherwise get.


I've debated scrapping squats, too. It's hard for me to do, though, as they seem like such a pinnacle exercise. I don't mind if I have to lift lower weights, but I'd like to gain the muscle coordination to do them appropriately.

I can completely understand how your situation is different given your surgery. That can be a tough battle to face. Best of luck to you - and I'm glad you've found solutions.

Originally Posted by Eason
I used to wear insoles with a 1.5 cm lift due to flat arches- my squat got so much better when I switched to flat chucks.

Check it dawg: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCmcN...layer_embedded


Thanks, Eason. That's a solid video. I've attempted to do the stretch a few times myself, not the easiest of maneuvers.

I have some old Champion track/wrestling flats that I might try to use today and see how it goes. Other than that, I have a pair of flat Vans I could give a go.




I'm going to try to post some videos in the coming weeks.
 

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