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Thread: New Guy, Old Back - Squat Form Check

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2023
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    Default New Guy, Old Back - Squat Form Check

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    Hello all, first post, first form check.

    First of all, please forgive the pathetic 125lb squat – I know I can lift much heavier and that’s what you want to see, but my back is a wreck (more info down there) and I’m very tentative and started my linear progression very low.

    Info
    • 38 years old, 5’10”, 170 – fully understanding I need to get up to about 190 and working on it.
    • Had a discectomy at L4-L5 in 2016 for a herniated disc. It solved the sharp upper-glute pain point I went in for, but my back has remained stiff and sensitive ever since.
    • The MRI also showed “degenerative disc disease” (which I now understand is pretty much a bullshit catch-all term – thanks Rip!) and a bulging disc at L5-S1. Knowing what I know now, things would have to get very bad before I ever make the decision to get surgery again.
    • At this point I am only very rarely experiencing sciatic/neurological symptoms.


    Issues
    • When squatting heavier weights (185+, I know that’s weak) my back tends to lock up quite easily. I’ve never really got to test how much I could squat because my lower back gives out way before my legs, hips, glutes, etc. get any real pressure put on them.
    • This always happens at the bottom of the squat, which I understand is common. The feeling is that my lower spine/coccyx just kinda “give out” , then my back locks up and I feel like I have to stop training for a month (which I now know is not the move now – thanks #2 Rip!)
    • Deadlifting hasn’t been an issue even with heavier loads of around 225+ (I know, I know).


    Form
    • I think I have a longer torso and shorter legs. I don’t have a video from the side, but when I hinge and bend forward, my bar path goes forward before coming down in a straight line, back up in a straight line, and then backwards to its original position. I low bar, but to have the bar travel in a straight line I almost feel like the movement needs to be similar to a high-bar squat where I pretty much go straight down without bending over much at all.
    • I have observations on my depth but I won’t say anything and see what you say.


    Videos


    Cheers to you guys from Quebec Canada, looking forward to interacting with y'all!
    Nic

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2023
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    247

    Default

    First, notice how your chest rises when you take a breath, then it goes down. You are releasing the tension in your upper body, losing your upper back extension, and this is why the bar wants to move forward. Take a giant breath and hold it in, keeping your chest up. Look at the base of the wall, not the floor. As you descend, think about sending your butt backwards. Then you can bend over without falling over.

    Your depth looks OK, but sometimes a little too deep, which could cause your lower back to "lock up".

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2021
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    33

    Default

    These are not horrible but not great.

    The bar path is fine.

    "Low-bar squats done by a novice with light weights, a masters lifter with light weights, or any male lifter of average size using loads significantly lighter than about 225 will not behave as a heavy work set described in the book – the bar will be a lot to a little forward of the mid-foot because the barbell is not yet significantly heavier than the mass of the body, and we want to warm up the terminal balance position, just like the muscles, joints, and bones." - from the article "Understanding the Master Cue" Understanding the Master Cue | Mark Rippetoe

    You need to widen your stance and shove your knees out so you are able to lean over more. Some reps are too deep, your grip is too wide.

    Is that a 3 inch belt? You might prefer a 4 inch belt for squats.

  4. #4
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    Most people prefer the 3-inch belt once they buy one and start wearing it.

    The Belt and the Deadlift | Mark Rippetoe

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2021
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    I meant specifically for extra support during his squat since his back is cranky, just an option. I think it could be worth a shot in this specific instance.

  6. #6
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    How much extra support do you think the 4-inch belt provides?

  7. #7
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    Feb 2021
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    More than zero and less than a lot. I don't think it is controversial to state that an extra inch would provide more support. And if it changes his experience with squatting allowing him to push his squat above 185lbs it could be worth a try. Subjectivity matters too for pain and injury, maybe he just likes it? I stand by it being an option worth exploring.

    Though the belt is probably not the issue since he can supposedly deadlift just fine. From what I can tell the most likely culprit is him going too deep, which is an execution problem, not an equipment problem.

    If in your experience and expertise a 3 inch belt is better for this kind of thing, or a 4 inch belt is just a waste of money I'm very open to listening and learning.

  8. #8
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    Did you read the article?

  9. #9
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    Feb 2021
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    Yes, of course. I was already familiar with the article but I reread it after you posted. I am aware of the different considerations that goes into choosing a belt, and in this case there are a few things in favor of a 4 inch belt over a 3 inch belt.

    1. At 5'10'' and not having a crazy short torso he probably has room for another inch. Specifically in his squat.

    2. After a lumbar discectomy, more stability makes sense.

    3. Chronically injured people should generally wear a belt - "Lifters with chronic back injuries may decide to use it for all sets after 135, depending on the nature of their injury." - The Belt and the Deadlift | Mark Rippetoe

    4. Wider and thicker belts work better - "When the abdominal contraction occurs the slightly expanding muscle bellies can only expand inward due to the restricting “hoop tension” of the belt, which increases the pressure in the gut. This is why wider belts work better than narrower belts – they cover more of the gut. The belt encircles the muscles around the spine, its purpose being to not deform at all under the pressure, and this is why thicker belts work better than thinner belts." - The Belt and the Deadlift | Mark Rippetoe

    5. A wider, thicker belt may help him squat more weight and find depth easier - "The squat is quite obviously different from the deadlift. The squat starts at the top, loads eccentrically into the bottom, and rebounds back up, while the deadlift starts from the bottom concentrically. The squatter gets squeezed into the bottom of the range of motion with help from the load, while the deadlifter has to assume the hardest position of the lift unloaded, with no help from the weight at all. If the squatter wears a belt that jams up the bottom of the ROM, good! It aids the rebound" - The Belt and the Deadlift | Mark Rippetoe

    6. The extra width of the belt might just feel extra nice, comforting, and safe. And I think that matters.

    Please let me know if I am accurate in my assessment.

  10. #10
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    I don't think you can demonstrate that a wider belt generates more hoop tension than a narrower belt, since the reaction to the belt generates the muscular effects, not the belt itself. A thick belt does not deform under a load, which produces a more uniform muscular response to the belt's presence. For most people, a 4-inch belt will present more problems than a 3, while I would agree that a 2-inch belt does not cover enough area under the belt to produce the same muscular response.

    But that's just, you know, like my opinion, man. Lots of people have successfully used a 4 inch belt for years, including me. But more people like a 3-inch belt after they try it, even for squats.

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