Friday, December 16, 2011

Are You Making This Squat Mistake?

Espen from Norway has some issues with his Squats, and asks...

Hi Mehdi,

First of all I must say that I LOVE your site. It is of great inspiration for me and I'm reading all of your posts. Congratulations with what you have achieved here, really impressive!

I am a 34 year old Norwegian who has been doing your StrongLifts 5x5 program for about 4 months. I'm 179cm tall and my bodyweight is now 79kg. Currently I'm doing 5x5 of 80kg in squats, 1x5 140kg of deadlift and just yesterday manage 5x5 85kg in bench. I have reduced my bodyweight from 85kg and my man boobs are gone and close to all my belly fat. I've gain so much confidence from this as I've started to get compliments at work for my "new" body shape. I love this side effect of your program.

I am also quite happy with my progress in the gym but I have issues with my squats as I can't seem to get any progress any more. I've been doing 80 kg for months now and when I put on more weight my technique starts to fail and I can't hold good form. I started out doing ass-to-grass style squats but I've now changed to parallel and hope that this will help my progress. I seem to need work on my new form as I still can't get pass the 80kg plateau.

Any comments to my squat issue is appreciated. I am still doing good progress in deadlift but I can't put on 2,5 kg every week on the bench anymore. Do you think it is time for me to move on to a new program? I've been doing weight training on and off for years so I feel that my form is good in most exercises (except squats that I've only started with 4 months ago).

Thanks and best regards


Thanks for the words of encouragement. And amazing job finally losing your man boobs and belly fat. I too started feeling much more confident after finally eliminating my moobs and pot belly more than a decade ago.

Your question - Technique issues you solve by doing that exercise more, not by substituting it. I'm going to assume your logic was that you can Squat more low bar and thus break your plateau by switching to parallel Squats. But, as you've come to realize, parallel Squats have a different bar position, different torso alignment and thus a different technique than "Ass-To-Grass" Squats. That's why if you don't know how to use your muscles correctly when Squatting low bar, the same weight isn't necessarily going to feel easier.

It would have made more sense to suck up the ego and lower the weight by 20% so you can master technique, instead of continuing the same weight. But, again, you shouldn't have switched to low bar Squats in the first place because form issues are always solved by Squatting more, NOT substituting the lift.

Stick with whatever Squat version you're doing now (my guess is low bar) and start taping yourself so you understand what it is you're doing wrong. Practice perfect technique on your warm-up sets, maybe do extra warm-up sets until it feels right. Once on your work sets, keep your technique perfect even if that means you'll miss reps. Focus, squeeze everything and lift fast.

Don't switch to Madcow 5x5 yet - your Bench is stronger than your Squat, you need to fix that before moving on. And since this is a technique issue, Squatting 3x/week is the best way to master technique. You don't even need to switch to 3x5 yet (in fact, almost all StrongLifts Members switch when they can Squat at least 200lb, usually around 225lb, and many only switch at the 300lb mark).

Deadlift switch from 1x5 to 1x3 and start Deadlifting once per week (1x/week Barbell Rows, 1x/week Pull-ups). Bench Press switch to 3x5 (then 1x5) and use smaller increments. This should keep the progress while you fix your Squats.

But remember, it's only been 4 months since you started Squatting. It's perfectly normal to struggle a bit. The key is to keep plugging at it. Don't be a quitter.

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