Lower Back Pain From Squats

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Squats are the King of Exercises, but you have to do them right!

Squats can stimulate your endocrine system so your body will naturally produce far more Anabolic Hormones, including Growth Hormone (HGH) and Testosterone (T). One study showed an increase of 800% of HGH & T when athletes performed 3 sets of 8 RM. Squats are one of the most functional exercises you can perform. They stimulate muscle hypertrophy in all muscle groups, not just the primary movers you use in the Squat.

I provided you a four-page description of how to Squat correctly in the “Book on Personal Training,” to ensure you would perform them correctly. Make sure you review this material regularly to make sure you perform every exercise with proper form and technique.

If you are getting lower back pain from squats, here are common mistakes you might be making:

1) Violating the GPO Principle – Gradual Progressive Overload is a principle you must live by.

When you squat, you are using the two strongest muscles in your body: The Gluteals & Quadriceps. It is exciting to push a lot of weight.

One of the reasons for GPO and Periodizied Program Design (i.e.: 15RM, 12RM, 10RM, 8RM) is to give your support muscles a chance to keep-up with your very strong Primary Movers. Pushing too fast to increase weight too soon can injure the Paraspinous Muscles (located on either side of your spinal column), Erector-Spinae Muscles (segmented from the bottom of your spine to the base of your skull) and/or Quadratus Lumborum (lower back).

Don’t increase intensity by more than 5% workout to workout and only increase one of the F.I.T.T. at one time.

2) Violating the IFPA Component of Fitness: Symmetry – Your muscles must be developed in symmetry, not just to “look good,” but to keep biomechanical forces stabilized.

If you Squat a lot, but fail to develop the anterior muscles in the torso (i.e.: Abdominis to balance the strength of the Gluteals/Back) or to develop the Quadriceps while neglecting to develop the Hamstrings, these imbalances will cause injury.

Female athletes experience 10 times the amount of hamstring tears as a male athlete due to their weak hamstrings in relation to their Quadriceps. Work all your muscles in Symmetry: Agonist/Antagonist, Front/Back, Top/Bottom, Left/Right.

3) Violating the IFPA Component of Fitness: Flexibility – Children have no problem squatting down into the “bucket,” because almost all of us are born with great flexibility.

If you go to the gym after sitting at a desk, typing on a computer or writing all day, you are going to be tight! You need to do a thorough warm-up along with some exercises to increase your Range of Motion (ROM) before you Squat.

Make developmental stretching a part of your cool-down to increase and/or maintain a healthy ROM. If you don’t, tight hip flexors can cause you a great deal of pain and injury. Stretch your Hip Flexors!

4) Losing your “Weight-Lifters Arch” During Your Squat – If you maintain your Weight Lifters Arch, you keep your back upright and straight, so the heavy load of the bar goes straight down your spine.

If you lose your Weight Lifters Arch, your torso angles forward and creates a level that increases the load on your Lumbar Vertebrae considerably, actually, geometrically! A one inch forward lean doubles the torque on the Lumbar Vertebrae, particularly to the lowest three: L-3, L-4, L-5. Lean an additional inch and the torque doubles again…and continues to double each additional inch.

Obviously, if you lose the Weight Lifters arch completely, the chance of injury to L-3, L-4 and/or L-5 increases to a near certainty.

5) Bar Placement – The classic “Bodybuilder Squat” with the bar high on the Cervical Vertebrae is designed to move the load forward to put more stress on the Quadriceps.

Unfortunately, it also moves the load forward to place more torque on the lower lumbar vertebrae which increases the risk of injury, specifically to the L-3, L-4, L-5. The Classic “Power Lifter Squat” is designed to move the load backward to place more stress on the Gluteals, which is the strongest muscle in the body and thus enables the Power Lifter to Squat more weight.

It is also safer since the Bar is lower, on top of the scapula and farther back, so it is easier for the Power Lifter to remain more upright therefore, reducing torque on the Lumbar Spine.

6) Going Past Failure – If you are performing a 15 RM Set, that means the weight you have on the bar will allow you to do 15 Reps…not 14…not 16, but 15 Reps with GOOD FORM! When your form breaks…

YOU STOP!

Pushing to do one more Squat with bad form is a disaster. You will injure yourself if your last Rep doesn’t have the best possible form.

7) Listen to Your Body – You are on your way up in your Squat and you feel a “twinge” in your back. It is not painful, but it just feels funny.

Stop!

You’re done!

You have to employ PRICE immediately. Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation as you learned in the IFPA Personal Trainer Certification. Right now you have an opportunity to make sure this minor injury is treated properly. If you don’t take the appropriate steps right now, you risk turning it into a major injury that can take you out of training for months.

Always remember that Squats are your best friend and provide you with great opportunities for gains, but you must do them right. Review the Squat and all the exercises in your “Book On Personal Training” to make sure you do your workouts in the safest and most effective way.

Good Luck,

Dr. Jim Bell

CEO, IFPA

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