I Know Squat! Back Pain During Weighted Squats? Your Questions Answered!

Your Question

I've been having lower back pain during moderate-heavy barbell squats? What should I do?

Frugal Fitness Answer

If your lower back pain is the limiting factor then you need to address that issue before you return to weighted squats in any form. You need to strengthen your lower back muscles with lower back extensions, quadripeds, bridge exercises, etc. Start with light-moderate reps / sets / weight and gradually work your wary up. You must also strengthen your abdominal and oblique muscles for overall core strength and stability. For these abdominal exercises make sure to keep your lower back in a relatively neutral position (not too arched or too rounded) so this will not further aggravate your condition. 

Take time off from your squats and do open kinetic chain exercises instead such as leg extensions, leg curls, hip adductions / abduction machine as well as free weight dumbbell lunges, maybe a couple of bodyweight squats but that's it. The leg press machine puts your back in an unnatural position so if you are lifting too much weight or have a bad back it should be avoided or the intensity should be decreased. 

Once you have created a strong base of strength and endurance for your legs and core, the deadlift will help your lower back adapt to the stresses of the barbell squats. Progress slowly with the deadlifts keeping your back straight while also slowly progressing again with barbell squats. These exercises can be done on different days if necessary but make sure the more of these you do the more time you spend resting your back on other days. 

I am not a big fan of the Smith machine because of it's unnatural preset motion. Keep the leg press weight moderate unless your back feels perfect. Make sure to rest a lot, stretch out your lower back/abs/hip flexors/hamstrings/quads. Get enough protein and nutrients in your body so it can heal itself after these intense leg and core workouts.

Remember that, while it's important to push yourself, if you take things too far then you'll get injured and you're going to be even further from your goals for months or longer. Work out smart!

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