When Squats Hurt Your Low Back… Do This!

 

Have you ever experienced low back pain when squatting? In today’s post i’ll share with you why this commonly happens and what you can do about it!

 

So what is actually happening when you experience pain in your low back? In my experience two things are generally happening.


You Aren’t Bracing the Core:

This is a pretty common problem in individuals who are sedentary, have an office job, or have poor posture. I could go into heavy detail about how to brace the core, but I personally think this video sums it up better than I ever could, give it a watch!!

In addition to learning the above technique and actively practicing it multiple times a day (I say atleast 5-10 or anytime you notice your posture failing) there’s several exercises you can do to straighten these muscles. Remember: Failing to brace the core immediate puts excess pressure on the spine and can result in back pain.

First, you should start with long-timed isometric core moves like:

Planks:

Hollow body Holds:

Exercises which force core activation like Goblet Squats are excellent as well:

And even “pause squats” where you pause at the bottom of the squat taking several deep breaths before returning to the starting position.

How can you tell if you have poor core bracing? Something called “butt wink” where the low back rounds are the bottom of your squat.

 

The takeaway? All in all you want to practice core bracing to prevent injury to the low back.


You Have Synergystic Dominance and Under-Active Glutes:

This happens as a result of sitting for long periods of time and non-exercise along with poor form during exercise. As our glutes (a “prime mover”) are weakened other muscles called “synergists” will take over the work to compensate for the glutes. Most commonly our quadriceps take over the work for our glutes during a squat.

 

The Solution? Strengthen the glutes with any unilateral glute work like:

Bulgarian Split Squat – This can be done by adding dumbbells, adding a deficit with both legs elevated, and even on the TRX for stabilization.

Single Leg Deadlift – This can be done with dumbbells for additional resistance, kettlebells, or even a barbell.

Pistol Squats – Beginners can use a counter weight, a TRX, or even elevation until this move can be done through the full range of motion.

Single Leg Glute Bridge – This can be done on a bench or stability ball.

Weighted Step Ups – This can be done on a bench, chair, stairs, etc. Weight can be added for additional resistance.

You can also incorporate some “glute activators” before your session like:

Fire hydrants:

Donkey KickBacks:

And Clams:

With consistency you’ll eventually have strong enough glutes that are actually activating. Then you can incorporate back-squats or barbell squats (with MUCH lower weight) focusing on form and function. You should be able to rapidly progress in weight over time while ensuring the glutes are performing appropriately. Then you can safely move on to weighted hip thrusts and glute bridges. 🙂

 

The bottom line: weak glutes leave you susceptible to low back pain. Strengthen those glutes!


That’s it for today’s post! Thanks so much for reading!