A question I get a lot of, in one form or another is: “My back hurts after I squat… what’s up with that?” Let’s begin with my answer… I have NO, FUCKING, IDEA. Now, I know, that’s not very helpful. But realize that there are so many reasons why your back may hurt after lifting, there’s no way for me to have the right answer for YOU. However, there are a couple very common reasons, so I figured I’d take some time to discuss them. Maybe this will help you, maybe it won’t. Ok, on to the most common source of back pain I see, tight hamstrings. Let’s be honest. Nobody wants to stretch. Nobody wants to do mobility work. We all just want to lift heavy shit in peace. That’s it. Is that too much to ask for? But, then that silly back pain creeps in and inhibits your ability to do what you love.
Assessing Your Hammies
Do me a favor. Take a quick break from this email. Lay flat on the floor. Now, keeping your right leg straight, lift it off the ground as high as you can. Go ahead. Go do that now. Alright, how high could you raise your leg? Probably not to 90 degrees (that’s perpendicular to the ground). Maybe nowhere close to that. This is just one assessment of hamstring flexibility, but it’s a damn good one. So, if you’re struggling to hit 90 degrees, you’ve got some work to do, and that tightness in your hamstring may be contributing to back pain (and may also be holding back your lifts). Now, there are a ton of hamstring stretches I can list here and you can watch a few of the videos, think to yourself, “yeah, I should probably do those,” then go back to not doing them. So, let’s hit the highlight reel. There are two things I’ve found to be super effective, that don’t take much time, for opening up those hammies.
- Jefferson Curls – that’s right, a novel lift to add to your training that will help your hamstrings, it’s really meant to be a back strengthener, but it works… trust me
- Supernova 2.0 – sitting your leg on this little fucker will change your life, it ain’t cheap, but if you spend just a couple minutes a day doing it, you will see huge change – and you can use it while watching tv – do it
So if you’re struggling with back pain OR you massively failed the hamstring mobility test outlined above, give the above two fixes a shot and let me know how it goes.
Flexibility Isn’t Always the Problem
The second most common issue I see is deficient lower back strength. If your legs are much stronger than your low back, it can lead to pain when (or after) squatting. In fact, a while back I sent an email to my subscribers with some tips on how to diagnose a leg-dominant squat. It went like this… “So, we know, if you’re able to get out of the hole relatively quickly, but you consistently hit a sticking point about halfway up – and especially if your knees tend to shift backwards at this sticking point, there’s a good chance you need to focus on your back…” Now, if that sounds like you and / or you have low back pain after squatting, it may be worth it to add some low back accessory work into your training. Some of my favorite movements are:
Back Extension (I like to do this nice and slow on the way back up)
Any of these movements can be done with rep ranges around 5-10 in 3-5 sets. Don’t overload the movements. Make sure you focus on recruiting your back muscles and move well. If you try all of this mobility and back strengthening stuff and you still have pain after squatting, it’s best to go visit a chiro or PT and get checked out. You shouldn’t have pain after lifting, it’s a sign that something is wrong. And if you want to keep lifting for the foreseeable future, don’t be a dumbass, get it checked out. -Coach