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Exercises Movements, technique & proper execution

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Old 10-19-2006, 07:04 AM   #1
Michael Simpson
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I tried Crossfit, but I've switched to the routine in Starting Strength because (frankly) my relative and absolute strength is rather poor. I've been at it a few weeks, but I've already run into problems with the squats. At a bodyweight of 200, I stopped increasing weight on the squats when I hit 185 because my form was getting so bad. Yesterday, doing work sets at 155, I started to hit my problem area again: when coming up out of the bottom position, it seems like my hips rise faster than the bar, so it turns into something that resembles a good-morning. As the weight gets heavier, it gets worse. My legs feel like they can push more, but I need to fix my form and I can't figure out where the problem is. I know it's hard to diagnose something like this without seeing it, but I'm wondering what are some things I can watch for: is it mainly a balance issue? poor technique? a weak lower back? tight hamstrings? something else?

Thanks,
Mike
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Old 10-19-2006, 07:23 AM   #2
Nick Cummings
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Once your form starts to degrade you have reached failure. You need to stop the exercise at these point and either reduce weight or reduce reps etc. Sometimes to go forward you need to go backwards. Keep records of all your lifts and try to mix things up when something stalls. You could replace back squats with front squats for a few weeks. Or you could lower the weight significantly and start doing eight rep sets and work up for a few weeks. Your problem is most likely some combination of those things you listed. The best way to overcome it is to practice perfect form. This will put the stress on the muscles that need it. The message you really need to get from this reply is that form comes before weight. Once you have perfected form weight will come. Don't put the cart before the horse.
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Old 10-19-2006, 08:33 AM   #3
Rene Renteria
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Video would help. It's possible you're coming off your heels, getting onto your toes. Can you wiggle your toes? Are you driving "from the heels"? Are you wearing running shoes with a heel that is tipping you forward or maybe causing instability that forces you forward?

Is your stance correct? I assume you've worked on that given that you mention _Starting Strength_. A narrow stance promotes a more quad-dominant movement, which could be tipping you forward. If you're getting your knees/center of mass forward, inadvertantly relaxing your hamstrings at the bottom, you could be tipping forward to get your quads to take over.

Do you use a high-bar position? Try the lower one recommended in Rippetoe's book.

Are your eyes focused on something too close to you? (too much head-downward) Are you trying to keep your chest up and head/gaze where it should be?

When this happens to me, the weight's too heavy, so I'm trying to drive too fast up out of the bottom, which unlocks my back. Thinking about driving my hips up and "chest up" helps me slow down and focus on keeping my back positioned properly and on "squeezing" the weight up (using glutes/hamstrings/groin).

How's your deadlift max compared to your squat max? That might help diagnose a weak lower back.

Good luck,
Rene'
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Old 10-19-2006, 08:48 AM   #4
William Winger
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You could also try doing dynamic workouts with much lighter weight 115 or so, that way you can perfect your form while keeping intensity high.

Also, give front squatting, goblet squatting, and overhead squatting a try. It's almost impossible to do them with bad form, even with light weight, so your muscles will learn that good form, soon it'll be instinct.
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Old 10-19-2006, 08:54 AM   #5
Sean Pizel
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Nick's point about failure being where "your form starts to degrade" is a great one. Having the fortitude to adopt that precept should be an official Crossfit Challenge.

Mike, your problem is probably just an extreme case of poor hamstring recruitment. By pitching forward you allow your Quads to do more work. Lower the weight and do them correctly and the gains will be directed more towards your posterior chain. That’s where the real gains can be made.

It’s been a while since I read that book, but in my personal experience Rippetoe’s keen focus on hip drive tends to preclude consideration of back angle. When hips start rising faster than your shoulders, he is relatively unconcerned, suggesting that with practice that difference will dissipate. I don’t doubt him, but if the imbalance is a great as you suggest, you should find the Crossfit Journal on Squatting. The delineation of the two schools of thought is drawn precisely along those lines.

I hate to be cliché by trying to pull you back into the Crossfit fold but if your squats a truly as unbalanced as you make them out to be, you should know that the athletic movements inherent in Crossfit allow for vast opportunities to improve and appreciate your hamstrings.
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Old 10-19-2006, 08:56 AM   #6
Mike ODonnell
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my guess...weak hamstrings...overdominant quads...possible lack of flexibility. Start with OHS to work on form up and down.

Also try looking up while coming up...that may help drive your hips forward.

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Old 10-19-2006, 09:36 AM   #7
Dan Snyder
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Michael, I agree with Mike O, sounds like weak hams. (I'd like others to chime in about this point to make sure I get it right.) At the bottom of a squat - legs at or preferably below parallel - your hams are the prime movers. In your squat it sounds like before you can move the bar up your hips must rise so that your quads can activate to compensate for your weak hams, thus tipping your body forward. Make sense?
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Old 10-19-2006, 09:40 AM   #8
Michael Nobori
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Could this be a core strength issue? Maybe your torso is having trouble supporting the weight so as you rise up the weight isn't moving vertically thus causing you to pitch forward. If so, it seems like the previously suggested OHS would be helpful.
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Old 10-19-2006, 10:27 AM   #9
Lincoln Brigham
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Front squats and OHS pretty much eliminate the problem. If the lifter starts to pitch forward, the bar falls. They are more self-correcting versions of the squat than the back squat.
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Old 10-19-2006, 10:43 AM   #10
Michael Simpson
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Wow, what a response!

Rene Renteria:
A narrow stance promotes a more quad-dominant movement, which could be tipping you forward. If you're getting your knees/center of mass forward, inadvertantly relaxing your hamstrings at the bottom, you could be tipping forward to get your quads to take over.

I feel like I'm always varying my stance because I haven't found one that always feels comfortable - when I widen it, I have difficulty getting low enough, but it sounds like I need to keep my weight back more.

Are your eyes focused on something too close to you?
I try to keep my eyes focused on the floor about 6' away, but it's hard to keep them there since there are mirrors on every wall.

How's your deadlift max compared to your squat max? That might help diagnose a weak lower back.
My max deadlift is 3x5x205. Greater than my squat but nothing great. I'm not sure what that says about my lower back.


William Winger:
You could also try doing dynamic workouts with much lighter weight 115 or so, that way you can perfect your form while keeping intensity high.
Also, give front squatting, goblet squatting, and overhead squatting a try. It's almost impossible to do them with bad form, even with light weight, so your muscles will learn that good form, soon it'll be instinct.

What do you mean by "dynamic workouts"? I haven't done goblet squats in a while, and that's the first of many recommendations for OHS.

It's almost impossible to do them with bad form, even with light weight
You haven't seen my OHS! :-) I know what you mean about not being able to do them with bad form, but I find that only applies to my lower body - I still find keeping my balance to be difficult.


Sean Pizel:
...you should find the Crossfit Journal on Squatting. The delineation of the two schools of thought is drawn precisely along those lines.

Are you referring to the Dec 2002 "Squat Clinic" article? I've read it, but not lately - I've been following Rippetoe's book exclusively. I'll dig it out and see if I can get some other ideas.

I hate to be cliché by trying to pull you back into the Crossfit fold but if your squats a truly as unbalanced as you make them out to be, you should know that the athletic movements inherent in Crossfit allow for vast opportunities to improve and appreciate your hamstrings.
I suppose I do know that, but I got frustrated at my lack of general strength and decided I would try to work on that as a foundation before trying Crossfit again.


Dan Snyder:
sounds like weak hams. (I'd like others to chime in about this point to make sure I get it right.) At the bottom of a squat - legs at or preferably below parallel - your hams are the prime movers. In your squat it sounds like before you can move the bar up your hips must rise so that your quads can activate to compensate for your weak hams, thus tipping your body forward. Make sense?

Makes perfect sense the way you put it!

So it sounds like the problem is:
- poor form, probably made worse by weak hamstrings
- possibly poor flexibility, poor core strength, improper head position, and improper bar position

The "solution" is:
- drop back the weight used, and concentrate on form
- lot's of OHS!

Thanks everybody,
Mike
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