Squating below parallel- stronglifts 5x5

Hey Everyone,
just looking for some advice. I'm just starting strong lifts 5x5, and did my first workout today. I started with just the bar because I wasn't sure what my starting point would be. Benching just the bar was probably too easy, I completed all 5 sets without pushing too hard, and same with the rows- but when it came to the squats I struggled and I'm still not sure I'm doing it right. I want to drop my hips below my knees in a deep squat but I feel like I'm going off balance when I try. I feel like I'm going to tip over or not make it back up. I made sure to stand with a nice wide stance (a little wider than shoulder width) with toes out at 30 degrees so my tummy doesn't get in the way. Is it possible my legs are too meaty and my own chubbiness is getting in the way of going deeper? I struggled through the last set with the empty bar, but didn't feel like it was too heavy to break parallel with and make it back up. I can't put my finger on whether the issue with getting lower was balance, form, the weight being too heavy, or my own body getting in the way. p.s. I can do ATG squats body weight only, but either have to lean forward on my toes to balance out my body weight or I need to hold onto something to keep from falling backward.

Stronglifts says to bump up to 50lbs for squats on my next workout but I'm not sure if I should when I didn't successfully break parallel with the empty bar. If it's a balance issue I don't want to keep lifting a weight that's too light and slow myself up but I don't want to move on if the issue is that the 45 was actually too heavy and I was doing it wrong. Not sure what to do.

Stats- 5'8'' 265 lbs, 4 months post partum, just started lifting again today after losing 40 lbs with cardio and big deficit.

Also- does anybody else have pulling/pain in the shoulders when holding the bar behind your back and squatting? It felt like when you stretch too hard and was hurting in shoulder blades and front of the shoulders, like where one's bra strap sits between your arm and chest. I tried gripping the bar wider and there was still pain. My shoulders are likely tight (I'm a busty lady with a desk job and my shoulders slump in a lot of the time). Feel free to throw me pointers on loosening up the chest/shoulders/upper back so I have less pain lifting.
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Replies

  • quiksylver296
    quiksylver296 Posts: 28,443 Member
    Due to flexibility issues in my hips, I only squat to parallel, not below.

    I would certainly stick at 45 lbs until you feel comfortable with your form.

    I would guess you would need to stretch out your back and shoulders if you are having pain. But, I haven't experienced that so I can't advise very well.

    Way to go starting SLs!!! I hope you love it!
  • Sillybee727
    Sillybee727 Posts: 131 Member
    I don't know anything about proper squats but would keep weight low for awhile. I do get tight chest muscles though and have had massage therapists and physical therapists tell me to stretch them in doorways, which has worked well.
    Hard to describe but stand with one arm outstretched parallel to chest with hand against doorframe. Walk forward with hand still holding doorframe , or turn to opposite side for deeper, which pulls open chest.
  • jemhh
    jemhh Posts: 14,262 Member
    If you didn't squat fully, do not add more weight. Form matters more than weight at this point IMO. If there is a lighter bar, I'd actually move down to it.

    Also, consider doing some goblet squats and a deep squat hold (like the picture below) each day to help with flexibility.

    photo-3.jpg
  • Azdak
    Azdak Posts: 8,281 Member
    Work on your form, but don't stress about it. It is likely more inexperience which you can improve, but, anatomically, not everyone is built to parallel squat. Instead of a barbell (or as a warm up), you can always try goblet squats to work on your squat depth.

    This might be helpful: https://bretcontreras.com/finding-your-ideal-squat-depth/
  • Adah_m
    Adah_m Posts: 216 Member
    jemhh wrote: »
    If you didn't squat fully, do not add more weight. Form matters more than weight at this point IMO. If there is a lighter bar, I'd actually move down to it.

    Also, consider doing some goblet squats and a deep squat hold (like the picture below) each day to help with flexibility.

    photo-3.jpg

    Good advice, I actually do squat like this regularly, probably for at least 20 minutes a day throughout the day. I love to squat all the way down while I'm playing with my son because I'm not thinking about it! haha. Usually I'm doing things though and not using my elbows to press outwards on my legs. The difference for me though is that I think it's my body weight and composition (very top heavy) that makes me have to lean forward quite a bit in a deep squat so I don't fall backwards. It was that same feeling that I might fall backwards that I got when I was trying to do it today with the weight.

    I can also squat just below parallel with no weight, so maybe I should try with dumbbells or something on 5 lb increments to figure out where I go off balance... I don't know. The gym doesn't offer straight barbells lighter than 45 lbs. They have the curved ones, which I've used balanced on my chest for squats before with my arms crossed over top, but I think shifting the weight to the front won't help me master balancing it on my back. Also, my son just weaned so I prefer not to put anything heavy on my chest, lol!
  • Adah_m
    Adah_m Posts: 216 Member
    Azdak wrote: »
    Work on your form, but don't stress about it. It is likely more inexperience which you can improve, but, anatomically, not everyone is built to parallel squat. Instead of a barbell (or as a warm up), you can always try goblet squats to work on your squat depth.

    This might be helpful: https://bretcontreras.com/finding-your-ideal-squat-depth/

    I just checked out his video of the goblet squat- I think I'm going to do it daily in my warmup for sure! I think I might have spotted one of my problems- my knees were not wide enough and pushing out if that makes sense. They were pointed more forward.
    Also, I think I might have buttwink. I hyperextend my lowerback almost all the time, especially when walking and standing and have pretty tight hip flexors. I need to figure out a good way to learn and practice neutral lower back, and add hip flexor stretching into my routine too.
  • HamsterManV2
    HamsterManV2 Posts: 449 Member
    edited February 2016
    Watch this video for all the squatting information you will need (as a beginner)
    Seriously. Watch it and all your questions will be answered.

    My quick guess without seeing a form video is lack of ankle mobility (everyone has this problem). Quick fix is to put weight plates under your heels to compensate for it until you are mobile enough.

    Secondly regarding your program, Starting Strength and Strong lift are both designed give your body the maximal stimulus to grow through the correct(i.e. minimal) dosage of weights. That means there is a reason why it has you progressively climb the weights little by little - At low weights, you are fixing your form, and as you rapidly increase weights, it gets harder and harder to complete the movement. The entire time, your body is adapting and getting stronger and able to lift more weights. That is why someone who starts at a weight that they feel is too light but keeps on increasing will be stronger than someone who started off at their maximum, and never end up increasing.

    The person who starts off with just the bar adds +60lbs/month to their squat, +60~90lbs to their deadlift, and +15~30lbs to their bench and OHP per month. Give yourself time and work out the kinks NOW, before the weight gets heavy (and mistakes here can mean injury). You can jump up the weight faster in the first 2 weeks, but I would recommend keeping your ego in check - the weights will get brutal in time.

    Read more here.
  • Sued0nim
    Sued0nim Posts: 17,456 Member
    Sometimes it can be easier to squat with more weight

    I agree with the goblet and squat hold advice...check how her knees track over her feet...you want to aim for that on the way down and the way up
  • stealthq
    stealthq Posts: 4,298 Member
    jemhh wrote: »
    If you didn't squat fully, do not add more weight. Form matters more than weight at this point IMO. If there is a lighter bar, I'd actually move down to it.

    Also, consider doing some goblet squats and a deep squat hold (like the picture below) each day to help with flexibility.

    photo-3.jpg

    Just wanted to add - this is true for every lift you do. If you're not able to do the complete lift with good form on all reps, don't add weight. Especially in the early stages when you're likely to not have really good form (unless someone experienced is helping you with that).

    Later on, adding weight after being a little off on the last rep or two of the last set is sometimes OK.

    Oh, and my two cents on your squat - it's most likely a lack of flexibility. I have a similar issue, and mine seems to be calf flexibility. Yours might be the same or something else, but the deep squat will help as will goblet squats.
  • SonyaCele
    SonyaCele Posts: 2,841 Member
    squats are a powerful movement, i personally woudn't add weight until you have mastered the form and gotten your glutes properly working. The shoulder pain you describe sounds like normal pain from starting squats and holding the bar, Your lats and sholuders and core are all part of the lift.
    Please note that if you are 265 lbs, not only are you squatting the 45 bar, you are also squatting a considerable amount of body weight. You might be better off working on your squat with a lighter bar like a piece of PVC pipe. Goblet squats are all right for what they are, but they aren't barbell squats. You wanna get accustomed to the proper form and the weight on your back for a barbell squat. Thats just my two cents.
  • cnbbnc
    cnbbnc Posts: 1,267 Member
    I just wanted to comment on the upper body discomfort. I had the same issue through my shoulders and upper back when I started. I was also so tight that just getting my arms back far enough to hold the bar was killing me. It's gets better as you get stronger and more flexible though. You just have to keep working at it.
  • juliewatkin
    juliewatkin Posts: 764 Member
    SonyaCele wrote: »
    squats are a powerful movement, i personally woudn't add weight until you have mastered the form and gotten your glutes properly working. The shoulder pain you describe sounds like normal pain from starting squats and holding the bar, Your lats and sholuders and core are all part of the lift.
    Please note that if you are 265 lbs, not only are you squatting the 45 bar, you are also squatting a considerable amount of body weight. You might be better off working on your squat with a lighter bar like a piece of PVC pipe. Goblet squats are all right for what they are, but they aren't barbell squats. You wanna get accustomed to the proper form and the weight on your back for a barbell squat. Thats just my two cents.

    I agree with this. A barbell squat is different than a body weight or goblet squat. The most significant difference is the position of your shoulders. When you squat with a barbell, your shoulders are pulled back. Body weight and goblet squats allow your shoulders to roll forward. This will affect flexibility. When I do a body weight squat my calves will hit my hamstrings.
  • GrumpyHeadmistress
    GrumpyHeadmistress Posts: 666 Member
    As another newbie I second the idea of putting a 2.5kg weight plate under each heel. I have very tight lower legs and my ankles come of the floor when doing BTF squats which tips me forwards and off balance. The weight plates help with stability.
  • luciroo
    luciroo Posts: 31 Member
    I have been doing Stronglifts 5X5 for a little while now. Let me preface my remarks by saying I started lifting at the age of 50 and I had never lifted nor done much of any exercise. I didn't even attempt to squat with the bar at first, I wasn't strong enough. Luckily my gym has a set of weighted bars that are about half the length of a barbell - 20, 30, and 40 lbs - so I worked my way up through those before going to the empty bar.

    I don't follow stronglifts plan of increasing weight every workout - I have had shoulder issues in the past and since I am not exactly young I felt it would be safer to slow the pace down a bit, I'd rather increase a little slower than have an injury that sidetracks me.

    Also, my gym doesn't have plates smaller than 2.5 and I found adding 5 lbs. with upper body lifts to be too much so I bought my own 1.25 lb. plates from Amazon, so I could increase by 2.5 lbs. instead of 5 if I felt the 5 lb. increase was too much.
  • Adah_m
    Adah_m Posts: 216 Member
    Thanks for the tips. I won't be back in the gym until Monday, so if my legs aren't wrecked tomorrow I'm going to practice form at home with a piece of pipe or broomstick or something and see if opening the knees wider and pushing out helps and see if I notice tightness in the lower legs.
    Also, I'm in total agreement- I'll keep trying with the empty bar until I can get really good form before adding more weight. If I keep having issues I'll see if my husband can take a video of me and post it for the critiques.

    Also- for the one who pointed out that I'm still lifting a ton of body weight, you're totally right. I'm still 45 lbs up from my pre-pregnancy weight and 90 lbs from my goal weight, and it's super easy to forget your own body weight has to be factored in. I think I'm on the right track though to try to preserve some of this muscle and even build strength rather than the path of losing huge amounts of muscle right along with fat. I'm going to attempt recomposition on a small deficit with very careful macros and calorie cycling, and we'll see how that goes. They say you can't build muscle and lose fat at the same time, but I've seen enough people do it to know it can totally be done. I just have to find the sweet spot with my diet.
  • IsaackGMOON
    IsaackGMOON Posts: 3,358 Member
    Adah_m wrote: »
    Thanks for the tips. I won't be back in the gym until Monday, so if my legs aren't wrecked tomorrow I'm going to practice form at home with a piece of pipe or broomstick or something and see if opening the knees wider and pushing out helps and see if I notice tightness in the lower legs.
    Also, I'm in total agreement- I'll keep trying with the empty bar until I can get really good form before adding more weight. If I keep having issues I'll see if my husband can take a video of me and post it for the critiques.

    Also- for the one who pointed out that I'm still lifting a ton of body weight, you're totally right. I'm still 45 lbs up from my pre-pregnancy weight and 90 lbs from my goal weight, and it's super easy to forget your own body weight has to be factored in. I think I'm on the right track though to try to preserve some of this muscle and even build strength rather than the path of losing huge amounts of muscle right along with fat. I'm going to attempt recomposition on a small deficit with very careful macros and calorie cycling, and we'll see how that goes. They say you can't build muscle and lose fat at the same time, but I've seen enough people do it to know it can totally be done. I just have to find the sweet spot with my diet.

    It's still pretty minimal muscle gains if you do them simultaneously..
  • Adah_m
    Adah_m Posts: 216 Member
    Isaackgmoon, have you seen anyone do it with calorie cycling? I'm okay with slower strength gains if I'm burning fat and retaining the muscle I have. I'm getting my body composition measured this weekend, if you're interested to see how it goes friend me because I'll be posting updates. I'll be tracking composition, measurements, and photos biweekly instead of weigh ins. I might weigh in monthly out of curiosity but I'm not using it to really measure progress.
  • singingflutelady
    singingflutelady Posts: 8,736 Member
    edited February 2016
    @rabbitjb @SonyaCele @juliewatkin I don't squat atg I only go to parallel because of butt wink below that, mobility and having super long femurs. I am working on mobility and butt wink but is just to parallel squats OK? I thought parallel was as low as needed. Oh I am doing an intermediate program but did do SL before it.
  • ilex70
    ilex70 Posts: 727 Member
    edited February 2016
    Hi Adah_m,

    I'm trying to get started with Stronglifts and so following this thread and your other one. Found this while looking for stretching/mobility stuff and seems like it could be helpful. The pole squat in particular mentions keeping balance - not going too much forward or backward.

    breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/squat-therapy-4-drills-for-a-better-squat
  • Adah_m
    Adah_m Posts: 216 Member
    @rabbitjb @SonyaCele @juliewatkin I don't squat atg I only go to parallel because of butt wink below that, mobility and having super long femurs. I am working on mobility and butt wink but is just to parallel squats OK? I thought parallel was as low as needed. Oh I am doing an intermediate program but did do SL before it.

    Same issues it sounds like. I got the notion squatting below parallel was important from the strong lifts 5x5 site /videos. In the page for proper squatting and form the guy is really adamant that if you don't squat past parallel you don't work all the leg muscles evenly so you get uneven muscle gain focused in the quads and that can lead to knee injury. He also mentions it allows you to lift heavier weights when you're not going as far down because you're moving the weight over a lesser distance. I just assumed it was a big deal and standard squatting technique.
    What are you doing to fix your butt wink? I need that too. I have to learn neutral lower back.