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How's my squat-free lifting plan look?

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  • How's my squat-free lifting plan look?

    So I'm a 23year old, 6'4 220lb guy who started a Starting Strength program this January. It was giving me good gains, but I was miserable the entire time. I have a curved spine and the squats were really screwing up my back. I met with a good certified SS coach, but even after $75 he couldn't change the way my lower back is naturally hyper-extended. I spent the past 2 months with a chiropractor, and now I can get a full nights sleep pain free. Luckily during that time I dropped 15lbs (from 235), without losing anything in my deadlift/press.

    So anyways, I started a new program loosely based on Dan John's Easy Strength. It appealed to me because it a) didn't require squats and b) was flexible in schedule. I'm a full-time worker, full-time grad student so my days are random and crazy. I basically have Sat/sun for sure open (although some weekends I travel to see the girlfriend), and sometimes I will have a weeknight open too.

    Here is what I do in the gym, 1x to 2x per week:

    1. Deadlift: 3x3, reverse pyramid (first set PR, 2nd set 10lbs off, 3rd set another 10lbs off)
    2. Overhead barbell press: 3x3 (same as deadlift, but with -5lbs descending)
    3. Heavy kettlebell swing: 25-50 swings, then increase the kettlebell
    4. Heavy farmers walk around the gym (using the 2x 70lb kettlebells, trying for further distance. Soon I'll start working on the heavy dumbbells.
    5. 5x ab-roller rollouts

    I've took my deadlift up +50lbs in the past 5 workouts (~3 weeks), and my press is increasing.

    On nights I get home earlier or when I am doing homework, I work on my bodyweight exercises with planks/pull-ups/pushups. Also with mobility stuff and stretching, the "grok squat" is doing wonders.

    Also, sprinting about 1x a week.

    Thoughts? Is there an imbalance that may cause trouble down the line? Is 1x a week with the bodyweight+sprint enough?

    Thanks.
    Last edited by Dickson; 04-14-2013, 09:33 PM.

  • #2
    Could you alternate the deadlifts with something that more closely emulates the squat, like trap-bar deadlifts, hack squats, or hip belt squats?

    Your program conspicuously lacks pullups and bench press. Was that intentional?
    The Champagne of Beards

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    • #3
      Out of curiosity, the kettlebell swings don't hurt your back? I ask because I have lower back problems, occasionally severe, that got equally aggrivated squatting and kettlebelling, until I really learned how to maintain a set back for heavier lifting. Since that time, I haven't had issues when doing either squats or kettlebell swings.
      ~All luck is earned in the end.~

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      • #4
        How are you doing deadlifts and not squats if your lower back is "hyperextended"? Do you have lordosis? I think maybe the problem is that you are able to overextend your lumbar spine. Maybe you just need to keep it neutral.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by quikky View Post
          How are you doing deadlifts and not squats if your lower back is "hyperextended"?
          I wondered that too.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by RichMahogany View Post
            Could you alternate the deadlifts with something that more closely emulates the squat, like trap-bar deadlifts, hack squats, or hip belt squats?

            Your program conspicuously lacks pullups and bench press. Was that intentional?
            I may try the trap-bar deadlift, thanks for the suggestion. I don't have pullups as a part of my gym-workout to cut down on time, but I have a pullup bar on my door frame which I try to do every day I'm not at the gym. The lack of bench press is twofold, the first being that I'm still benefiting greatly from pushups (I can do about 5 in a normal set, with 10 being my best), and the second being that when I did bench, I did it alone without a power rack (I workout at odd hours in a nearly empty gym).
            Originally posted by quikky View Post
            How are you doing deadlifts and not squats if your lower back is "hyperextended"? Do you have lordosis? I think maybe the problem is that you are able to overextend your lumbar spine. Maybe you just need to keep it neutral.
            I had Scheurmann's disease as a pre-teen (and I guess by default, still have it), which is a curvature of the upper back during the growth period, and causes the vertabrae to fuse together and become completely inflexible. I wore a back brace for five years, and its purpose was to hold the upperback in its place until I was done growing to keep it from fusing at a worse curvature. Unfortunately, the spine operates in a "give and take" relationship, so the brace caused my lower back to curve inwards. I now have a very S shaped back when viewed from the sides, and my lower back curves inward quite a bit at rest.

            A lot of my problems with the squat may not be unfixable. Low bar squats were taking the S and smashing it down with gravity. A stronger core and less-tight hamstrings should help, but as of now I have trouble even bodyweight squatting without losing my tightness in my lower back. Visiting the Chiropractor also has helped tremendously with getting my hips popped back in to a better angle.

            I'm not sure why I can deadlift/swing, but I think when I keep the weight off of my upper back it puts a very different pressure on my lower back; gravity is no longer trying to pancake me.

            My lifts are as following:

            Squat: 135lbs
            Deadlift: 275lbs
            OHP: 120lbs
            BP: 175lbs
            Powerclean: 105lbs

            As you can see, the squat is my Achilles heal.

            Would front-squats be a possible solution? It lowers the weight a bit and for whatever reason I can keep flexion when I am upright at 90 degrees. My sports chiro tried to get me to switch to high-bar, but it really didn't make a difference. Alternatively, would wearing a belt help? I have one and both my coach/chiro recommended it, but I felt stupid wearing it for 135lb squats. My other idea is to suck it up and do a major deload, maybe even down to 45lbs (started at 95lbs but I wasn't hitting depth).

            I'm not set on giving up squats, I still got the $190 Nike Romaleo II's after all (bought them so I'd feel guilty quitting). I just wonder if I need a better general preparedness to get my core ready for the load?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Dickson View Post
              but I felt stupid wearing it for 135lb squats.
              If there's one caveat to the entire complex of arguments about the necessity of squats, it's "... as long as you don't have to suffer feeling stupid"

              If the belt helps you squat, WEAR THE DAMN BELT
              The Champagne of Beards

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              • #8
                wait.. so you can pull 275, ohp 120, bp 175, but only do 5-10 pushups?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by not on the rug View Post
                  wait.. so you can pull 275, ohp 120, bp 175, but only do 5-10 pushups?
                  Yes but there is a major typo there on my part, my benchpress is 135lbs for 3x5, not 175.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dickson View Post
                    Yes but there is a major typo there on my part, my benchpress is 135lbs for 3x5, not 175.
                    i see.. even worse than originally stated. i'm curious as to how your chest could be so comparitavely weak compared to the rest of your body. other injuries? lack of athletic background?

                    i'd also say to maybe get on to some sort of routine and stick to it. starting strength may not be the answer you're looking for, but there are several quality programs out there. you should focus on building a total body strength foundation. i second what RM stated earlier, if the belt helps you, then wear it. the hell with anyone who makes you feel stupid.

                    or you could focus on bodyweight squats, slowly adding weight. you could do goblet squats, use a weighted vest, etc

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by not on the rug View Post
                      i see.. even worse than originally stated. i'm curious as to how your chest could be so comparitavely weak compared to the rest of your body. other injuries? lack of athletic background?

                      i'd also say to maybe get on to some sort of routine and stick to it. starting strength may not be the answer you're looking for, but there are several quality programs out there. you should focus on building a total body strength foundation. i second what RM stated earlier, if the belt helps you, then wear it. the hell with anyone who makes you feel stupid.

                      or you could focus on bodyweight squats, slowly adding weight. you could do goblet squats, use a weighted vest, etc
                      Well, I'd contend that at 6'4 220lbs with around 25% bodyfat-- 10 pushups has been a good start from 0 in January. I'm built like a potato with Salvador Dali drawn stick limbs, so my 38" arms aren't helping my efforts. My only background in athletics is as a varsity swimmer in high school, I somehow managed to stay out of shape for 4 years while swimming 5k+ yards a day (and eating 5k+ in junk/mountain dew). I am at the forefront of the "new generation" youth coming up-- I spent my teenage years playing world of warcraft/eating junk instead of playing sports (or enjoying the hobby farm I lived on).

                      I know I need improvement, and I appreciate the positive feedback. Just trying to get a solid plan to get me through one more year of sleepless grad school to compliment my primal eating.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dickson View Post
                        Just trying to get a solid plan...
                        i think that is the key for you. finding yourself a solid plan and then sticking to it. so you can see some measurable improvement/progress and build a good foundation. squats of any type, deadlifts, bench press/pushups, overhead press, dips, pullups/chinups, and rows are bascially the cornerstone lifts that you should build your program around. i break my lifts in to "push" and "pull" days. thats what works for me. you mentioned that you go to a gym. so you probably have access to all of the equipment needed to do all of these things. there are a lot of geople on this site who can help to get you moving in the right direction, and who can help you with form questions if you post videos and pictures. we're here if you need us

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                        • #13
                          Wow, sounds like you've made some excellent gains! Congrats!

                          Just an extreme thought, you might even consider nixing the back squat as it sounds like your spine doesn't much care for it. A single leg squat could take some of that extension moment off of your spine and you could chop the depth to make it comfortable.

                          No reason to be dogmatic about what exercises should and should not be performed--and to what depth. As you've figured out (I learned the hard way too ), pushing yourself into socially approved exercise boxes can really hurt. We're all working with different equipment, no reason we should all do the same thing.
                          Last edited by RyanIPT; 04-15-2013, 01:26 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Great info, Squatting can be a bit technical and you must not have any flexibility issues in the lower body especially the hips. I agree, Squats are the king of all exercises

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                            • #15
                              Personally, I don't feel squats are necessary if you can at least do heavy D-lifts.

                              While I agree that squats are invaluable in a program, useful, all around body builder I just don't think there necessary for everyone, and not everyone can do them.

                              A lot of people have flexibility issues that prevent them from doing proper squats that go beyond simply stretching the hammies and foam rolling the glutes.

                              That being said, other people can squat and not dead-lift. So I would argue that as long as you had one of them, then included assistance exercises you'd probably be fine.
                              Eg. Heavy dead-lifts with 1 legged/split quats/barbell lunges/goblit squats replacing the heavy BB squat.

                              Or. Heavy squats with barbell glute raise thingamaggies, glute/ham raises, etc to hit the posterior.

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