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  1. #1
    mark2741's Avatar
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    Weightlifting beginner: Can't do squats : (

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    I've been incorporating weightlifting into my life the past few weeks.

    The first week I did the following routine:

    1. 2 x 8 Squats using the 'super squat' machine at the gym

    2. 2 x 8 Squats using a different squat machine that they have there, that seems to limit the motion and focus more on the thighs/legs versus

    3. 3 x 8 chest press

    4. 5 x 3 pullups (these are more 'cheat' pullups where I only go 3/4 of the way down before going back up....to do a real pullup, I can only do one)

    This went well and I did it twice that first week, and then switched to Monday, Wed, Fri for the following week. Still went well. Form seemed good.

    Then, I decided, since I like weightlifting and think it will really help me, that I would look for a real, proven routine. After looking at both Starting Strength and then Stronglifts 5x5 (they are very similar), I decided to try Stronglifts.

    Problem is, I'm just not flexible enough to do real squats. It's not the weight - it's the actual movement. It is very painful to even lift the bar, by itself, off of the rack. And I've tried, as the Stronglifts guy insists, to make my upper back as tight as possible to hold the bar, but still no luck. I *can* get the bar on my back, but only an inch or so below my neck, not low enough per the online videos show that it should be. And my arms - they are not flexible enough to be a width anywhere near my shoulders - I have to do it much wider - almost as wide as the bar itself.

    As if that wasn't enough....the biggest problem is the squat itself. The lowest I can go is still a few inches above parallel/knee level. Again - this is with no weight, just the bar, so it's not a weight/weakness issue, it's a flexibility issue.

    So...should I give up on real squats and go back to the machines? I know machines are lame, but these Precor (the bright yellow machines) seem pretty darn good for machines : (

  2. #2
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    Squatting is a pretty natural movement, so (unless you have a medical condition holding you up) it's probably just a matter of practice. I would forget the bar altogether until you could do a full parallel squat. I would just practice with no bar. Or, use a broomstick to get the feel of having something on your back. You can also use a standard bar (15 lbs.) instead of the Olympic bar (45 lbs.) if you gym has them. You'll get there eventually. The weight is irrelevant until you're able to do the movement.

    As far as bar placement, that's not so much a big deal. Olympic squats are high bar with a wider grip. Low bar usually transfers better over to other lifts like deadlifting. I think it's a better lift for sports, but it's not a huge deal Do what feels more comfortable for you with setup.

    Squatting to parallel is essential though. So, just practice. I'd forgo the squat machines too. They come nowhere close to replicating a real squat.

    I have helped several people who had the same flexibility issue. Typically, it didn't take more than a month or so to overcome this issue.

    One question I do have though: What's painful about lifting the bar off the rack?

  3. #3
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    Don't give up on squats and go back to machines. You are missing out on many of the benefits of squats by not using the full range of motion, and you're increasing the likelihood of injuring yourself.

    You need to work on your flexibility. For your shoulders, do shoulder dislocations. You can do these at home with a broom.

    For your hips and ankles, just squat down and hold it for a few minutes ever day. Lean against the wall if you can't do it without falling over. Try to relax, it will take time.

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    If you want to see just how bad your flexibility is, try doing an overhead squat with feet flat on the ground, and no shoes :-)

    Do it at home with a broom or mop, and make sure nothing is behind you, because you will fall over if your form is right (feet flat, hold the bar over your head).

  5. #5
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    Squats are not a necessity to strength training. I know, blasphemy right? Well thats my story and I'm sticking to it. I personally prefer to do trap bar deadlift and leg press in their place. I do not like to top load my spine with significant weight. Yes squating is natural....squating with a couple hundred pound on your back? Much less so.

    That said you should work on getting into a non weighted grok squat for flexibility of the movement.

  6. #6
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    I'd start with just air squats...if you can sit and stand from a chair you can do squats. Make sure your weight is on your heels and knees are aligned over your toes. It sounds like you need good stretching of your arms/chest muscles (passthroughs: Foundations Day 3) and maybe to work on strengthening your core first.
    Heidi

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  7. #7
    Forever Young's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mark2741 View Post
    I've been incorporating weightlifting into my life the past few weeks.

    The first week I did the following routine:

    1. 2 x 8 Squats using the 'super squat' machine at the gym

    2. 2 x 8 Squats using a different squat machine that they have there, that seems to limit the motion and focus more on the thighs/legs versus

    3. 3 x 8 chest press

    4. 5 x 3 pullups (these are more 'cheat' pullups where I only go 3/4 of the way down before going back up....to do a real pullup, I can only do one)

    This went well and I did it twice that first week, and then switched to Monday, Wed, Fri for the following week. Still went well. Form seemed good.

    Then, I decided, since I like weightlifting and think it will really help me, that I would look for a real, proven routine. After looking at both Starting Strength and then Stronglifts 5x5 (they are very similar), I decided to try Stronglifts.

    Problem is, I'm just not flexible enough to do real squats. It's not the weight - it's the actual movement. It is very painful to even lift the bar, by itself, off of the rack. And I've tried, as the Stronglifts guy insists, to make my upper back as tight as possible to hold the bar, but still no luck. I *can* get the bar on my back, but only an inch or so below my neck, not low enough per the online videos show that it should be. And my arms - they are not flexible enough to be a width anywhere near my shoulders - I have to do it much wider - almost as wide as the bar itself.

    As if that wasn't enough....the biggest problem is the squat itself. The lowest I can go is still a few inches above parallel/knee level. Again - this is with no weight, just the bar, so it's not a weight/weakness issue, it's a flexibility issue.

    So...should I give up on real squats and go back to the machines? I know machines are lame, but these Precor (the bright yellow machines) seem pretty darn good for machines : (
    First of all machines are NOT lame!! This place seems to be full of that nonsense. They are a tool just like free weights and they have advantages that free weights don't have like full resistance in all ranges of motion (depending on the quality of said machine) and the safety factor. That said, free weights are surely a great way to build strength and muscle mass. Your body doesn't know if you are lifting rocks, lead bars, machines or dumbbells. Yes there is the balancing aspect with free weights that machines don't have but that is a learned thing. It is why I utilize both in my program.

    Secondly, not everyone is built for barbell squats. That is just a fact of life. I've had lower back problems a few times in my life and a couple of those have been doing barbell squats. At this point in life its all about feeling great and being pain free, which I do and I am. There is no point in this world to do something that could cause me pain now or even worse, chronic pain down the road. If you can't do squats, do leg presses and the machine squats you mentioned. Do dead lifts if you are able on an alternate basis. Its about being healthy and feeling great. Anything else is bullshit.

  8. #8
    EggbertHeadleton's Avatar
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    You need to work on the flexibility issue before squatting fully. A good excercise is to stand facing a wall and then squat down and see how far you can go. Someone with good flexibility can do a full squat with their toes touching the wall. What you need to do is start a foot or so from the wall and squat and then as things improve get closer and closer.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Forever Young View Post
    First of all machines are NOT lame!! This place seems to be full of that nonsense. They are a tool just like free weights and they have advantages that free weights don't have like full resistance in all ranges of motion (depending on the quality of said machine) and the safety factor. That said, free weights are surely a great way to build strength and muscle mass. Your body doesn't know if you are lifting rocks, lead bars, machines or dumbbells. Yes there is the balancing aspect with free weights that machines don't have but that is a learned thing. It is why I utilize both in my program.

    Secondly, not everyone is built for barbell squats. That is just a fact of life. I've had lower back problems a few times in my life and a couple of those have been doing barbell squats. At this point in life its all about feeling great and being pain free, which I do and I am. There is no point in this world to do something that could cause me pain now or even worse, chronic pain down the road. If you can't do squats, do leg presses and the machine squats you mentioned. Do dead lifts if you are able on an alternate basis. Its about being healthy and feeling great. Anything else is bullshit.
    Machines ARE lame. Unless you are actively rehabilitating a specific injury you get much more of a benefit from doing actual barbell excercises.

  10. #10
    Forever Young's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EggbertHeadleton View Post
    Machines ARE lame. Unless you are actively rehabilitating a specific injury you get much more of a benefit from doing actual barbell excercises.
    You are the perfect example of the narrow minded type of person I'm talking about. That BS is conventional wisdom.

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