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My current bodyweight is 65kg and I am doing StrongLifts 5x5 for past two months. I am stuck between 70-75kg squat. Until 65kg squat it didn't matter much how my form was. I know that, I used to neither engage my abdominals & obliques by holding breath nor used to keep my 'chest up' and keep my upper body tight. As a result, my squat used to look more like GoodMorning Squats. But I continued squatting with such terrible form till 75kg. But then I couldn't make any further progress.

Realising my mistakes (based on formcheck on reddit), I deloaded to 67.5kg and started incorporating 'chest up' & 'holding breath'. My form improved very much. But I was unable (I was trying my best) to maintain 'chest up' during last 2-3 reps of 3rd, 4th & 5th sets at 70kg. I tried on the next workout day but face same issue. I deloaded further to 65kg and started working my way up. I could hold it at 65kg & 67.5kg but at 70kg I faced same issue. I then started doing 70kg squats for first 2 sets and 65kg for last 3 sets but I am still facing the same problem during last 2 reps of 4th & 5th sets.

Question: However hard I try to keep 'chest up' my upperback is collapsing and rounding while moving up during last reps of last sets. What do I do? Should I do any supplementary exercises? Is this problem going to go away? Am I going to make progress further? Will I reach my dream of squatting double my bodyweight?

Also I'm starting to dislike squats. I actually want to love them but I'm getting that resistance in my brain.

EDIT: I'm quite happy with my progress in other exercises. DeadLift: 95kg, OHP: 33kg, BenchPress: 42.5kg, Barbell Row: 45kg.

I don't know if it is relevant but during deadlift, while pulling, my upper back is rounding but once I reach the top most position, everything is locked and I attain perfect 'chest up'

EDIT 2: Update after today's workout session incorporating suggestions given in the answers

I had a wonderful workout session today.I've deloaded my squats to 62.5kg, as suggested by StrongLifts App and for the first time ever, squats felt more like an Abdominal workout when I incorporated following suggestions in doing them:

  1. I didn't lean too much forward at the bottom of Ass-to-grass squat. Only Approx 30 degrees
  2. I didn't lift my elbows up behind as high as I could. I stopped where I felt was sufficient.
  3. After holding air inside my belly, I squeezed my abs to the maximal possible extent.
  4. When I was struggling to rise up, during that short span of struggle, I squeezed and pulled the bar into my body, as if I'm slicing my body with bar, and simultaneously, I pushed my chest towards chin with force (Honestly, all of this happened naturally). I felt this really helped in preventing upper back from rounding.
  5. Another cue, which happened by accident but really helped is, for around 15 sec before approaching the bar for a set, I stood with chest up and I stood for 5 sec in front of the bar with chest-up position and then started a set. I don't know, somehow it really helped me.

I felt burning in the abs after every set. I also did Over-head-squat at 30kg @ 3sets x 8reps, just after Squats. They were just forcing me to keep everything in order. I really loved them.

I'll update again when I reach the 75kg squat.

  • How long are you taking between sets? – Dave Liepmann Dec 10 '15 at 8:21
  • @DaveLiepmann: 3minutes but because of mental resistance & all, it might take 30sec-1min more especially before 4th & 5th sets. – claws Dec 10 '15 at 8:32
  • There are other good answers, but I'd just add that it's a pain when you learn something the wrong way because you have all that bad muscle memory now. It happens to pretty much everyone, but it's definitely a drag when it's on something important like a squat. I'd echo other people's comments regarding your abs though. Keeping your core erect is what keeps the chest up. Go bonkers in that area. Front squats, ab wheels, etc. Your abs are what keep you from buckling over. – Eric Dec 10 '15 at 13:27
  • Also, just take the ego hit and work with lighter weights until you get your form right. It's no fun leaving weight off the bar and doing "chump weight", but it's the only way to come back from injuries, unlearn bad habits, and get through similar problems. To get to a point where you're squatting 2x your body weight, you'll need to get your form dialed in. Better to deal with it now. – Eric Dec 10 '15 at 13:30
  • @EricKaufman Squatting with less than 65kg (for this person, right now) won't fix anything because it won't force him to fix the form imperfections and weaknesses. It's easy to squat right with 1/2BW. It's when it's >BW that you start finding what's wrong. – Dave Liepmann Dec 10 '15 at 13:51
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Deadlift properly

It's almost impossible to remotely determine what the trouble is, but:

during deadlift, while pulling, my upper back is rounding but once I reach the top most position, everything is locked and I attain perfect 'chest up'

That's not good. For a strong back, you want a perfect, tense, straight, shoulderblades-retracted position for the entirety of each deadlift rep. 95kg is waaaaay too early for you to start rounding your shoulders to push past weakness. The solution for that is to insist on doing every deadlift rep perfectly. If that means flexibility work, do it. If it means a 5kg drop in your max deadlift, do it.

Weak upper back

Your upper-body lifts also don't seem indicative of the upper-body strength to support a really right upper back position on a 70kg squat. The solution for that is to really push those upper-body lifts, to make sure they're getting the attention and progression they need. Don't stop squatting and deadlifting, don't change programs. Just keep an eye on those upper-body lifts.

Set-up

There's also the task of properly bracing for the squat. Are you breathing correctly? Are you retracting your shoulderblades correctly? Are you hyperextending your back instead of properly bracing it in a straight position? There's a lot to get right in the squat, and it's impossible to pinpoint these issues without at least a form check.

3x5

Remember to follow the program recommendations on deloading and eventually switching to a 3x5 system for a lift that is giving you trouble. Reread that section of the program. You're at a stage where your squat might be fine with just 3 sets of 5, leaving more energy for your other lifts.

  • Thank you very much for your response. I'll drop 5kgs or if required 10kgs on deadlift and maintain proper form through out deadlift. I usually take breath in at the start of a rep (in all exercises) and hold it through out rep and then release after completion of a rep. ` it's impossible to pinpoint these issues without at least a form check.` I understand. Tomorrow is my next workout. I'll squat same 70kg. I'll record and post videos for all 5 sets. – claws Dec 10 '15 at 9:27
  • For proper breathing, I don't just mean when. I mean, are you breathing in deep and then locking it hard, with your abs and lower back and glutes squeezed, and your shoulderblades retracted? Does everything stay tight? How precisely does the upper back round? What's your back angle? – Dave Liepmann Dec 10 '15 at 9:33
  • Breathing: Yeah I take deep breath and l am locking very hard with abs squeezed in. I feel the burn in abdominals during some sets. I don't squeeze glutes. Shoulderblades This is what I started concentrating most on. Now they are perfectly retracted and only then I could push my chest up (as if its trying to meet chin). I even started pulling my elbows more UP behind to ensure tightness. As I said in the question, I started doing these two very recently. Only these 3 reduced the 'Goodmorning' nature of my squats. I feel everything very tight. I'm ensuring it that way. – claws Dec 10 '15 at 10:01
  • Upper Back Rounding: It happens when I'm rising up from (ass to grass) squat. I start lifting my lowerback from the bottom most position, my upper back also starts lifting without much angle change. When I hit just about parallel, with my back angle at 45degrees, and everything still tight, I struggle here for further lift, this is when suddenly my upper back rounds. And then it feels as if a big stumbling block is removed and I stand up completely. Before next rep, I take 2 sec in adjust everything (breathing & tightening everything) and go for it. – claws Dec 10 '15 at 10:10
  • Weak Upper Body I agree. I always had a weak upperbody. I'm told the same by some trainers at the gym, in the past. Its only now, I started seeing some meat in my arms & chest. In these 2 months my weight increased by 5kgs. I fail to do more than 6 pullups and 5 dips. But I keep doing them as per old StrongLifts programme, at the end of every workout. Squat: StrongLifts app tells me to deload to 62.5 kgs and work my way up. Should I listen to it or keep working with 70kgs? – claws Dec 10 '15 at 10:22
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I think that without seeing your posture and movement, it really is difficult to say what the issue could be, but incorporating Overhead-Squats (even Front Squats) are forcing you to keep the upper back tense all the time and breast up, and with focusing on Barbell Rows you can strengthening your (potential) weak areas.

I would start the Overhead-Squat with 30 kg to see how that feels and you get used to the movement, the same for the Front-Squat. As you feel stable and don´t have problems executing them, start adding some weight.

As Dave stated already stick to your routine, just remove some weight and incorporate the movements mentioned as assistance exercises. Hope that helps. (You will achieve 2 x Body weight for sure!)

BTW. there are small tricks you can try:

  1. While holding the bar and squeezing it, try to pull your hands in direction to your head, without actually moving them... so that you feel your traps and upper back muscles contracted!

  2. Try to avoid lifting the elbows UP behind as you mentioned as you are pushing your head forward and tend to round the upper body more.

  • 1. Can you kindly go through my comments to Dave's answer? 2. How much should I start my Overhead-Squats or Front Squats with? 3. How do I integrate them? 4. I didn't understand your 'small trick'. Could you kindly clarify? – claws Dec 10 '15 at 10:28
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    ... I inserted the requested info in the answer, I didn´t mention the topics where I think are ok ... :-) – mitro Dec 10 '15 at 11:36
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    I agree with mitro on the topic of lifting elbows. That's a bad habit. – Dave Liepmann Dec 10 '15 at 11:58
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    Workout A: Squat + Overhead Squat as assistance exercise doing 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps, Bench Press, Barbell Row Workout B: Squat, Overhead Press, Deadlift, + Front-Squats (as you are already doing some overhead work here) same fashion as for the Overhead squats. Please respond tomorrow after training how the overhead squats felt, I´m curious if you like those. – mitro Dec 10 '15 at 14:03
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    Nice to hear you like the OHS and would not recommend Reisig the weight yet as you need to learning the movement and little more, if it felt to easy you can just incorporate one more set for the next two weaks and then increase the weight slightly and starting at 3x 8 again. For Front Squats you can add weight now already to a resistence where a third set of 8s feel heavy but your form doesnt suffer. every other weak or doing the same approach like OHS. - good luck and see you at 2x bodyweight :-) – mitro Dec 12 '15 at 10:27

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