Since last two squat sessions I have noticed that I feel my lower back when I squat for 5x3. Now this is due to good morning happening at the rising part of my squat.

Lowering the weight is one solution but then how am I supposed to progress if I lower the weight?

(I can do 3*5 of 75kg plates but today I did 80kg 3*4 reps and felt my back).

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    I come here from HNQ. What's "good morning"? – Eric Duminil May 7 at 19:40
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    exrx.net/WeightExercises/Hamstrings/BBGoodMorning - Kinda like a straight leg deadlift, but with the bar racked on the shoulders. – Harrison Paine May 7 at 19:57
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    @EricDuminil - I've supplemented my answer with an explanation of what a "good morning" is. Good question. It should have been elaborated on. – Alec May 8 at 11:28
  • Jeff gives a good tip for this problem in this video - think about moving the chest and hips up together from the bottom, engaging abs. If you can't squat the weight like this, then you're not strong enough yet. – Max May 15 at 21:31

What is a "good morning"?

Just to add context, a "good morning" is when you're doing a squat, you go down to the lowest point, but then you extend the knees without maintaining an upright back.

This results in the butt being raised up, but not the chest, so you're just bending forward, with a lot of weight on your neck rather than your shoulders. Then you need to hinge the torso back up.

enter image description here

This is a result of not moving the butt and torso as a unit, but rather separately. The good morning stance can lead to severe back injury if repeated instead of corrected.

Onwards to the question

Now, lowering the weight is one solution but then how am I supposed to progress if I lower the weight?

This is a very common state of mind.

Listen, if you can't squat 80kg without going into a "good morning", then you can't really squat 80kg.

If at any point you have to break form in order to complete a rep, then you have to face it; you weren't actually able to complete that rep properly.

Lowering the weight may seem like a humbling thing, but check your ego at the door.

The reason a "good morning" happens is because you're not engaging the gluteus k during the lift. So what should you do to train them? Well, for one thing, you should be squatting with lower weight, because this helps build the glutes. If you stay in the 70-75kg range for a few weeks, then try 80 again, I'm sure you'll find the progress you want.

Additionally, you can do auxiliary exercises that help train the gluteus muscles, such as deadlifts, back raise, and whatever else.

But the key takeaway here is that if you can't properly squat X kgs for Y reps, then lower the weight or the amount of reps, and make sure that ALL of your reps are proper.

Feel free to post a video of yourself squatting if you're looking for a form check.

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    I do two squats session in a week,one heavy day of 3*6 reps and one control day of 4*6 rep of pause squats.I am planning to lower the weight to 75 and go to full 3*6 for the next week before I hit 80 kg plates again.Meanwhile 70kg on the control day maybe,or a set of 75 then rest 70 let's see.I do DL on pull days.Btw after reading your ans it seems that you mean to say that the my weak link in this case is the spinal erector and not the legs? – sagnik das May 7 at 18:42
  • Weighted back raises might help strengthen the spinal erector portion of your posterior chain. – Dinglemeyer NeverGonnaGiveUUp May 7 at 20:09
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    I would encourage you to think of the posterior chain as just that; a chain. Think of the big picture rather than each individual link. The legs and back need to work in tandem in order to do a proper squat. If they fall out of sync, you do a good morning instead. – Alec May 7 at 20:16
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    This. In the weight room, Good Form and Technique is the Fourth Person of the Godhead. This is most especially crucial when your body is between the weight and the floor. – EvilSnack May 8 at 2:31
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    'The reason a "good morning" happens is because your spinal erectors aren't able to maintain a straight back during the lift.' This doesn't make sense, as a rounded back is not a necessary characteristic of a good morning or a good morning squat. You can still shift into a good morning position while having a neutral spinal position, it'll just be more horizontal. I'd even say that if you're able to complete the rep, it's not your spinal erectors that are the problem. Weak spinal erectors will more likely mean being folded in half at the bottom and not being able to get up. – David Scarlett May 8 at 23:35

A "good morning squat" occurs when your knees shift backward at the bottom of the squat. This action takes the load off the quadriceps and places more load onto the glutes and spinal erectors, as the load on the quadriceps is proportional to how far forward your knees are from the point of balance, and the load on your glutes and back is proportional to how far back the hips are from the point of balance. (The point of balance being the vertical line through your centre of mass, which should pass through the centre of your feet.)

Firstly: Confirm that this is what is happening. Is your back becoming more horizontal at the bottom of the squat, and are your knees moving backwards so that your shins are nearly vertical? If yes, then that is indeed a good-morning squat.

Shifting into a good-morning at the bottom of your squat very likely indicates that your quads are the weakest link in your squat, and aren't strong enough to hold you up with your knees forward at the bottom. So you instinctually bring your knees back to lessen the load on the quads, and that causes you to shift into a good-morning in order to maintain balance.

If you were squatting heavier, I might suggest adding more quad-focussed assistance exercises like high-bar squats or front squats, however if your squat is at 75kg for sets of 5, I'd say you should just be squatting. (You don't need the added complexity at this point in your training, and adding squat exercises that have different mechanics may cause you to confuse their movements during the lifts.) Just lower the weight to a point where you can squat without it turning into a good-morning, and focus on keeping your knees forwards at the bottom. Keep training and increasing the weight from there, and as long as you focus on not letting the knees slide back at the bottom, you should be able to progress through this sticking point just fine.

And if you're struggling to improve your squat at these weights, you most likely also need to be eating a lot more.

Edit: There are now three conflicting answers here, each claiming that the cause is a weakness of one of the quads, glutes, or back extensors. That's a pretty strong reason to just keep squatting while focussing on maintaining correct form. Whereas if you go off and do a bunch of glute-specific training, and it turns out that a glute weakness wasn't actually the problem, your squat is only going to get worse.

This is something I've been struggling with and trying to work through. From my experience there's a third possbility (apart from spinal erector or quad weakness): glute weakness or inaction. This could be a little controversial but I think it stands to reason.

If you imagine yourself in the bottom position, you've got a closed hip that you have to extend at some point during the lift. Both your hamstrings and your glutes contribute to extending the hip, but the hamstrings actually cross two joints: your hip and your knee. With your knee closed in the bottom position, the hamstrings can't contribute to extending the hip, so extending the hip in this position is mainly down to the glutes. By putting yourself in a good morning position, you're avoiding extending the hip until your knee is extended, allowing you to get your hamstrings involved.

To help, you could concentrate on opening up your hips aggressively from the bottom position, and as always lowering the weight until you can complete the movement with proper form.

  • Sounds reasonable. – sagnik das May 8 at 8:45
  • Good mornings are a glute exercise, and place the hips in a position where the required hip extension torque is greater than that required in a low-bar squat. You definitely can't reduce the load on the glutes in a squat by shifting into a good morning instead. – David Scarlett May 8 at 23:43
  • ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3820173 In conclusion, maximum torque of hip extensor and HAM activation were significantly higher at 0°of knee flexion than at knee flexion angles of more than 60°. GM activation increased at knee flexion angles of more than 60° – mdpead May 9 at 10:56
  • Yes, but shifting into the good morning position increases the moment between the bar and the hips, greatly increasing the total hip extension torque required. I find it very difficult to believe that the relatively small increase in torque from the hamstrings when the knees are partially extended could offset the large increases in hip extension torque that come from shifting the hips backwards. – David Scarlett May 9 at 14:05
  • Hmm I see what you're saying. I'm not sure how to compare glute activation at the bottom position with glute activation at the good morning position, and I suspect it would differ greatly between individuals (both due to their anthropometry and relative hamstring / glute contribution). Whatever the case, I think there is a possibility that, either through glute weakness or failure to engage the glutes properly, one could struggle to extend or even maintain the hip angle out of the bottom. – mdpead May 10 at 10:23

An easy way to view this is you are too prone to leaning forward when you come up from a squat. So, how can you practice staying more upright?

        Cueing

  • "Stick your chest out"
  • "Make it so you can always read the letters on your chest"
  • "Chest up!"
  • "Look straight ahead"
  • "Look up"

There is an art to cueing. What works for some doesn't work for all. However, you can see the general idea above is to get the spine more upright. For instance, the body tends to follow the eyes. If you're looking down, that could cause you to round over some.*

This is the easiest and fastest route to correction, though it's not fail-safe.

        Forced Squat Practice

Sometimes voluntary action just isn't enough. We can then change the environment.

Practice squatting facing a wall:

        wall squat facing

Credit: Diesel Strength

Because of the wall in front of you, you won't be able to lean forward much (at least not without hitting your face). It's a good way to groove the movement and get the muscles you want primed and acclimated. For instance, you could do this as a warm-up, or in between squat sets.

You could take this further and do something similar with a bar on your back. For example, if you set-up your squat so the bar is very close to the rack, you will have the same effect as the wall squat. That is, if you lean forward, the barbell will hit the rack.

This is in essence what a Smith Machine does*:

smith machine 1

Front Squatting is another approach. Because the bar is on the front of your body, you will be forced to stay more upright. If you lean forward with the bar on front of you, you'll dump it.

        front squat

Credit.

        Practice during the day too

Finally, if you say, sit in a rounded upper back posture all day (kyphosis), or you just lean forward staring at a computer too much, that could be worth working on too. After all, if you're practicing leaning forward all day, it's natural you get very good at that motion.

sitting positions

In fact, notice the position above. The person has the hips and knees bent. They are actually in a squat position. They aren't doing it intentionally, but if you sat like a red X above, you'd be practicing being in a squat with a forward lean for hours and hours every day.

More help in this domain.

        A muscle by muscle focus can be overrated

Many will approach a problem like this as "you're trying to use your posterior chain more than your anterior."

Which makes sense. If you were to squat without leaning over at all, you're going to feel that more in your quads than your lower back, glutes / hamstrings. After all, this is why a Good Morning is a posterior chain exercise. (Nobody does them because they're trying to hit their quadriceps.)

You could even get fancier and say "Your thoracic extensors aren't working as well as they should." Though that's not necessarily true. You could be leaning forward but not rounding forward. There is a difference. (Rounding forward is where the injury concern comes in. Leaning forward without rounding is fine. Again, that's the point of a Good Morning, and the Deadlift exercise.)

Again, there can be merit here. However, if you instead focus on the movement you're trying to correct, the muscles will take care of themselves. Plus, there is no guarantee if you went on a couple month quad. strengthening program, you'd suddenly start squatting more upright. The body is rather specific in its adaptations. A strength gain can happen in the absence of a technique change. (Just because you take steroids doesn't mean you immediately can hit a baseball further. You need to still practice swinging a bat.)

*I realize some of the die hards here may not be partial to looking up ala Rippetoe fans or those worried about hyperextension of the neck. As well as some might not like the idea of using a Smith Machine. Keep in mind the question is how can the person stay more upright. It's not how can they squat with everything in ideal alignment. For some, a compensation at e.g. the neck can be worth better position at e.g. the lower back.

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