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I need some advices to understand if my low back posture is correct while squatting.

Let's consider these pictures of me, referred to the way up of squat:

enter image description here

  • Picture 1): I've arrived at the parallel. I don't usually try to go too much lower, since it's difficult for me to keep the correct position during this phase. So, since I'm learning, I want firstly to improve my general posture during squat. In this picture, my lower back has its natural curve (natural lumbar lordosis), so I think it's fine.

  • Picture 2): I'm on the way up. Let's focus on the red circle. As you may see, for an istant there is a little bulge on my lower back. I've noticed that this happens not only in squat, but in general when my abs are squeezed and my back is not extended forward. If I try not to squeeze my abs, this bulge won't exist, but of course abs must be kept thight during all the exercise.

  • Picture 3): I'm arrived at the final position. The low back curve is natural, so I think it's fine.

As you have seen, my doubt regards picture 2. Why does squeezing my abs cause such a little bulge? Is it physiological? Is it correct? Is it natural? Or should I do something to avoid it.

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    Do not think this is a problem for you, but just in case: bracing is not flexing the abs. I think this could tilt the pelvis backward. Instead it is more like preparing to be punched in the stomach. For a better description of this: youtube.com/watch?v=PLHY2-nt-y4. – Andy Feb 14 at 22:35
  • @Andy Thank you for this advice. I'll try it. I have only a doubt: from what I can understand, the idea is that of breathing into the stomach to get more pressure in our trunk. But, what when whe exhale out? We will lose such a pressure. For instance, the man in the video inhale, performs the squat and, after it, exhales. When he exhales he is keeping the bar over his shoulders. Isn't it a problem if he loses pressure in this moment? – Kinka-Byo Feb 15 at 8:43
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    The weight is more "dangerous" the more you are leaning forward. The weight is like a moment arm on the spine. The further the horizontal distance from a point in the spine to the bar, the larger the moment at this point in the spine. When you are standing up this horizontal distance is almost 0. In the bottom position of the squat the horizontal distance from the lumbar region to the bar is the largest and you have the most bending moment. This bending moment tries to push your lumbar to much forward and you must counter this with abdominal pressure. – Andy Feb 15 at 9:18
  • Thank you for this clear explanation! Perfect. – Kinka-Byo Feb 15 at 9:22
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Your posture is fine, but you could probably still work on maintaining a more neutral spine if that's important to you

It looks like you have mild lumbar flexion when you squat, meaning that your lower back is being pulled into a flat position, rather than a neutral position (being slightly curved inwards). Since this is a body-weight squat, there's no external load that could be pulling you into lumbar flexion, so it must be coming from your abs instead.

This isn't a major problem, and it's certainly not like this is going to cause an injury, but if you'd like to maintain a more neutral spine throughout the squat, learning to brace properly may help.

Bracing in the squat is achieved through the contraction of the abs and spinal erectors together and in balanced opposition to each other, combined with a full breath hold. When you begin bracing, the spine should not initially move. If you find that when you begin tensing your abs in a standing position that your shoulders move forward slightly, that indicates that the ab tension is not being balanced by your spinal erectors, and your abs are pulling your spine into lumbar flexion. You can also try this while lying on your back - the hollow arch underneath your lower back that exists while you are relaxed should not disappear when you brace. Try to avoid thinking about flexing your abs, because that's usually associated with lumbar flexion, and instead learn to feel bracing as a separate action.

Useful cues for bracing include focussing on trying to pull your ribcage down towards your pelvis without letting it tilt forwards. If you still experience lumbar flexion, try focussing on pulling your shoulder-blades towards your butt.

Mastering bracing will be valuable if or when you begin squatting with external loading.

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  • Thank you for your answer. The action of spinal erectors is that of pulling my shoulder-blades towards my butt? – Kinka-Byo Feb 13 at 17:36
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    @Kinka-Byo no, the spinal erectors are responsible for arching your back, like if you lean backwards. But thinking about pulling your shoulder blades towards your butt might help you focus more on the muscles of your back rather than just your abs. Ideally, you would be tensing both your back and ab muscles equally, but it sounds like you're currently focussing just on squeezing your abs, so more focus on the back muscles is what you need. – David Scarlett Feb 14 at 6:48
  • Perfect, thank you very much – Kinka-Byo Feb 14 at 8:20
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The picture is a little blurry but this could be pelvic tilt, specifically posterior pelvic tilt. It can be caused by solely contracting your abs. This rotates your hip joint clockwise, with respect to the photos.

To maintain a more neutral tilt, you counter this rotation by contracting your glutes. The glutes function to extend the hips (counterclockwise). To get a sense of pelvic tilt, get into a half-squat, keeping the torso and leg position fixed, and rotate only the hip joint.

You should be contracting both the abs and glutes isometrically, when squatting. This keeps the core rigid (they counter-oppose each other) and transfers the load to the primary movers (quads, hamstrings, glutes). Lack of rigidity results in the muscle compensation throughout the movement, which ingrains poor posture and movement patterns. This assumes you have good posture while standing; posture issues can interfere with the squat movement pattern and will need to be addressed separately.

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  • It sounds like you're confusing lumbar movement with hip movement. The hip joint is the joint between the femur and the hip, whereas the lumbar joints are above the hips. Hence "hip joint movement" describes movement of the legs, not the hips. The rectus abdominis is a lumbar flexor, whereas the gluteus maximus is a hip extensor. They are not antagonists to each other. The Glutes' antagonists are the hip flexors, and the abs' antagonists are the erector spinae. – David Scarlett Feb 12 at 0:58
  • Yes the glutes can tilt the pelvis, but in the opposite direction from what you think. This is how we lock out in the deadlift: youtube.com/watch?v=yFv2Qbd4JhA. Some people suffer from anterior pelvic tilt. Weak glutes are among the culprits: athleanx.com/articles/how-to-fix-anterior-pelvic-tilt The glutes attach to the top backside of the pelvis. When pulling down on the pelvis from the top at the back side this will cause a posterior tilt. So clearly the abs and the glutes work together to posterior tilt the pelvis and flatten the lordosis in the lumbar region. – Andy Feb 12 at 17:08
  • @Andy So, how could I avoid this posterior pelvic tilt? Surely I can't avoid squeezing my glutes. On which muscles can I act? – Kinka-Byo Feb 13 at 17:40
  • @Kinka-Byo: not sure about this but ; I do not think it is a problem. I think you are actually doing too good a job at bracing. When you start adding some weight eg. by holding a dumbell or kettlebell in front of you this will cause your erectors to work harder which in turn will force your lumbar into a bit more flexion and your back curvature will be perfect. Anyway it should be easy to try. Just do a goblet squat with say 10-15 kgs and see if the bulge disappears. – Andy Feb 14 at 10:12

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