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Why Does My Lower Back Hurt When I Squat?

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Why Does My Lower Back Hurt When I Squat?


Why does my lower back hurt when I squat? Experiencing lower back pain during squats can be highly frustrating, especially when you don’t know how to stop it from occurring. 

Performing your best in the gym is vital for individuals prioritizing health and fitness in their daily routines. Lower back pain in squats can be a detrimental factor that can reduce motivation and increase discomfort. Throughout this article, I’ll break down the common causes of lower back pain in squats and provide helpful preventative strategies. `

Common Causes of Lower Back Pain in Squats

Suffering low back pain is horrific as is, but having to experience it when performing squats is another issue in itself. Low back pain in squats is often avoidable and results from various causes, from bad form to poor mobility. Continue reading below to learn more about the common causes of lower back pain in squats! 

Why Does My Lower Back Hurt When I Squat?

Bad Form or Technique 

Bad form or technique is one of the most common causes of lower back pain in squats. 

Not engaging the abdominal muscles to protect the spine during exercises like the squat increases the stress placed on it. This can incur potential back pain or injury to the spine, especially when lifting heavier weight loads. 

Another example of bad form and technique would be curving your spine while squatting. Performing a squat while curving the spine increases spinal compression and stress on the spine, which can raise the risk of muscular or disc injury. 

Prioritizing a neutral spine and quality form can reduce stress placed on the spine, decreasing potential domino effect issues such as lower back pain in squats. 

Heavy Weight

Lifting heavier weights can be a significant contributor to lower back pain. The added pressure of more weight contributes to more compression and stress placed on the spine.

If form or abdominal strength isn’t up to par to protect the spine, this can result in lower back pain during heavier lifts. Lifting too heavy and fast without preparing the body by building up to heavier weight loads can be dangerous and significantly increase injury risk. 

Leave your ego outside of the gym. Your health will thank you. I know it, I’ve been there.

Poor Mobility

One aspect many may not initially consider contributing to low back pain during squats is poor mobility.

Whether in the ankles or the hips, lacking mobility in these areas can result in the other parts of the body having to compensate, which can subsequently result in poor squat mechanics. This can contribute to building stress on the lower back from insufficient squat form or technique caused by poor mobility, resulting in pain and discomfort. 

Not Warming Up Properly

Warming up before exercise is crucial for injury prevention. Doing so helps prepare the body for movement and new weight loads. A lack of proper warm-up can significantly increase the risk of injury, especially in fundamental movements like the squat. 

Low back pain is one such concern that can arise when a warm-up is not prioritized before performing the exercise. Tight muscles and cold joints can restrict movement and range of motion, instigating complications in form, technique, and stress placed on the spine. All of these can incur the wrath of low back pain during a squat. 

Strategies to Prevent Low Back Pain in Squatting

Why Does My Lower Back Hurt When I Squat?


When experiencing low back pain in squatting, there are specific strategies to consider to prevent this occurrence. Keep reading to learn more about the different methods that can be used to avoid low back pain in squats! 

Practice Good Form & Technique

Each exercise has a specific form to appropriately target muscle groups while deterring potential injury. The squat is one of the most basic exercises, with a dedicated form to protect the spine throughout the lift. 

Practicing good form and technique is vital to deter issues like low back pain in a squat. Ensure the feet position is shoulder-width apart, the core is engaged, and the spine remains neutral throughout the movement.  

To get the correct form right with weight, I recommend making sure you practice squats without weights first (air squats). If you are unsure, work with a coach to get feedback and corrections.

Maintaining Neutral Spine

If you were to look at your lower back in a mirror while standing you would see what a personal trainer would call “neutral spine”. This is the angle your lower back sits in naturally and is a great reference point for you to pay attention to. When we squat too low we typically lose this “neutral spine” angle which can decrease your low back stability and increase the risk of injury

Your squat depth can be decided based on your ability to maintain this neutral spine throughout your lift. So, If you happen to have the ability to drop to the bottom of a squat without losing this spine angle then you are one of the lucky ones (or a hard worker who prioritizes mobility).

Most of us have much less ability to maintain this angle with a deep squat. So for the average person, we should check to see what our neutral spine angle looks like in the mirror, then practice a series of body weight squats using the mirror to find out how far down we can go before we compromise lower back stability and our “neutral spine”.

Build Up to Heavier Loads

It’s essential to build up carefully to new weight loads to better prepare the body to undergo the demands of heavier weight while maintaining proper technique and form. 

Progressive overload is a training method used to gradually increase the intensity and workload placed on the muscles to encourage progress and reduce the chances of a plateau. This is an effective maneuver used by many athletes, coaches, and fitness enthusiasts that prepares the muscles to healthily undergo new challenges while decreasing the risk of overtaxing the body, thus reducing the chances of poor form, technique, muscular imbalances, and injury, such as lower back pain. 

Improve Mobility

Mobility is a vital aspect of everyday movement and parts of our lives. Without a proper healthy range of motion, the potential for strain, pain, and injury is significantly elevated. 

Prioritizing mobility work pre-exercise or throughout the week can productively improve the range of motion and strengthen the joints, muscles, and connective tissue. Mobility work can help better engage these body parts to effectively perform different types of movement while reducing pain and decreasing the risk of injury. 

When comparing the trap bar deadlift vs the squat, the trap bar deadlift can be a considerable alternative for individuals lacking mobility for squats. This exercise can help work the legs in a healthy range of motion for mobility-restricted individuals.  

Warm-Up Pre-Workout

Previously, it was believed that static stretching pre-workout was beneficial for warming up the body to perform movement. Studies have revealed that dynamic stretching is more productive in warming up the muscles and joints for movements than static stretching – especially as a warm-up. 

Dynamic stretching performed as a warm-up promotes injury prevention, optimizes performance, and improves joint flexibility. From leg swings to body weight squats before loading on the weights, performing dynamic stretching pre-exercise can increase blood flow and flexibility to reduce poor form and imbalances that can cause low back pain in squats. 

In order to implement these strategies, you can either create your own routine, work with a personal trainer, or use ready-made training plans.

Why Does My Lower Back Hurt When I Squat?

Final Thoughts on Lower Back Pain While Squatting

Suffering from low back pain during squats is a frustrating experience that no one should have to go through. 

Typically, there are common factors that could be causing low back pain in squats, such as poor ankle mobility or bad form. Fixing these issues can productively reduce and prevent this concern when performing this exercise.

Speaking with a healthcare professional may help determine if an underlying concern may be causing low back pain while squatting, such as disc herniation or muscle strain. Crossing out all the plausible reasons can better determine what’s causing low back pain in squats and whether you can safely continue this exercise. 

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I’m summarizing here a list of questions, that I get a lot about lower back pain during squatting.

Is it normal to feel squats in the lower back?

Feeling squats in the lower back typically indicates that the abdominal muscles are not adequately engaged to protect the spine. It can also mean that the spine is not neutral, causing the lower back to strain to maintain its position during the exercise. 

How do I strengthen my back for squats?

Numerous exercises can be used to strengthen the back for squats. From dumbbell rows to lat pull-downs, back exercises can help support the back to maintain a neutral position throughout the movement. Prioritizing abdominal engagement and activities is another productive maneuver to consider as well. 

How to alleviate lower back pain?

If you notice that you’re suffering lower back pain every time you squat, it may be time for some analysis. Whether it be a friend watching your technique or taking a video of yourself, analyze your form and technique. 

Determine if you have tightness or lack range of motion in your ankles or hips. Examining these common causes of low back pain in squats and fixing them can help alleviate lower back pain in squats in the future. 

Where are you supposed to feel squats?

The squat is a lower-body exercise that primarily engages the quadriceps and hamstrings. Secondary muscles activated during the squat include the glutes and calves. If you feel pain in the lower back, form or technique is likely incorrect. 

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