Having Back Pain from Squats? Here’s What Know (& Do)

Woman squatting wearing squat socks

Posted on February 20th, 2022 to Barefoot Training

Squats are a go-to in most fitness regimens on some level, because squats are a highly effective strengthening exercise. However, lower back pain after squats is a common complaint. The thing is, squats are too valuable to eliminate from your workout routine, and, truly, it’s not the squats that are to blame for the back pain, but the technique. Here’s a closer look at the root cause of squat-related back pain and how to avoid it.

What causes lower back pain after squats?

The lower spine has its own natural inward curvature, which is referred to as lumbar lordosis. In other words, when you are standing straight, the base of your spine should curve in slightly. When you perform squats, you can have this natural tendency to lean forward, which forces the lumbar spine to flex outward. This movement puts pressure on the lumbar discs, which can irritate them and cause pain.

The key, then, is to mindfully avoid this lumbar spine flexion when performing squats. You run a higher risk of forcing lumbar spine flex if:

  • You’re doing deeper squats
  • You don’t allow your legs and knees to bend out beyond your toes
  • You’re squatting with heavy weight

You can also be more likely to try and round out the lower spine during a squat when you get fatigued or if you don’t have total control over your footing. In fact, there are legitimate benefits of squatting barefoot.

How to Fix Lower Back Pain from Squats

To negate lower back pain and keep the squats as part of your strength-training regimen, you can make a few changes and see major differences in discomfort. Four key pointers to remember when doing squats to help deter lower back pain include:

  • Keep your feet at least shoulder-width apart
  • Try to keep your feet in a natural position
  • Avoid holding your knees tight at a certain angle—allow them to bend
  • Use your core to keep your posture more erect and lumbar spine curvature natural all the way down

If you are good on your form, you may have to make a few other small tweaks. For example, keep squats more shallow if you see that you can’t maintain that inward curvature of your lower spine when you go deep. It also doesn’t hurt to work with a buddy or trainer who can help encourage you to retain focus on how you are holding your spine. Wearing deadlifting socks can also help, as it keeps you more aware of your foot placement.

What if you’re dealing with squat back pain post-workout?

Woman squatting wearing squat socksSo, you had a good workout with squats, but now your lower back is really sore. What should you do? First and foremost, make sure the pain you are dealing with is not anything out of the ordinary.

If your pain is severe or limits your range of motion in any severe way, or is accompanied by any outlying symptoms like nausea or fever, it is best to see a medical professional. Otherwise, give your back a break for a few days—avoid lifting that involves your lower back and rely on your core and leg muscles when you do have to lift anything.

You Can Keep the Squats, but Kick the Back Pain

While back pain and squats seem to go hand in hand, they don’t have to. With the right focus on form and technique, you can likely see a major difference. Need footwear to support your form during a workout? Be sure to take a look at our lineup at Pedestal.

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