Deep Squat Questions

From what I have read in here, the general opinion is that deep squats are superior to any other form of squat. When I try to do them, I find myself leaning too far forward, even if it is a relatively light weight. As I rise up to the top position, it seems like my legs are done with the movement, before my torso. So, my questions are: 1) Is this normal??? 2). What are some tips to avoid this problem? 3). Is there merit in doing deep squats in the smith machine, since it allows me to use better form??? Thanks

Timmy, to answer your questions: (1) It is normal - for people who have bad form on their squats. Basically, you probably have either poor flexibility, an imbalance in your leg vs. lower back strength, or both. (2) I recommend that you (a) stretch, (b) adopt a wider stance (feet pointed out, along the line of the knees) until you get more flexibility, gradually narrowing it as you get more limber, and (c) do weighted hyperextensions to build up your lower back strength. Also, as you squat it is imperative that you not only keep your back tight, but that you try to keep it at more or less the same angle throughout the movement. You won’t be able to do this perfectly, of course, but the thought should be in your brain as you’re going up and down. (3) There is some merit in using the Smith machine, as it will allow you to target your quads more than a regular squat, and as long as you don’t experience knee pain, but it does little to develop functional strength. Finally, I’d be more than happy to give you some more advice, but I need to know more details: how old you are, years training, goals, etc. Hope this helps.

There are a few different issues at hand when starting to really go deep in the hole. First off, calf and hip flexor flexibility are the limiting factors in the depth you can achieve. Tight calves will make your heels rise off the floor and pitch you forward while tight flexors will make it hard to keep your torso arched upwards. Once you address flexibility issues, make sure your abs and lower back can keep up with your legs - the deeper you go the more you really have to concentrate on pushing your abs out HARD to keep your arch. Try heavy ab work and good mornings for a month and see if they help your form. Finally, the bigger/deeper you squat, the more you’re going to have to lean forward, this is your body’s way of counterbalancing the load and shifting the stress of the weight from the quads (weaker) to the posterior chain (stronger), so using a smith machine doesn’t really “help” you achieve depth, it just keeps more stress on the quads. If your hips are rising quicker than your torso, you need to strengthen your back and also consciously think about starting the concentric (lifting) portion by imagining driving your neck and head up, then follow through with your legs rather than trying to push through your feet ala leg pressing.

I think you should forget about smith machine and keep doing your squats. Think about what you’re doing wrong and over time you will get over your problems. I sometimes get the same problem when towards the end of a set. This is the time when my quads are screaming for mercy and i start to use my back to help the lift.

To help keep the low back arch, I’ve found that holding the head farther up (looking towards the ceiling) helps, as the low back tends to mimic what the upper back does. As the weight goes up, you may have a tendency to let the bar drop further down your back (this is a trick that many power lifters use to lift higher poundages). Fight this urge, as it makes for more forward lean. I’d avoid the smith machine. There is a tendency to set up with your feet farther forward, which changes the angle of the shins to the floor and puts more shearing stress in the knees.