5 Ways To Overcome Lower Back Pain While Squatting During Workouts

Overcome Lower Back Pain While Squatting During Workouts - fitness tips

The squat, often dubbed the “king of exercises”, is a fantastic full-body movement that primarily targets the muscles of the lower body. Whenever I do this exercise, I can feel my whole body working and it gives me extra motivation.

However, a common issue faced by many individuals, from beginners to seasoned athletes, is lower back pain during and after performing squats.

Today we’ll talk about the reasons behind this discomfort and offer five actionable solutions to alleviate and prevent it. In the following section I’ll give you five valuable insights that can make your squatting journey pain-free and efficient.

1. Maintain a Proper Form & Technique

Understanding and implementing the correct squat technique is essential not only for reaping its full benefits but also for preventing potential injuries and discomfort.

Squat Mechanics

The squat is a compound movement, which means it involves multiple joints and muscle groups. A successful squat requires synchrony between your hip, knee, and ankle joints.

When there’s a misalignment or imbalance in this sequence, undue strain can be placed on the lower back. Engaging the core, maintaining a neutral spine, and ensuring that your knees don’t travel past your toes are essential elements to keep in mind.

Seeking Expert Guidance

If you’re new to squatting or unsure about your form, it can be invaluable to seek guidance from a fitness professional.

Personal trainers or physiotherapists can assess your squat technique, provide feedback, and recommend specific modifications tailored to your body’s needs and capabilities.

Remember, the goal isn’t just to squat heavy, but to squat right.

2. Work on Strengthening Your Core Muscles

Work on Strengthening Your Core Muscles

A strong core is crucial for almost every physical activity, especially for exercises like squats where stabilization plays a massive role in the execution of the movement.

Importance of a Robust Core

A robust core isn’t just about having defined abs; it’s about possessing functional strength in all the muscles that wrap around your torso, from the front to the back.

These muscles are crucial in maintaining your spine’s stability, especially during heavy compound movements like squats. When the core is weak, the lower back can easily get overstrained, leading to discomfort or even injury.

Effective Core Exercises

Integrating core exercises into your workout regimen can be a game-changer. Movements like planks, dead bugs, Russian twists, and hollow holds can be beneficial.

Ensure that you are focusing on engaging your core during these exercises and maintaining a neutral spine position. Over time, a stronger core can significantly reduce the chances of lower back pain during squats.

To help you build a stronger core, we made a workout plan you can use:

Day Workout Plan
1 Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of light cardio

  1. Planks: 3 sets of 30 seconds (rest 15-20 seconds)
  2. Bodyweight Squats: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  3. Dead Bugs: 3 sets of 12 reps (each side)
  4. Glute Bridges: 3 sets of 15 reps
2 Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of light cardio

  1. Russian Twists: 3 sets of 20 reps (10 reps/side)
  2. Goblet Squats: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  3. Hollow Holds: 3 sets of 20 seconds
  4. Superman Extensions: 3 sets of 12 reps
3 Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of light cardio

  1. Plank with Hip Dips: 3 sets of 12 reps (each side)
  2. Front Squats: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  3. Side Planks: 3 sets of 20 seconds (each side)
  4. Mountain Climbers: 3 sets of 20 reps
4 Rest and Recovery
5 Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of light cardio

  1. Hanging Leg Raises: 3 sets of 10 reps
  2. Back Squats: 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  3. Bicycle Crunches: 3 sets of 20 reps
  4. Side-Lying Leg Lifts: 3 sets of 12 reps (each side)
6 Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of light cardio

  1. Plank Rotations: 3 sets of 12 reps (each side)
  2. Sumo Squats: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  3. V-ups: 3 sets of 15 reps
  4. Bird-Dog Exercise: 3 sets of 10 reps (each side)
7 Rest and Recovery

3. Pay Attention to the Flexibility & Mobility Work

Often overlooked, flexibility and mobility can play a significant role in how we perform squats and how our lower back feels during and after the exercise.

Significance of Hip and Ankle Mobility

Limited hip or ankle mobility can force the lower back to compensate, leading to unnecessary strain.

For instance, if your ankles are tight, you might find it challenging to keep your heels on the ground during a squat, causing a forward lean and putting pressure on the lower back.

Similarly, tight hip flexors can limit the depth of your squat, again causing undue strain on the back.

Incorporating Stretching & Mobility Drills

Incorporating specific stretches and mobility drills before your squat session can make a world of difference. For the ankles, consider calf stretches and ankle circles.

For the hips, hip flexor stretches, pigeon pose, and deep lunges can be particularly helpful. Not only can these drills enhance your squat form, but they can also make the movement feel more fluid and pain-free.

4. Choose The Right Footwear

Choose The Right Footwear

Your choice of footwear can dramatically impact the biomechanics of your squat and, in turn, the stress on your lower back. Wearing shoes that offer both support and the right kind of elevation can make a considerable difference.

Why Do Footwear Matter?

While it might seem trivial, the type of shoes you wear when squatting can directly affect your form. Shoes with excessively cushioned soles, like many running shoes, can create instability.

This instability can lead to imbalances as you descend into a squat, causing unwanted pressure on the lower back. The ideal squat shoe provides a stable platform and, for many individuals, a slight heel elevation to aid in achieving better squat depth.

Choosing Squat-Specific Shoes

For those serious about their squat routine, investing in squat-specific or weightlifting shoes can be beneficial. These shoes typically have a hard, non-compressible sole and a raised heel, which can help those with limited ankle mobility.

This design aids in achieving a more upright torso during the squat, reducing the strain on the lower back. If you’re not ready to invest in these specialized shoes, even a flat-soled shoe, like a Converse, is a better choice than cushioned running shoes.

5. A Proper Warm-Up

Proper Warm-Up

Jumping directly into heavy squats without adequately preparing your body can be a recipe for pain and injury. Warming up primes your muscles, joints, and nervous system for the activity ahead.

Benefits of Dynamic Warm-Ups

Dynamic warm-ups involve movement-based stretches and exercises that increase blood flow and flexibility, making them ideal before any resistance training.

For squatting, leg swings, walking lunges, and bodyweight squats can prepare the lower body. This active preparation reduces the risk of strain and injury and can also lead to performance improvements in the main workout.

Avoid Static Stretching Pre-Workout

While static stretching (holding a stretch for an extended period) has its place, it’s generally best saved for post-workout. Studies have shown that static stretching before strength training can temporarily reduce power output.

Instead, focus on dynamic movements to warm up and then utilize static stretching after your session to improve flexibility and aid in recovery.

Listen to Your Body!

The age-old advice of “listening to your body” holds, especially when it comes to exercises as demanding as squats. Understanding when to push and when to back off can be the key to longevity in fitness.

How to recognize Good Pain vs. Bad Pain?

While a burning sensation in your muscles or general fatigue can be a sign of a good workout, sharp or persistent pain, especially in the joints or spine, is a red flag.

Distinguishing between these two can prevent minor issues from escalating into more severe injuries. If you ever feel “bad pain,” it’s essential to stop the exercise and reassess.

Rest & Recovery

Even if you’re eager to progress, remember that rest and recovery are where the magic happens. It’s during these periods that your body heals and grows stronger.

Ensure you’re giving your body enough time to recover between squat sessions, and consider integrating practices like foam rolling or massage to further aid recovery.

Get Rid of the Pain with Ice and Heat

Apply ice packs to the affected area immediately after exercising to reduce inflammation. After 24-48 hours, you can switch to heat to relax and soothe sore muscles.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Non-prescription pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce pain and inflammation. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any medication.


Are there any alternatives to squats that can strengthen the same muscle groups without causing lower back pain?

Yes, exercises like lunges, leg presses, and step-ups target similar muscle groups without the same risk of lower back strain.

What is the role of the glutes in squats?

The glutes are activated during squats, especially when rising from the squat position. Engaging the glutes helps in maintaining proper form and reducing strain on the lower back.

How can I ensure that I’m using the right amount of weight during squats?

Start with lighter weights and focus on proper form. Gradually increase the weight as your strength and technique improve.

right amount of weight during squats

How does overtraining affect my back during squats?

Overtraining can lead to muscle soreness, tightness, and fatigue, which can compromise form and put excessive strain on the lower back.

Is this exercise beneficial despite the potential for lower back pain?

Yes, when done correctly, squats offer numerous benefits, including increased strength and muscle mass.

The Bottom Line

Lower back pain during squats can be frustrating, but armed with the right knowledge and tools, it’s entirely preventable.

By emphasizing proper form, strengthening the core, enhancing flexibility and mobility, choosing the right footwear, warming up appropriately, and always listening to your body, you lay a solid foundation for not just pain-free squats, but also for a more effective and rewarding fitness journey.

Every individual’s body is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. Therefore, the journey to perfecting your squat and eliminating discomfort requires patience, persistence, and sometimes even a bit of trial and error. Stay informed, seek expert guidance when needed, and never underestimate the importance of rest and recovery.

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