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My Back Hurts After Doing Squats, What Should I Do?

author image Grey Evans
Grey Evans began writing professionally in 1985. Her work has been published in "Metabolics" and the "Journal of Nutrition." Gibbs holds a Ph.D. in nutrition from Ohio State University and an M.S. in physical therapy from New York University. She has worked at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and currently develops comprehensive nutritional and rehabilitative programs for a neurological team.
My Back Hurts After Doing Squats, What Should I Do?
Never squat heavy weight outside of a power rack or safety cage. Photo Credit: Art-Of-Photo/iStock/Getty Images

If you experience lingering back pain following a squat workout, see a physician. Residual soreness remains part of training, and will go away with a proper diet and adequate rest. Sharp pain in your back lets you know that something is wrong -- and it may be something that you did. Proper squat technique should not compromise the integrity of your spine or the muscles of your back.

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Technique is Critical

When squatting, it is imperative that you do not lean forward or round your back. Rounding your back compresses your spinal discs, and causes your vertebrae to rub together. Leaning forward increases the shearing force on your lower back, so strive to stay upright when squatting. Do this by keeping your abdominals and lower back tight. Good squatting technique should not hurt your back, and should increase the durability of your spine, according to a 2000 study in the "International Journal of Sports Medicine."

Sit Down

Squat technique plays a role in the amount your back is taxed while squatting. While many power lifters squat with a low-bar, wide stance and have healthy backs, according to a 1998 study in "Calcified Tissue International," this may not be the best squat style for you. Squatting with the bar higher on your upper back and bending at the knees and hips simultaneously allows you to reduce the strain on your hip joint and lower back, as you do not lean as far forward.

Set the Right Timing

When you squat can be just as important as how you squat. If you are squatting the day after dead lifting or heavy back work, you are not giving your lower back enough time to rest. At least two days should elapse between heavy lower back work before you squat; more if possible. If you perform heavy physical labor that involves a lot of lifting with your lower back, squatting at the end of a long workday might not be the best plan. Do not squat the day after heavy conditioning work that fatigues your lower back. Heavy conditioning is not a few minutes on the treadmill, it is doing things like log dragging or flipping tractor tires.

Dealing With Pain

If you have an actual injury, do not train until you have been cleared by your physician. Begin with gentle lower back exercises, such as hyper-extensions performed on the 45 degree hyper-extension bench. Hook your feet under the anchors and brace your hips against the pad. Cross your arms on your chest and lean forward as far as you can without rounding your back, then straighten back up. Perform this exercise for sets of 15 to 20 repetitions. After three or four weeks without pain and being able to easily perform 20 repetitions, you can add weight by holding a plate against your chest.

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