Maintaining Upper Back Tightness in the Squat

TAGS: upper back tightness, Zercher squats, Marshall Johnson, Good Morning, squat, powerlifting

Maintaining Upper Back Tightness in the Squat

Hi Marshall,

I am having trouble keeping my elbows under the bar at the bottom of my squat, and as a result I often lose upper back tightness. At lighter weights this is not an issue because I can regain position. However, at max weights, this turns my squat into a good morning. How can I keep this from happening?

I am a medium to close stance raw squatter.


What's up Willy,

There could be a few things going on here. It could be a weakness in your back, which is causing you to pancake; it could be how you grip the bar or it could just straight up be a technique problem.

If it is a weakness issue, you should be adding good mornings and Zercher squats to your assistance training. Once you strengthen your back, you should be able to stay upright, or at least have the strength to correct it if it happens.

How do you grip the bar? Do you wrap your thumb around it, or do you have a suicide grip? It's very hard to keep your elbows under the bar with a suicide grip, so if you're not already, start wrapping your thumb. Now if you already wrap your thumb, or it hurts to do so, drop your pinky under the bar when you wrap your thumb. This will allow for a better range of motion to get under the bar, plus it will take a ton of stress off your wrist and forearm. It may sound unstable, but it's actually a really secure way to hold the bar.

As far as technique goes, you need to focus on certain cues and tell your training partners to always be yelling, "Head up. Chest up." From the second you decide to unrack the bar to when you re-rack it, you should be flexing your chest and puffing it up, and you should be flexing your lats hard during the whole squat movement. By keeping your chest and lats flexed, you create a rock solid foundation that should keep your upper body in place.

I hope any of these ideas helps you my friend. Keep training hard!

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