If you’re having lower back pain after squats the most effective fix for this is to decrease the amount of weight on the bar and decrease your volume, temporarily, until symptoms reduce.  

Heavy weight is not inherently dangerous, however, if you keep lifting heavy at intensities greater than RPE 8 and you notice you have low back pain after every session, you need to change something. 

I’m going to share 5 different ways to modify your squatting so that you can get back to lifting heavy weights without issue. 

It’s important to note that most back pain (not all) gets better within 2-6 weeks regardless of intervention. 

Check out this article if you’ve had low back pain with deadlifts.

woman barbell back squatting in gym

#1 Decrease the amount of weight on the bar (for a temporary period of time)

This is an important one, and one that most people ignore because of their ego. 

Ego lifting only gets you so far. 

If you notice that when you put a certain amount on the bar that you have symptoms this indicates that the pain is likely load dependent. 

The most effective way to improve symptoms in this case is to reduce the weight until your symptoms start to resolve and then building back up to your regular weight over time. 

#2 Change the type of squat variation

Sometimes even if you change the weight on the bar there is still intense pain. In this case, you may want to change what type of squat variatio you are using. 

This can be a front squat, low bar back squat, high bar (if you use low bar), goblet squats, belt squats, split squats, sumo squats, or any other variation you can think of. 

The reason that this method works is because as you change where the load is situated, you are placing stress on slightly different areas of the body. 

This slight change will oftentimes be tolerated much better by your body. 

This doesn’t always work, however when it does, it works wonders. 

The goal is then to work back into your primary squat variation over time and as symptoms come back down. 

#3 Modify your range of motion

If you’re finding that your still having problems with modifying the load and changing the variation, my next tip is to change your range of motion. 

Instead of going as low as you can, below parallel, try stopping at parallel, or, god-forbid above parallel. 

If you’re recovering from low back pain it’s perfectly acceptable to do partial range of motion squats like half or quarter squats. 

You can combine the partial range of motion squats with different variations, with decreased weight, or with both of those. 

#4 Modify your tempo

Sometimes speed is the thing that causes more pain. 

It’s interesting how slowing down the reps can decrease symptoms as well. 

A tempo rep might look like this.

3-0-3, three seconds down, no pause, 3 seconds up. 

It can also look like this 8 seconds down, 1 second pause, 8 seconds up. 

There are endless variations of tempo squats and pause squats. 

Play around with these variations to see if they help or not. 

#5 Decrease your volume

This is an important one, too. Sometimes you’re just doing too much and your body is telling you that you need a break.  

Decreasing volume usually means decreasing intensity (weight on the bar), too, and that’s okay. 

Decreasing volume and intensity are the #1 and #2 interventions that I use with any of my lifters who are having back, knee, or hip pain. 

I usually will cut volume to 50% of normal training volume to start with, so cutting out either 50% of sets, or 50% of reps from the sets. 

This doesn’t mean load more weight on the bar and do high intensity with less reps. This means effectively deloading for a week or so to see how you feel. 

Sometimes this clears things up right away, other times we need to go through and modify other variables as discussed above. 

For more ideas on exercise modification if you’re having pain, consider reading this article.

Key Takeaways

  • Back pain with squatting can be treated with modifying 5 different variables
  • Most back pain goes away in 2-6 weeks as long as you don’t keep irritating it.