Training

Why Is My Back Cramping During The Squat? Solutions Here!

February 22nd 2020

In this article, we will discuss why your back might be cramping up while you are performing the squat.

There are several factors that might be causing your back cramp and it is important for you to reflect on your training to see which one might be affecting you the most.

Back cramps are normally not harmful, but they can be painful at the moment and annoying as they prevent you from being able to squat and progress in your lift.

The first step to solving this issue is by understanding it to its entirety.

This means understanding the physiological function of what is occurring during a back cramp.

So to start off, what exactly is happening with a back cramp.

What is a back cramp

A cramp is a painful involuntary contraction of the muscle.

To put it more simply, it is when your muscle contracts when you don’t want it to.

It can occur in any part of the body and can be attributed to several factors:

  • Dehydration
  • Inadequate blood supply
  • Nerve compression
  • Muscle strain

From MayoClinic.

We will go over all of these factors and ways that you can prevent them so that you can squat without your back cramping up.

Dehydration

Dehydration is a major factor for causing muscle cramping, especially in hot-humid conditions.

If you find yourself sweating a lot during the workout, be sure to rehydrate properly throughout the workout.

In addition, if you workout at the end of the day after work, it may be beneficial to rehydrate at least 20 minutes before you get to the gym.

This ensures that by the time you get to the gym, you will already be properly hydrated and able to work out without cramping.

Hydration is not just taking in proper amounts of water.

It is also taking in proper amounts of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium.

Make sure your diet is balanced in both and that you are getting enough electrolytes in your diet as well.

This can be solved simply by eating a banana pre-workout.

Proper hydration is something that is easy to fix that can help alleviate your back cramps while you are squatting.

Inadequate blood supply

While you are squatting, you might not be getting enough blood to the area which may be what is causing your cramping.

Though this is a bit rare, it can happen. Especially if you are doing high repetition squats with little to no rest in between.

If that is the case, then you might want to check out our other articles with specific workout recommendations for beginners.

Training to utter failure is a technique that is utilized by some lifters, but it doesn’t beat the tried and true method of focusing on increasing your strength slowly over time.

If you are doing high rep exercises, then that might be the cause of your muscle cramping. It doesn’t even have to be from the squat.

However, if you do not perform any high repetition exercise, it could be a vascular condition that is affecting your body’s ability to adequately profuse your back musculature.

Though this is a bit rare, I recommend you check out the other reasons to see what might be the cause because if you suspect that it is due to vascular reasons, then you will want to get checked out by a doctor.

Nerve compression

This is a bit out there, but you can have a muscle strain due to nerve compression.

This can be caused by a condition known as a herniated disc where the intervertebral disc in the vertebral column is deviated and pressed up against a spinal nerve.

This may cause a radiating, tingling, painful, and weak sensation through the nerve that is affected.

This, however, is pretty rare for those who are experiencing simple back cramps as you will probably have already scheduled a doctor’s appointment to get it checked out already.

But just know that if you have improper form and you feel some of these symptoms, you should contact a medical professional immediately.

Muscle Strain

A muscle strain can cause involuntary contractions because the body is contracting as a defense mechanism to being overstretched.

This is usually something that is caused by trauma or a rapid quick stretch which you might have felt immediately.

If you felt a “tear” or any sort of “pulling” on your lower back while you are trying to squat, then it might be due to a muscle strain that is causing your back to spasm.

If this is the case, then rest, ice, and see if it goes away on its own in a couple of days.

If you still feel pain after a few days of rest, then contact a medical professional.

Poor form

Perhaps the most obvious factor of back cramps, ask yourself: are you squatting properly?

If you are squatting in a way that your spinal erectors are firing so hard and tiring out before your legs, then you are probably doing something wrong.

If your back is firing to the point of cramping, then you are either too flexed forward, or too extended backward.

You want to make sure your spine is neutral throughout the squat and that you have the right amount of balance between your abs working which can take the load off of the back muscles.

Too much flexion

Picture a neutral position for squats.

Your glutes are neither being pushed out nor tucked in.

However, for some reason, a lot of coaches teach the squat by having lifters flex their glutes by tucking their butt in.

This creates too much flexion and a lot of stress on the lower back.

A lot of stress increases your potential to have a back cramp.

How do I know this?

I experienced this first hand and my back was killing me.

I could not do any weighted squats or deadlifts for 3 months.

Another point of flexion is when you round your upper back in the bottom of the squat.

This can cause your back to cramp up since you are not tight and not protecting your muscles from heavy weights.

Too much extension

Here is a comprehensive video about too much back extension for a lot of compound movements, including the squat.

Too much extension could also be the cause of your back cramps.

If you are hyperextending your back and look like the picture on the right, you might feel back soreness and tightness after you squat because you are contracting your back muscles more than you need to.

You want to contract your abs and back muscles enough so that your body maintains the neutral position as shown in the picture on the left.

The picture on the right is due to too much contraction of the back muscles, and not enough contraction from the abs causing the “butt out” posture.

If this is what you look like, focus on making your back more neutral. This might require you to add in some ab work to strengthen your core.

How do I fix my low back cramp after doing squats?

If you feel your back cramping after performing the squat, instead of sitting or lying down, move around.

Moving around will help get more blood flow flowing to the area, decreasing the cramping symptoms.

In addition, you should end your workout session and focus on diaphragmatic breathing (inhaling/exhaling) to get your body to relax.

Once you feel the cramping subside a bit, perform some bodyweight squats.

For your next training sessions, you should follow the Starr Rehab protocol and work your way back up in weight to prevent further injury from occurring.

The Starr rehab protocol involves performing the squat with proper form using light weights and high reps. You should space it out so that you have around 2 weeks until you return to your original weight.

You can read the entire protocol here.

Back cramps during the squat is a common issue that can arise due to multiple factors but is ultimately a symptom that should be easily fixed.

Reevaluate your form, and diet as these are the biggest factors in determining whether or not you feel your back cramping during the squat.

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