Troubleshooting the Squat Part 1

The Diagnoses

Have you ever squatted a ton and felt like you still had weak legs and a weak ass? Does your back frequently hurt after heavy squat days? Do you have an amazing pair of shark fins? (Super ripped mid-back muscles that give the appearance of fins) Then you might be suffering from Russian Baby Maker Squat Syndrome (RBMSS). We have all experienced a phase in our squatting careers where we end up with our chest almost touching our knees at the bottom of the range of motion, except the lucky few that are born with awesome proportions and mobility for squatting. The back squat looks more like a Russian baby maker, Google it. This problem can exist for a really long time; it is totally possible to go about ones lifting career without understanding why this happens or the fact that it is not going to go away by simply squatting more. The first step to recovering from RBMSS is understanding the problem, we will look at a few common causes that we see here in the gym.


First, let’s talk about what we consider a great squat, and a poor squat. We know there are varying opinions on squatting; how much depth is healthy, how much flexion in the spine is appropriate, where the barbells should be positioned, etc. We have a specific standard for squatting that we like, we will look at what we want to see out of our athletes. The great Yasha Kahn describes why sometimes achieving a proper squat is challenging. “For many lifters, the problem is that the body naturally finds a way to squat overusing the muscles that are strong, while avoiding the muscles that are weak.” Yasha posted an awesome set of diagrams on his website, demonstrating this. We have hung a series of these over the weight plates, subliminal messaging at its finest.

The first diagram shows proper form for a high bar back squat. The weight of the barbell stays over the back part of the foot, there is no excessive recruitment of the back or leg muscles, it is balanced. THIS IS OUR SQUAT GOAL.


The second diagram shows what we commonly see. The descent of the squat is decent, but in order to stand the weight up, the lifter over recruits the back; there is an over exaggerated horizontal angle of the upper torso that inadvertently puts more strain on the back. This form of squatting is common in lifters that have a strong back but weaker legs. These lifters believe they are back squatting and that their legs are getting stronger; instead their legs aren’t being stressed as much as the back, and the back will continue to become overly strong while the legs do not gain any strength.


The last diagram shows a more extreme variation of the RBM squat. We see this in athletes that have underdeveloped back muscles as well as other muscle groups that are imbalanced. The result of this squat is a collapsed upper body, overstressed knees, and a sore back. THE LEGS DON’T GET A CHANCE TO DEVELOP WITH THIS TECHNIQUE!


Next time we will talk about specific causes of Russian Baby Maker Squat Syndrome…. (We will science the shit out of it)

KJ CrossFit is located in Longmont, Colorado. They offer CrossFit classes for all skill levels. Convenient location for all of Longmont, Dacono, Firestone, and Frederick.