Why Do Squats Feel So Heavy? Everything You Need To Know To Get Back On Track
Recently, you might have realized that the amount of weight you’re lifting when squatting feels heavier than it used to.
For some reason, you can’t seem to put your finger on what the issue is.
It leaves you thinking, “Why do squats feel so heavy all of a sudden?”
There might be a number of reasons for this (apparent) sudden rise in squat weight.
Why do squats feel so heavy?
There are a few reasons why squats might feel particularly heavy. If you’re new to squatting, the movement can be unfamiliar and challenging. Even if you’re experienced with squatting, different variations of the exercise (e.g., using a barbell versus dumbbells) can make it feel different and more difficult. Neuromuscular fatigue, joint pain, dehydration, and insufficient warm-up are some other potential explanations for why your squats feel heavier than normal. It might also be because you have been going too heavy for too long and need to consider a de-load phase, or maybe you aren’t keeping your body tight when doing the exercise, and this can make the weight feel heavier as you aren’t using all the muscles required to do the squat. You might be showing the bar too much respect and this might make the squat feel heavy, as you are subconsciously telling your body that the weight is too much. If you have any pain in your lower back, knees, or hips, this can contribute to the feeling of heaviness as well, because your body is trying to protect those areas. If you are squatting with poor form, this can also lead to the exercise feeling heavier than it actually is. All of these factors can make squats feel heavy, but with proper form, focus, and technique, you can overcome any obstacle. Finally, let’s not forget that squats do take up a considerable amount of energy to do period, plus if you are feeling tired, this can also influence how heavy the squats feel.
One of the primary reasons people feel that squats are heavier than normal is because of neuromuscular fatigue.
This type of fatigue accumulates over time and can lead to a decrease in strength, power, and force production.
It’s important to understand that when we are talking about neuromuscular fatigue, we are not just referring to the muscles being tired.
The nervous system plays a role in muscle fatigue as well.
In fact, research has shown that when we experience neuromuscular fatigue, it is the nervous system that becomes impaired before the muscles do.
This means that the feeling of heaviness when squatting is not just due to the muscles being tired, but also because the nervous system is not functioning at 100%.
How does neuromuscular fatigue happen?
There are a few ways that neuromuscular fatigue can occur.
One of the most common ways is through a process called central fatigue.
Central fatigue happens when there is a decrease in the nervous system’s ability to send signals to the muscles. This can happen when we are sleep deprived, stressed, or overtrained.
Another way that neuromuscular fatigue can occur is through a process called peripheral fatigue. Peripheral fatigue happens when there is a decrease in the ability of the muscles to contract.
This can happen when the muscles are depleted of glycogen (a type of sugar that the muscles use for energy) or when the muscles are damaged from exercise.
How can I prevent neuromuscular fatigue?
There are a few things that you can do to prevent or reduce the amount of neuromuscular fatigue that you experience.
First, it’s important to make sure that you are getting enough sleep and managing stress levels. Both of these things can lead to central fatigue, so it’s important to be mindful of them.
Second, you can make sure that you are eating enough carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are important for replenishing glycogen stores in the muscles, so eating enough of them can help to prevent peripheral fatigue.
Finally, you can make sure that you are giving your muscles enough time to recover from exercise.
Exercise can lead to muscle damage, so it’s important to allow the muscles time to repair and rebuild before training them again.
Doing these things can help to prevent neuromuscular fatigue and make sure that you are able to squat with proper form and technique.
Squats take a lot of effort
Let’s not forget that squats are a fairly demanding exercise, not just physically but also mentally.
When you are squatting, you are using a large number of muscles, which takes a lot of energy. In addition, you are also fighting against gravity, which requires a lot of focus and concentration.
Squats are a compound exercise and compound exercises use up a large amount of energy.
You are not only using the muscles in your legs, but you are also using the muscles in your back, core, and glutes.
So, if you are feeling tired or mentally drained or fatigued, this can also influence how heavy the squats feel. To avoid this, make sure that you are getting enough rest and that you are not training too frequently.
Giving your body and mind time to recover will help to ensure that you are able to focus and perform your best when squatting.
Shock to CNS
One reason why squats may feel heavier than normal is because of the shock to the central nervous system (CNS).
The CNS is responsible for sending signals to the muscles, so when it is taxed, this can lead to a decrease in strength and power.
One way that the CNS can be taxed is through a process called neural adaptation.
Neural adaptation occurs when the nervous system becomes used to a certain stimulus.
So, if you are constantly squatting with heavy weights, your nervous system will become adapted to this and it will no longer be able to produce the same level of force.
To avoid this, it’s important to mix up your training and use a variety of different exercises and intensities.
This will help to keep the nervous system guessing and prevent it from becoming too adapted to any one stimulus.
Not warming up
If your squats feel heavier than they should, it may be because you are not properly warming up beforehand.
Warming up is important because it helps to increase blood flow to the muscles and prepare the body for exercise.
If you jump into squatting without properly warming up, the muscles will not be prepared and they will not be able to work as efficiently.
To avoid this, make sure that you take the time to warm up before squatting.
A simple warm-up could involve light cardio and some dynamic stretching.
Taking the time to warm up will help to ensure that your muscles are ready to work and that the squats will feel lighter.
You have been going too heavy for too long
Squats may feel heavier than usual since you’ve been doing too much weight for an extended period and need to deload.
Deloading is a period of reduced training volume and intensity that is used to allow the body to recover.
If you have been training hard for a extended period of time, then it may be necessary to deload in order to prevent burnout and overtraining.
If your squats are feeling heavier than usual, it might be a sign that you need to deload. To do this, simply reduce the amount of weight that you are squatting for a few weeks.
This will allow your body to recover and prepare for future training.
Squats are a demanding exercise, so it’s important to make sure that you are properly prepared before attempting them.
What type of squat are you doing?
The type of squat that you are doing can also influence how heavy the squats feel.
If you are doing a low-bar squat, then the weight will be distributed differently and this can make the squats feel heavier.
Low-bar squatters tend to lean forward more, which puts more of the weight on the posterior chain.
This can make the squats feel heavier because you are using more muscles and groups. To avoid this, make sure that you are using the proper technique for the type of squat that you are doing.
If you are having trouble with the low-bar squat, then you may want to try a different type of squats such as the high-bar or front squat.
Not keeping the body engaged throughout the exercise
If you want to maintain the correct squat form, engage your whole body throughout the movement.
The core, glutes, back and legs all need to be engaged in order to properly perform the squat.
If any of these muscle groups are not engaged, then the exercise will be harder and the squats will feel heavier.
To avoid this, make sure that you are engaging your whole body throughout the squat.
The best way to do this is to focus on keeping your core tight, engaging your glutes, and keeping your back flat.
You should also make sure that you are driving through your heels and keeping your legs engaged.
Form is off
If your posture is incorrect, then the squats will feel heavier than they actually are.
Proper form is important because it helps to ensure that you are using the right muscles and groups.
If your form is off, then you may be using the wrong muscles or not engaging all of the muscles that you need to. To avoid this, make sure that you are focusing on proper form throughout the exercise.
If your form is off, then you may want to try practising with a lighter weight or without any weight at all.
This is just a phase
Sometimes, the squats may feel heavier than normal but this is just a phase.
Your body will go through different phases and cycles throughout your training.
The squats may feel heavier at certain times but this is normal and should not last for an extended period of time.
Many factors contribute to how heavy the squats feel.
Some of these include:
- The type of squat that you are doing
- How long you have been training
- How much weight you are using
- Your form
If the squats are feeling heavier than normal, then make sure to warm up properly and focus on using the right muscles.
You may also want to try a different type of squat or reduce the amount of weight that you are using. If the squats are still feeling heavy after adjusting these factors, then it may be necessary to deload.
If the squats feel heavier than usual, then simply focus on proper form and technique. The squats will eventually feel lighter as your body adjusts to the new training.
Training to failure
If you are pushing yourself to lift the weights even when your muscles feel fatigued, then the squats will seem heavier than they actually are.
Training to failure is when you push yourself to the point where you can no longer perform the exercise.
This is an advanced training technique that should only be used by experienced lifters.
If you are new to lifting, then you should avoid training to failure as it can lead to injury.
The best way to avoid this is to focus on proper form and technique. Make sure that you are using a weight that you can handle and that you are not pushing yourself too hard.
Take a break
If the squats are feeling heavier than usual, then it might be a good idea to take a break.
Your body needs time to recover and rest. If you are constantly putting your body under stress, then it will eventually lead to overtraining.
Overtraining can lead to fatigue, injuries and burnout. If this is the case, make it a point to take a break from lifting every now and then.
Take a week or two off every few months to let your body recover. This will help to prevent the squats from feeling too heavy.
Related: How Do I Make Leg Day More Bearable?
Showing the bar too much respect
If the squats feel heavier than anticipated, it may be because you are subconsciously showing the bar more respect.
If you aren’t handling the barbell with intent and focus, then the squats will feel heavier.
You need to be confident and trust yourself when lifting. If you don’t have confidence in your abilities, then the bar will feel heavier.
To avoid this, make sure that you are handling the bar with confidence and focus. Don’t be afraid to lift heavy weights and trust your ability to do so.
If you are still having trouble, then make sure to get a spotter. A spotter can help to ensure that you are lifting with proper form and technique.
Challenge yourself and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. This is the only way that you will be able to progress and build strength.
Your not breathing correctly
If you’re not breathing correctly, then squats will feel more difficult.
You need to be sure that you are breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. This will help to ensure that you are getting enough oxygen to your muscles.
If you aren’t breathing correctly, then your muscles will tire out quickly and the squats will feel heavier.
If you breathe out of your mouth you can take too big of a breath and not get enough oxygen to your muscles, which makes you pretty much put yourself in a position of hyperventilation.
Make sure you don’t take huge gulps of oxygen, but small and steady breaths, take deep breaths through your nose and exhale out of your mouth.
Also, when we exert ourselves trying to move a heavy weight, we can naturally hold our breath to apply more force. Learning to control our breath and use it correctly can help us move more weight and feel less fatigue.
You’re not resting enough between sets
The weight will feel heavier if you’re not taking enough rest in between sets. You need to give your muscles time to recover.
If you are constantly lifting without resting, then your muscles will eventually become fatigued. This will lead to the squats feeling heavier than usual.
To avoid this, make sure that you are resting for at least 1-2 minutes between sets.
This will give your muscles time to recover and will help to prevent the squats from feeling too heavy.
On the other hand, don’t give yourself too long a break in between sets as this will lead to your muscles cooling down too much.
A good rule of thumb is to rest for double the amount of time that it took you to perform the set, but see what works best for you.
Your warm-up sets are too heavy compared to your max
If you are doing warm-up sets close to your max, then the working sets will feel heavier.
You need to make sure that you are starting light and gradually increasing the weight.
If you are starting with weights that are too heavy, then your muscles will already be fatigued by the time you get to your working sets.
Warm-up sets are meant to be just that, a warm-up. They are not meant to be heavy sets.
To avoid this, make sure that you are only doing 1-2 warm-up sets before your max. These sets should be light and should not fatigue your muscles.
You can either do a light set of 5-10 reps or you can do a set of 10-15 reps with a lighter weight. Find what works best for you and stick to it.
You’re not using enough leg drive and weak glutes
If you’re not using enough leg drive, then the squat will feel heavier.
Leg drive is when you push through your heels to extend your hips and knees. This helps to generate more power and force.
If you’re not using leg drive, then you’re not getting the most out of your squat. This will make the squat feel heavier than it actually is.
Make sure that you are using leg drive on every single rep. This will help to make the squat feel lighter and will help you to lift more weight.
The glutes are the biggest muscle in the body and they play a big role in the squat.
If your glutes are weak, then they will not be able to generate the force needed to lift the weight. This will make the squat feel heavier.
To avoid this, make sure that you are doing exercises to strengthen your glutes. This can be anything from glute bridges to weighted squats.
Find what works best for you and make sure that you are including some form of glute training in your workout routine.
Not mentally prepared for it
If you’re not mentally prepared for the squat, then it will feel heavier. The mind is a very powerful tool. If you tell yourself that the weight is too heavy, then it will be.
You need to have confidence in yourself and believe that you can lift the weight. If you go into the squat with doubt in your mind, then you will not be able to lift as much weight.
To avoid this, make sure that you are mentally prepared for the squat. Visualize yourself lifting the weight and believing that you can do it.
This will help to increase your confidence and will make the squat feel lighter.
Not fuelling workouts
If you are not eating enough, then the squats will feel heavier than normal.
Your body needs fuel in order to perform optimally. If you are not eating enough, then your body will not have the energy it needs to lift the weight.
To avoid this, make sure that you are eating enough to support your training. This means eating a balanced diet and making sure that you are getting enough calories.
If you are not sure how many calories you need, then get in touch with a nutritionist or dietitian. They will be able to help you figure out how many calories you need to eat based on your goals.
Just make sure that you are eating enough to support your training and the squats will feel lighter.
If you are squatting and the weight feels heavy, then there could be a few different reasons for it.
First, make sure that you are doing warm-up sets nowhere near your max. If you are starting with weights that are too heavy, then your muscles will already be fatigued by the time you get to your working sets.
Second, make sure that you are using leg drive and that your glutes are strong. If you are not using leg drive or if your glutes are weak, then the squat will feel heavier.
Third, make sure that you are mentally prepared for the squat. If you go into the squat with doubt in your mind, then it will be harder to lift the weight.
Finally, make sure that you are eating enough to support your training. If you are not eating enough, then your body will not have the energy it needs to lift the weight.
If you follow these tips, then the squats should feel lighter and you will be able to lift more weight.
Do squats feel heavy to you all of a sudden? Let me know in the comment section below.