Three-dimensional motion analysis of the lumbar spine during "free squat" weight lift training

Am J Sports Med. 2007 Jun;35(6):927-32. doi: 10.1177/0363546506298276. Epub 2007 Feb 16.


Background: Heavy weight lifting using a squat bar is a commonly used athletic training exercise. Previous in vivo motion studies have concentrated on lifting of everyday objects and not on the vastly increased loads that athletes subject themselves to when performing this exercise.

Hypothesis: Athletes significantly alter their lumbar spinal motion when performing squat lifting at heavy weights.

Study design: Controlled laboratory study.

Methods: Forty-eight athletes (28 men, 20 women) performed 6 lifts at 40% maximum, 4 lifts at 60% maximum, and 2 lifts at 80% maximum. The Zebris 3D motion analysis system was used to measure lumbar spine motion. Exercise was performed as a "free" squat and repeated with a weight lifting support belt. Data obtained were analyzed using SAS.

Results: A significant decrease (P < .05) was seen in flexion in all groups studied when lifting at 40% maximum compared with lifting at 60% and 80% of maximum lift. Flexion from calibrated 0 point ranged from 24.7 degrees (40% group) to 6.8 degrees (80% group). A significant increase (P < .05) was seen in extension when lifting at 40% maximum was compared with lifting at 60% and 80% maximum lift. Extension from calibrated 0 point ranged from -1.5 degrees (40% group) to -20.3 degrees (80% group). No statistically significant difference was found between motion seen when exercise was performed as a free squat or when lifting using a support belt in any of the groups studied.

Conclusion: Weight lifting using a squat bar causes athletes to significantly hyperextend their lumbar spines at heavier weights. The use of a weight lifting support belt does not significantly alter spinal motion during lifting.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Ireland
  • Lumbosacral Region / physiology*
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing