5 Unexpected Side Effects of Heavy Squats

May 1, 2012 — 13 Comments

I’ve only been performing progressively heavier, below parallel squats with a barbell on my back on a regular basis since around November of 2010, and have noticed some unintended, unexpected and unwelcomed side effects.

If you’re thinking of training with weights, perhaps embarking on a program that calls for below parallel squats with a barbell on your back while increasing the weight on a regular basis such as Starting Strength, 5/3/1, Stronglifts 5x5, or any other squat centric training program, you might want to take a look at this list of side effects I've experienced before you dive in:

1. Favorite Jeans Do Not Fit

Before I dedicated myself to training seriously, I was a size 32. I used to have an old favorite pair of jeans that fit me PERFECTLY. It was a pair of Levi’s 527 low boot cut jeans (apparently boot cut jeans make you look taller). It wasn’t too tight, and it wasn’t too loose either.

In fact, back then almost all my jeans were around size 32. They were mostly bootcut. I had a few size 33-34 jeans as well. I remember those size 34 jeans being too loose, and reminded me of my youth where everyone wore baggy jeans.

These days most of my size 32 jeans do not fit. The only size 32 jeans that do fit are my Levi’s 569 loose straight jeans, but even they’re tight on me now!

Now, my most comfortable and new favorite pair of jeans are my size 34 DKNY Madison boot-cut jeans, which only a few years ago felt too loose. And even now, they’re starting to feel tight.

UPDATE: I just discovered that my new favorite jeans now have a rip in the crotch.


Thank you, squats.

2. Ripped Shorts

Ripped Shorts From Squats

The bottom position in a deep, ass-to-grass squat does no favors for your favorite pair of shorts.

It’s not uncommon for people to hear a loud ripping sound in the middle of their set of squats. I’ve heard it before, and thankfully the hole in my shorts wasn’t that big. But when I heard the rip, there was a momentary lapse in concentration: my focus went from squatting the bar up, to “dammit I just ripped my shorts!”.

Thankfully I train at home and there was no one around to laugh at me, but I’m sure other people who train at a gym surrounded by strangers haven’t been so fortunate.

It’s distracting and potentially embarrassing.

3. Stretch Marks


I’ve seen stretch marks on my legs, hips and buttocks before squatting 3 days a week, but now they are even larger and more pronounced than than ever.

It looks as though the skin on my butt and legs have been pierced and ripped by the claws of some wild animal.

They say lifting weights make you look good naked, but with all these stretch marks on my ass, I’m not so sure. Unless you like tiger stripes.

4. Underwear Feels Too Tight

I wear briefs. I like how it makes everything feel safe and secure. All my underwear were medium size.

However, one side effect of squatting 3 times per week is that your butt gets bigger. A big butt takes up space in your underwear, leaving less space for everything else. For guys, this anterior compression from the underwear due to an enlarge posterior is an uncomfortable feeling.

And not only do squats make your butt bigger, but it also makes your legs bigger. This is a problem for my boxer briefs, because now that my legs are thicker, there doesn’t seem to be enough leg room. Everything is tight, and seems to ride up no matter how long the legs on the boxer briefs are.

Not comfortable.

5. Become Agitated When People Do Not Squat At All, Do Not Squat Deep Enough Or Do Not Squat Properly


When I first started learning the back squat and actually made progress, I began to see how other people around me were wrong.

I found myself shaking my head in my own mind at those who exercise at the gym all the time, have a massive upper body but never squat!

If if they did, it’s usually on the Smith machine performing quarter, or at best, half squats.

I used to have to restrain myself from yelling offering unsolicited advice to unsuspecting strangers to squat deeper, correct their form, or use the squat rack.

I can’t tell you how annoyed I used to be when personal trainers never tell their clients to perform an honest ass-to-grass squat in the squat rack.

And don’t even get me started about those who curl in the squat rack.

Fast forward to today: I have accepted the fact that not everyone will squat properly, squat using a rack or even squat at all.

With time and experience, I have developed tolerance to gym rats and curl bros and have accepted them for who they are.

I am now at peace.

John Phung

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Ever since I started taking strength training seriously, I was bitten by the Iron Bug. Then it burrowed under my skin and laid eggs in my heart. Now those eggs are hatching and I... the feeling is indescribable.

Quick Stats
Height: 5'4" on non-squat days
Weight: 200 lb 210 lb ~220 lb (FOREVER BULK BRAH)


  • Texas Method: March 4, 2011 - April 28, 2013
  • Smolov Jr for Bench Press: June 4 - 22, 2012
  • Starting Strength: Nov 29, 2010 - March 4, 2011
  • Jessa Duran

    I started doing heavy squats a couple weeks ago and stretch marks are everywhere huhu so that’s the reason why :V

  • natheriot

    hahaha I came here currently sitting in my favorite pair of pants, that’s wrapping every inch of my legs like never before. 6 months of heavy squatting. I can’t fit into shorts that were loose just last year and I’ve ripped 2 shorts; one in the butt area and one in the crotch area. I hope that adding more cardio could help me reduce in size a little. >,<

  • Great article. We are roughly the same height, I am 5 ft 5 in, but I am trying to go backwards. I started at about 190 lbs and a 37.5 inch waist last summer. With my Olympic Lift workouts, I am trying to get down to 165 lbs and hopefully about a 32 inch waist. I am at 178 lbs with a 35 inch waist now.

    By the way, found this site by chance. I have lived in Saigon, Vietnam, for over 8 and 1/2 years now. Got back to weightlifting last summer, yes the clean and jerks and snatch kind of weightlifting, last August trying to get back into shape.

    Have you ever returned to Vietnam? Not many guys here know how to lift correctly let alone squat. You should set up a gym.

    I will be an avid reader of your blog.


    • Nope, never been to Vietnam actually. It’s on my to-visit list though…I heard the pho is really good.

      Sounds like gyms Vietnam is typical of most gyms throughout the world.

      But kinda surprised you mentioned not many people squat, because according to Mark Rippetoe, “It is the position in which half the population of South Asia spends the afternoon” haha (from his book “Strong Enough”)

      They have bumper plates at your gym?

      BTW, saw your Ironmind lifting straps. Looks like they’ve been put through good use :)

      • Hi John, I assumed that with Phung as your last name, you were an Abroad Vietnamese. You should make it here. Great Pho but many other dishes as well.

        There is one gym for serious weight trainers called Star Fitness. I plan to go there when my one year membership ends next summer. They got Ivanko dumbbells and Eleiko barbells and plates. When I headed back to the gym, I never expected to do the snatchs and C&Js again. At Get Fit Gym, all the plates are rubber but luckily in Vietnam, nobody complains when you drop the bar. The weight room area is heavily padded.

        I love those lifting straps. We can’t use chalk here so for the snatch variants, I just wear the lifting straps and sometime fo the power cleans when my hand starts to slip from sweating.

  • tonyp

    what do you do about that annoying tattoo mark on your upperback from where the barbell spends so much time? i hope mine doesnt become permanent….

    • The barbell mark on my back is not annoying for me. Sometimes it does get itchy, but a bit of body lotion solves that.

      The way I see it, the bar mark on the back from barbell squats are like a badge of honor. And it’s also like calluses or cauliflower ears…it’s an indication of hard, heavy work.

      It usually goes away after a while though. And if you do high and low bar squats, you’ll get double bar marks on your back.

  • Thomas

    All of it is so goddamn true. Every single point I can relate to.

    Has anyone found a solution to underwear not fitting ?

    • I think the only solution is to buy underwear in a larger size. Or go commando if you’re really cheap haha. Probably a good idea to save your old, smaller underwear just in case you stop squatting (for whatever reason) and your muscles shrink.

  • I’ve done #5 lol

  • Lucietus

    It’s funny cuz it’s true.  I only started squats and realize the jeans fitting issue. #5 is definitely a moment of self control – yes, I see you can quarter squat 320, and no, I’m not as impressed as you think I should be.

  • Hahaha, LOVE!

  • Dandapani

    That was great! Lol.