Shoulder and Elbow Pain During Squats

| April 19, 2014 by Truth Seeker |

Pain in the shoulder and the elbow is a very common problem during squats. In most cases, the condition is a result of an improper bar position, poor flexibility, and an excessively narrow grip.

The high bar squat position requires significantly less flexibility. If you are a low bar squatter experiencing shoulder pain, converting to the high bar could be a great choice.

As a bonus, the high bar position will allow you to rely on a narrower grip, which increases back tightness and bar stability. That way you get the best of both worlds – stability and shoulder pain relief.


Unfortunately, some people will suffer from shoulder pain even with the high bar position. If that’s you, the first thing to try is a wider grip. The wider grip will reduce some of the strain on the shoulder girdle. Don’t use an ultra-wide grip to preserve your back tightness and stability.

Should I use towels or other cushioning during squats?

It’s not recommended to rely on towels and pillows. The extra material between you and the metal will elevate the bar even more. That elevation will result in more stress on your lumbar region. Naturally, you will also have less stability.

In general, stay away from the so-called “pussy pad”. You will have more control over the bar without a mediator.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rules. Many experienced individuals squat heavy weights with pads. However, if you are a beginner who doesn’t know much – stick to the classics and don’t use the “pussy pad”.

Unfortunately, the bar will leave marks on your back, but don’t worry – those are your battle scars. To reduce the irritation, avoid squatting without a t-shirt.

The Arms Are Not Supporting The Bar

During a proper squat, your torso and spine support the bar. The arms participate by adding extra stability, but they are not the pillars holding the iron. If you are sensing that your arms are supporting the bar, the barbell is probably too low on your back. That’s why it’s not recommended for beginners to perform low bar squats.

In the video below, Max Aita squats 550lbs without even holding the bar. You get the idea. The arms should not be supporting the bar.

In brief, the arms should not be supporting the bar.

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