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Old 09-04-2008, 09:47 AM   #1
Samuel Fold
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Shoulder flexibility problem preventing proper low bar back squat form?

Hey hey,

I've read starting strength, been involved with Crossfit for some time, been to a cert etc. I theoretically know what a low bar back squat should look like and why we should use that particular form.

However, I have a physiological problem that appears to prevent me from doing the low bar back squat correctly.

When I try to position the bar low on my back and "trap" it with elbows raised and straight wrists I get a lot of pain in my shoulders (more left than right).
The pain goes away if I lower my elbows, position my wrists under the bar (and putting them in flexion) but this is obviously bad form.

I can also reduce the pain my making my grip very wide, basically as wide as a snatch grip. This allows me to keep the bar low and have my wrists straight and elbows up (thus creating the shelf for the bar). However, this position isn't technically correct.

Also, having the grip this wide introduces problems when re-racking. If i'm miss-aligned it's easy to bump my hand into the hooks. Which could be nasty if I was doing a max effort lift.

I don't squat with anything more than a 45lb bar, for this reason. I decided i'm not going to squat heavy if I can't do it with correct form.

FYI: I do shoulder dislocates daily, over head squats.. i've started adding in KB halos. Also, I'm tall guy 6'2 with pretty long arms, so perhaps my anthropometry plays a part..

Is this issue common? Are there good exercises for correcting this? Other than simply more back-squatting practice?
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Old 09-04-2008, 10:39 AM   #2
Jacob Cloud
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Re: Shoulder flexibility problem preventing proper low bar back squat form?

I have a similar issue after having surgery on my left shoulder last year. I deal with a wider than optimal grip and a higher bar stance. Don't let it keep you from squatting heavy! My shoulder flexibility is slowly getting better but I'm pretty sure I'll have to get the right one cleaned up before long. Still, I won't let it get in the way of my goals of squatting 315x20 and 500x1, and neither should you (insert your own goals, and get 'em). FWIW I can't do most of the stuff you mentioned without serious discomfort (yet) - but at least I can squat. I'm 6'1" or so, but probably have "average" arms. Unless you've got a monkey for a grandparent, don't let the arm length be an excuse to keep you from squatting, either.
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Old 09-04-2008, 12:22 PM   #3
Bryan Gates
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Re: Shoulder flexibility problem preventing proper low bar back squat form?

"When I try to position the bar low on my back and "trap" it with elbows...

(thus creating the shelf for the bar). However, this position isn't technically correct."

Actually that is good form as limited by your flexibility. The pain you get in your shoulders is a stretching sensation. That stretch will be the most effective one to improve your grip width. Bring it in as close as possible and stretch it for 30 seconds then after a brief rest go at it again. Do this everytime you squat and you should see rapid improvement.

I always stretch a bit before squating my getting underneath the bar while it is still in the rack, getting the bar into the low bar position then leaning forward allowing the rack to hold the bar back. For me, this stretch always relieves any tightness in the low bar position. However my shoulder flexibility is already pretty good.
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Old 09-04-2008, 01:54 PM   #4
Ryan Jones
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Re: Shoulder flexibility problem preventing proper low bar back squat form?

Unless your forearms, relative to your upper arms, are freakishly long, I'd say this is a flexibility issue, one that I share, heh.
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Old 09-04-2008, 02:28 PM   #5
Samuel Fold
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Re: Shoulder flexibility problem preventing proper low bar back squat form?

I think i'm going to just introduce sets of (bar only) back squats into warmup and try to slowly bring my grip inwards. Hopefully after a few weeks my flexibility should improve.

It's an annoying problem because it seems i'm the only person i've seen with it. Everyone else seems to be able to adopt the low bar position with ease..
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Old 09-04-2008, 06:04 PM   #6
George Noble
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Re: Shoulder flexibility problem preventing proper low bar back squat form?

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Originally Posted by Samuel Fold View Post
I can also reduce the pain my making my grip very wide, basically as wide as a snatch grip. This allows me to keep the bar low and have my wrists straight and elbows up (thus creating the shelf for the bar). However, this position isn't technically correct.
Well OK, but I don't want to be the one to tell Donnie.

http://www.elitefts.com/images/PICTU...nnie-squat.jpg

Aside from my belief that there's nothing wrong with a wide grip, so long as there is a legit reason for it, I'll say this:

In my limited experience, most squat form issues can be solved by adding weight to the bar. Back rounding, trouble hitting depth, shoulders hurt etc. all happened to me, but only when I was warming up with the 20 kg bar. So even though Rip says to do the first warmup sets with the empty bar, I stopped doing it. The lightest weight I will ever back squat now is 60 kg, and all my problems have evaporated. 60 kg is light enough that it won't cause injury to a decently strong adult male, just about no matter how badly you squat, and it might just solve your problem.

Last edited by George Noble; 09-04-2008 at 06:11 PM..
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Old 09-06-2008, 07:24 AM   #7
Moran Bentzur
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Re: Shoulder flexibility problem preventing proper low bar back squat form?

From my small experience I have to agree with what everyone is saying.
A) You are definetly not the only one with this problem. I'm in the same boat.
B) That doesn't stop me from doing "heavy" squats (I'm up to 200 lbs) with wider form.
C) Working with an empty bar is the long way to get to where you want to go. Start adding weight and forcing a little discomfot and stretch into your shoulders.

Hopefuly time and consistancy will solve this problem for all of us.
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Old 09-06-2008, 09:07 AM   #8
Peter Mazen
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Re: Shoulder flexibility problem preventing proper low bar back squat form?

I have the same issue with my left shoulder (I'm right handed). I'm 6'6" and my wide grip gets my fingers in the way of the rack as well. Just make sure you don't have any fingers under the bar when you're racking and the worst you'll get is a skinned knuckle.

I keep a broom in my room and every day after my shower I do some broom squats and focus on stretching my shoulders. Flexibility has been improving so far.
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Old 09-07-2008, 06:22 PM   #9
John Keiper
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Re: Shoulder flexibility problem preventing proper low bar back squat form?

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Originally Posted by George Noble View Post
Well OK, but I don't want to be the one to tell Donnie.

http://www.elitefts.com/images/PICTU...nnie-squat.jpg

Aside from my belief that there's nothing wrong with a wide grip, so long as there is a legit reason for it, I'll say this:

In my limited experience, most squat form issues can be solved by adding weight to the bar. Back rounding, trouble hitting depth, shoulders hurt etc. all happened to me, but only when I was warming up with the 20 kg bar. So even though Rip says to do the first warmup sets with the empty bar, I stopped doing it. The lightest weight I will ever back squat now is 60 kg, and all my problems have evaporated. 60 kg is light enough that it won't cause injury to a decently strong adult male, just about no matter how badly you squat, and it might just solve your problem.
Nothing wrong with the wide grip. I use it cause it seems to be a more comfortable style. Also check out Donnies elbows, they are under the bar. If you try keeping them under the bar it may also alleviate some of the shoulder discomfort. And if you have problems falling forward, like myself LOL, it will help with that as well.
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