Brachialis Pain Caused by Low Bar Squat

I’ve been battling this on and off for a couple years, and right now I’m trying to make the decision so to continue powerlifting or just lift for leisure / health.

During low bar squats, my left brachial muscle gets tweaked and causes excruciating pain that affects my bench (about 1/4 way down I lose all strength and drop the weight literally), all lifts basically, and my quality of life. Simple tasks like washing my face become painful and hard, and drying off with a towel is almost impossible at times.

My last training cycle was over a year ago where I peaked at 606 lbs on my squat during my meet; however, that came with a very specific workout program that allowed me to bench on Monday, squat on Tuesday, then I basically had to recover for a week before I could bench again, and be very careful on what I did in the gym. During that week, about 3 days of the week were healthy, rest were painful.

I’ve scoured the internet to no avail. I’ve spoken with 3 doctors, all of which gave me different analysis (one was stress reaction on the bone, one was some bone marrow thing, and the last one said I was simply building bone…at the age of 36). My physical therapist now, however, I believe ahs identified correctly the issue, the Brachialis Muscle, and after doing a quick google search, many others have this issue.

I squat low bar, thumbless. I’ve squatted this way for 4-5 years now. I’m not elite, but I’m not a beginner, somewhere between intermediate and advanced I’d say. I’m ok with giving up on powerlifting as I’m 300 lbs, and it may be time to increase my quality of life more than trying to set some records that don’t mean anything. However, before I do so, I’d just like to know if anyone has ever experienced this before and if so, what did you to do fix it.

This is an old video but it gives a bunch of views of differing weights and my squat form, it hasn’t really changed since that vid.

I was getting that a while back when I was squatting 4-5 days a week, look at Amit Sapir’s squat thread and see the advice he gave me. Basically, myofascial release on pecs (especially pec minor), lats, serratus anterior, and biceps plus some stretching. It didn’t fix the problem 100% but it made it bearable. Looking at some trigger point charts, other muscles that can cause referred pain in the forearms are subclavius and scalenes. The other thing is that I was taking motrin, definitely made a big difference to ease the pain.

At the moment I’m squatting twice a week and one day is with the SSB so I’m not having that issue anymore. It’s a shame that there is a lack of information of this type of problem because it seems to be pretty common, even Chad Wesley Smith said that he wasn’t able to train his bench very hard leading up to Big Dogs because he gets a lot of arm pain from squatting.

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Just another thought, you could train around this by doing other squat variations. Safety squat bar is the obvious choice, high bar squats are less likely to cause that sort of problem and the form doesn’t need to be drastically different from your low bar squat.

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Thanks for the info. I’m already doing so damn much rehab, prehab, weekly trips to the physiotherapy doc, icing two times a day, stretches 3 times a day, ART, etc.

After reading your response, it sounds like it is one more thing I have to add to the list. Honestly, I’m not good enough to do that. The rehab is taking up an hour of my damn day, just to lift, and I may just be done.

I don’t have access to an SSB bar, and I’ve considered high bar squats. But, honestly, I think my body is just yelling at me to stop. 3 years of pain takes a lot out of ya.

I know there is rarely a “do this and you will be fixed” solution, like there was with my back (just switched to sumo to avoid hurting myself every other week), but I was just sort of feeling it out. Your response of “do these 6 things to help it but it won’t go away”, although accurate, is not what I was looking for. That is me basically saying thanks, but I think I’m just gonna quit instead, as bad as that sounds.

3 years of pain, quality of life issues, overweight, changing my schedule to lift, skipping family trips to compete, etc has caught up to me. like I said, I’m not good enough to change my life for this hobby anymore, and honestly, I wont’ be able to train at my gym anymore soon (not enough time to do a squat session anymore and I lift during my lunch hour).

Too bad also, I just bought the Titan Olympian shoes for $250, used them for a week, bleh.

You could build one from scaffolding and scaffolding clips. I did it’s not a safety squat bar more of a top squat .

Don’t squat low bar except for 6-12 weeks prior to a meet.

Don’t just treat the pain, stop doing the movement that causes you pain. I had a very similar problem, and I only got pain under control by doing all the prehab/rehab and taking 2ish months off of low bar squats.

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What about getting some OBB power handles since you don’t have an SSB? Also, do you do pull-ups? I had a similar issue and it was massively exacerbated by pull-ups. I dropped pull-ups and exclusively SSB squatted for three months and that pretty much fixed it. I’m guessing if you used the OBBs it’d be similar. When I went back to straight bar I moved my grip out to the sleeves of the squat bar, and that’s still where I grip most of the time.

I don’t do pullups, too fat, and always forget to put them into my routines.

I’ll look into the OBB power handles.

I took 9 months off from the bar all together, then 2 months back in and the pain is back.

I’ve also suffered from this for about 3 years now. I also would drop the weight on bench because of this “switching off” that comes with the pain, exactly as you describe.

In my case, the pain will radiate around the elbow - it might be felt in the bicep but also in the forearm. After may failed diagnosis, I self diagnosed this as inflammation of the median nerve which is happening due to compression from the pronator teres (this is the muscle in your forearm responsible for rotation of the forearm and also responsible for your grip when you squeeze the bar).

In my case, the origin of the problem is that my shoulders are very tight. Therefore, when I setup under the bar to squat by elbow needs to rotate a great deal which activates one head of the pronator teres. Then, when the weight starts to get heavy I wind up squeezing the bar (unconsciously) and that strains the pronator teres, inflames the median nerve (which runs underneath that muscle) and it’s 2-3 weeks of no squatting before I can do any upper body work again without pain.

A few things have helped me, but not cured it:

(1) I’ve worked on keeping upper back tightness to such an extent that I could almost squat without using my arms.
(2) I take a suicide grip when I squat, I do not wrap fingers or thumbs on the bar. I wear wrist wraps and let the bar contact my lower palm.
(3) I only squat every 2-3 weeks…this sucks, I don’t know what else to say. I rotate my deadlift in.
(4) Before doing the above I took several months off from squatting
(5) I leave several rest days between squat and bench (as you have said) and then I take 4 ibuprofen before benching just to be sure any residual inflammation isn’t going to affect me - this does seem to help but just a workaround

Switching to high bar did not help me

Maybe high bar is your answer. Or maybe become a push/pull athlete. I have basically eliminated low bar squatting from my training and my quality of life and training have improved immensely. Since I can’t pay bills or set world records with my low bar squat I found it not worth the cost.

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Sounds like you do exactly what I do / did. However, for me, I could bench on Monday, squat on Tuesday, then bench again the following Monday, granted my other lifts didn’t flare up my arm (aka, very little I could do).

I have good mobility, not super, but pretty good. My left shoulder, however, pops out of the socket often due to me breaking my collar bones twice in my life (they had to break me to deliver me, I came into this world large).

Upper back tightness is a weak point for me, I try, but forget when the weight gets heavy. Your grip is the same as mine, palms make contact, nothing else. This is actually just for comfort, I’ve always squatted like this.

The more I read the more I hear it’s not going away. And, like brady just said, push/pull athelete may be the route to go - I still get heavy lifts, but not at the expense of arm pain that affects stuff such as simple as turning on your blinker in your car.

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People have mentioned high bar squats, but there’s still the manta ray attachment which makes the lift an even higher high bar squat. Admittedly, I don’t know much about your affliction, but when my RC gets cranky it helps a ton.

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[quote=“Fletch1986, post:12, topic:225887, full:true”]
People have mentioned high bar squats, but there’s still the manta ray attachment which makes the lift an even higher high bar squat. Admittedly, I don’t know much about your affliction, but when my RC gets cranky it helps a ton[/quote]
I don’t do so many reps till it happens so I kind of enjoy the training effects on these synergists…

Hey, I had the exact same problem you have. I was able to track down and fix the issue but you may not like the solution, which is to ditch low bar and stick to high bar squatting. That’s the only way I have found that works reliably. The reason why this happens is due to the infraspinatus and sometimes other minor shoulder muscles. When you put the bar in the low bar position it is sitting directly on your infraspinatus and over time you develop excruciating trigger points in this muscle. Well it just so happens that the infraspinatus refers pain to the upper arm and shoulder during pressing movement like bench. At one point for me the pain would cause me to literally drop the bar onto the safety catches because my arms totally gave out when I hit a certain position. Very dangerous.

The solution is you need to spend weeks if not months rolling the shit out of your entire shoulder area and especially the infraspinatus and upper lats. Start with a regular foam roller, but also use a lacrosse ball against a wall. Here is a YouTube video with the technique that helped me: Self Myofascial Release: Upper Back Relief - YouTube

When you hit the inflamed spot with enough force, it will feel like you were just struck by Thor’s hammer. It’s incredibly painful, but as you work the ball around you will also feel pain in the spot that you normally feel during bench press. That’s how you know you found it.

In my case I spent several months using the lacrosse ball to roll out the pain spots in my shoulders, and at the same time I kept squatting but I only did high bar or front squats. After a few months my pain in the bench press was completely gone. However since then I have experimented with adding the low bar squat back into my routine, and every time it’s only a matter of weeks or a couple months at most before the pain comes back.

I hope this helps you. Good luck!