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Intense Elbow Pain While Back Squatting


Im currently following the starter strength program to get stronger before i move onto something more complex. As is known this program has a lot of back squatting. Lately whenever i squat i start to have this ache in my elbows. As of today it has become so bad, i think it's safer that i not continue my planned workout for fear of a more serious injury.

I've tried all the recommendations, like wider grip, icing after heating and warm-ups prior etc, and it hasn't improved the situation in the lightest. What are the recommendations out there, maybe someone who has experienced a similar problem or is experienced in injuries could chime in. I'm nearing the end of my beginner gains on this program and im kindof bummed that i might have to move onto something with less low back squats prematurely.

Thanks in advance.




If your elbows are feeling any pain, you can't be doing it right. Your arms should not be bearing any load whatsoever. The only thing your hands should be doing is stabilizing the bar on your back. Is there any way you can post up a video of you squatting so some of the knowledgeable people here can critique it for you?


ill try to make a video this coming friday, when ill do it again, if its bad enough though i think i might try doing front squats for a while till my elbows feel it. Ive got my elbows up high behind me and my hands wide, but im sure theres something goin on. NOTE: this is a low bar back squat, not high bar, if that helps any


I have the same problem. I also have trouble pulling my elbows forward.


WHY are you doing it that way?


have you tried one of those plastic things that attach to the bar and go around your neck and shoulders, that may help, it just holds the bar for you so you dont have to hold the bar in place with any effort, just an idea


What do you have an issue with?
The fact that he has his elbows pushed back?


I was having trouble when i started trying to low bar squat. Pain got so bad i couldn't bench press. I believe it was because my shoulders aren't flexible enough, so the movement that should have been happening at the shoulder was happening at the elbow which is no good.

I switched back to high bar and i've had no trouble. I have been working on my shoulder flexibility since. If i were you i'd either rotate back squats with front squats or squats with a diffeernt bar (safety squats, cambered bar etc) if you have one available, and switch back to high bar squatting. High bar squatting is fine provided you stay upright, make sure you keep your upper back tight and try and arch by trying to pull your elbows under the bar. Try and introduce low bar squatting gradually.


Try pushing the elbows forward, like one of the above posters mentioned. You might have trouble with it initially, but keep trying to get the elbows under the bar. This should help increase tightness throughout the back. You say your grip is wide - try bringing your hands in if you can. This should help in getting the elbows under the bar as well.
If nothing works, a safety squat bar might be an option. Clean-grip front squats will probably take some getting used to in terms of wrist flexibility, and if you don't push the elbows up aggressively you might do more to aggravate the problem. You could try front squatting arms-crossed, though Ripp doesn't recommend it.


the reason im doing a low bar back squat is cause its what is outlined in the starter strength series. Im not saying its the end all be all, but i am a beginner, and as such, feel it was a good place to start.
I was reading in his book the other day and came across a passage. it reads

"Most people have a mental picture of the hands holding up the weight, and this usually ends up being what happens. The bar sits in the grip with the thumbs around the bar, the elbows end up directly below the weight, and nothing really prevents the bar from sliding down the back from this position. People that do this will have sore elbows, a horrible, headache-like soreness in the inside of the elbow that makes them think the injury occurred doing curls."

So the reason i've been trying to keep my elbows "up" and "back" and my thumbs on top is to avoid this. But as someone mentioned above, i do have a shoulder flexibility problem. My wife has commented (read: made fun of) this fact because it causes problems with trying to scratch certain places on my back haha).

Rippetoe says to keep the back of the wrist in line with the forearm when the elbows are raised up. Thus avoiding weight being placed anywhere but the back. I tried more so today (ill post a video) to make sure this was the case, by semi exaggerating my hands being on top. But my shoulders REALLY would not allow it as much as i would've hoped. Anyways, ill post the video. I think what some people here have suggested is congruent with what i have found on other sites. I.E. try front squats etc, ill even look around the area here to see if there is a alternate squat bar available. I love the back squat but it's making it impossible now at this point due to pain to bench or do anything like power cleans after squatting, as the pain is so intense.

(NOTE: in the video ignore the first little bit or so, i was having issue finding a place to put the stupid little camera i used to take the video...)


k, trouble posting the video...

nvm it came up


I would bet that the elbow pain is due to poor shoulder flexibility. If your shoulders are fighting to pull forward when you put the bar in place it will put strain on your elbows. I would spend some time working to correct that issue


Most people that put their hands out wide do so because their shoulders are tight. I think he will find that his elbows will hurt more if he brings his hands in. If someone has trouble getting the bar in place on a regular squat due to their shoulders there isn't much chance they would be able to use a snatch grip for a front squat. I have tight shoulders and I can't come close to a snatch grip on front squats even though I have little trouble getting the bar in position on a back squat.


FYI, I think you need to work on the depth of your squat


ill look into the depth, it could also be because i was overly worried about my wrists this time round, usually i go as far down as i can, till my calves and thighs become "one" while trying to push out my knees at the bottom to the sides with a tight core. But this time i was focusing a lot on my elbows and wrists, (like i said, exaggerating the wrists). For the time being ill try to see if maybe some time off will help the elbows. And also as mentioned in this thread, shoulder flexibility issues which are a major annoyance and as mentioned prolly a leading factor to the arms placing extra force back onto the elbows despite my wrists not being angled to take weight.


Good point. After seeing the video, I agree that it doesn't look realistic to bring the hands in much at this point, and trying to drive the elbows forward in this hand position might be counterproductive. Besides working on shoulder flexibility, I'm at a loss as to what to recommend. What do you think about forgetting hand position for now, i.e. widening the grip to the point where there is no/less pressure on the elbows? Sure it will compromise tightness in the torso to some extent, but at least the OP could be squatting while trying to sort out the shoulder issues.


If a high bar doesn't hurt your elbows, I would do them in their place. Work on shoulder flexibility, maybe get some therabands and work on your rotator muscles in your shoulder. Other than that, I don't know what else to suggest. Especially if a wider grip doesnt help.


What kind of shoulder ....exercises or stretches would you guys recommend for flexibility, is there an article "renowned" for its wisdom with this particular issue in mind? I've been looking around for some stuff on this particular issue and while i have some ideas I could always use more. The next thing would be high bar as suggested. I don't know yet if it would inflame my elbows, but im willing to try anything, i would really like to keep squatting.


Any chance i could see a video of your bar position and where you rest your hands for the back squat?