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Louie Simmons

I read recently that Louie Simmons believes that squatting could be the cause of alot of shoulder injuries and for this reason he recommends using a very wide grip on the bar presumably to prevent the shoulders being stretched too far back. I had always thought that whilst rounding forward of the shoulders was bad, having them pulled back was a useful to strect the internal rotators and therefore prevent injury. Can anyone shed any light on this? Thanks

w-o-i

I’ve wondered about the same thing myself. I used to squat all the time, but now both my shoulders and wrists get sore from doing squats, so Ive cut back a lot on doing them.

I would agree that stretching your shoulders back, as they are in the squat, is good for your shoulders, but when I think of stretching, muscles are usually as relaxed as possible. When you’re squatting, it’s hard to have much of anything relaxed! I have a feeling that contracting the shoulder muscles when they’re stretched back so far can be hard on the rotator cuff and other shoulder muscles (my shoulder irritation from squatting is my evidence to that claim). Although it’s probably more harmful to some people than others, depending on the length of your limbs, etc.

People always talk about how bad it is to do behind the neck presses and pulldowns, yet when you’re holding the barbell while squatting, your arms/shoulders are in the same position as they are when doing the behind the neck movements. Yeah, I know, there’s some difference between a static contraction (as when squatting) and dynamic movement (like pressing) as far as how it affects the joints/muscles, so maybe it’s not too accurate of a comparison.

Have any of you guys tried that device called the “Top Squat”? It was reviewed on t-mag a while back…basically snaps onto the barbell and gives you handles to hold onto that provide a much more comfortable position for your shoulders. I’ve considered purchasing one, but wanted to get some more feedback on it first.

I believe it is the fact that you have a huge load bearing down on them, WHILE you are torquing them back to hold the bar. plus, a lot of PL’ers are really big dudes and don’t have a high degree of shoulder mobility. I think this is the reason for the wider grip.

Not too sure, but I think that is what I heard somewhere. Hope it helps…

-Scott

here is my take on it. When squatting with a closer grip the shoulders are extremely externally rotated. Using a heavy weight for a few reps or using a lighter weight for higher reps the stress on the shoulder can be great, especially since the internal rotators are stretched beyond their normal capacity. Widening the grip would allow less of a rotation to get into the same position, where your elbows should be as close to under the bar as possible. But, even widening the grip still puts stress on the shoulder, expecially if other muscles of the upper back are weak, making the shoulders do most of the work to keep the bar on your back. That is one reason Westsiders and other heavy squatters use the cambered squat bar and safety squat bar, especially when heavy benching is involved in the training program. My opinion.

It’s not the squat itself that cause shoulder problems, I’ve been squatting for over 30 years but I have a high bar position!

Look where the powerlifters place the bar. LOW, that’s what put the stress on the shoulders.

The wider grip is primarily used by the higher weight classes due to mobility issues. If you look at most of the lighter weight classes in the IPF (not IPA), most if not all have their hands placed in much closer. We do have some smaller guys in our training group that do use the wider grip, though.

Using a wider grip helps avoid bicep tendonitis.

Thanks for the responses. So, I guess that shoulders pulled far back can damage them just as much as rounded forward shoulders.

Cowboy92,

As I’ve suffered with biceps tendonitis could you explain this a little more please. Thanks.

The arm position in which most shoulder dislocations occur is with the arms abducted to 90 degrees with 90 degrees of external rotation. The reason this is the combo of angles that the shoulder dislocates, with a direct blow to the shoulder being the exception, is the fact that the shoulder is the least stable in this position.

Take a look at your arm position when squatting, it’s the same as described above. This is why if you are doing any type of workout in which you are putting heavy weight on your back or weight period across your back, i.e. westside, it is a good idea to utilize either belt squats, camered bar squats, or the saftey squat bar for one of the sessions during the week to give the shoulder going a break from all that stress. Some of the guys at westside in the past have used the SSB exclusively for their DE lower body days.

I have my shoulders pulled back very far in order to create a larger shelf on my back to put the bar on (Low). I have my ring finger on the rings and elbows pointing straight down. I have been powerlifting since the mid-90’s and have had zero shoulder problems from this. So no…you cannot unequivocally say that having your shoulders pulled back will cause problems.

[quote]Alexandar wrote:
I have my shoulders pulled back very far in order to create a larger shelf on my back to put the bar on (Low). I have my ring finger on the rings and elbows pointing straight down. I have been powerlifting since the mid-90’s and have had zero shoulder problems from this. So no…you cannot unequivocally say that having your shoulders pulled back will cause problems.[/quote]

Alexandar:

I agree 100% with your analysis!

I think elbow placement is far more important. If the shoulder joint is “tipped” to far forward (by misaligned elbows) I think that can lead to injuries.

[quote]adamkn wrote:
People always talk about how bad it is to do behind the neck presses and pulldowns, yet when you’re holding the barbell while squatting, your arms/shoulders are in the same position as they are when doing the behind the neck movements.
[/quote]

It is my understanding that behind-the-neck pull-ups, presses, and push-presses are perfectly safe if you have sufficient shoulder flexibility.

Could insufficient shoulder flexibility be the cause of shoulder pain from the squat?

That's a very good take on it. I have used the specialty bars for shoulder issues. 

When I lifted at lighter weights, I had my elbows in closer. Over the years I have widened my hand spacing to prevent further hsoulder problmes. Once you get used to staying tight, you have no problem with the hands out version.

[[quote]hfrogs00 wrote:
here is my take on it. When squatting with a closer grip the shoulders are extremely externally rotated. Using a heavy weight for a few reps or using a lighter weight for higher reps the stress on the shoulder can be great, especially since the internal rotators are stretched beyond their normal capacity. Widening the grip would allow less of a rotation to get into the same position, where your elbows should be as close to under the bar as possible. But, even widening the grip still puts stress on the shoulder, expecially if other muscles of the upper back are weak, making the shoulders do most of the work to keep the bar on your back. That is one reason Westsiders and other heavy squatters use the cambered squat bar and safety squat bar, especially when heavy benching is involved in the training program. My opinion.[/quote]]

The reason why people hurt their shoulders on squats, or really any other lift as well, is the lack of flexibilty at that joint. Most of the powerlifter that I see with bad shoulders lack shoulder flexibilty. Their shoulder are so internally rotated because their pecks are so tight that it pulls the shoulder head forward which makes doing any movement behind the neck extremly painfull. My whole argument to Louie’s thoughts on this are why don’t you see this problem with Olympic Lifters who have their hands placed right next to their shoulders? Shouldn’t that theoreticly put way too much stress on the shoulder? They never seem to have any problems with their shoulders when squating or doing any over-head movements because the have propper shoulder flexibilty.

Olympic lifters do get shoulder problems. It’ s a myth that they don’t.

Squatting and benching put an incredible strain on your shouders, whether or not you work on your flexibility. Especially if you’ve done this for over 25, as i have.

The speciality bars help in taking strain off your shoulders, along with learning how to do a power squat with a wider grip.

halftooth wrote:
The reason why people hurt their shoulders on squats, or really any other lift as well, is the lack of flexibilty at that joint. Most of the powerlifter that I see with bad shoulders lack shoulder flexibilty. Their shoulder are so internally rotated because their pecks are so tight that it pulls the shoulder head forward which makes doing any movement behind the neck extremly painfull.

The subscapularis contributes to that internal rotation as well; when a bencher starts to move significant weight or starts to feel truly stronger on the bench is usually a point in time when the subscapularis has grown noticeably, consciously stronger than the infraspinatus. Lifters tend to associate that point in time with making “real progress”. Actually it’s probably a good time to get more intense on bent rows, T-bar, and powercleans! Should the subscapularis be much stronger than the infraspinatus, the same as should the pecs be much stronger than upper back?

Olympic lifters probably have better balance in external/internal rotators.

I’m not a PL’er but from what I understand, the reason for the wide grip is to get the bar lower on your back. This is a more mechanically advantageous position to squat heavy weight.

Thanks for the responses guys.