Shoulder Pain with Back Squat and Bench Press

Hey all,

I’m having a big problem. First, I’m a complete weight training newbie. I found T-Nation, tried to avoid paralysis by analysis, and decided on a workout program and diet.

I picked starting strength and hit the gym, but my shoulders absolutely killed during the back squat and bench press. I’ve played a lot of baseball in high school and probably have weak shoulders.

So now I found myself doing exactly what I wanted to avoid - reading too many articles and getting confusing information. Everyone says beginners shouldn’t create their own workout routine, but every program incorporates those two lifts. There are alternatives - bulgarian squats, dumbbell bench presses, etc, but I don’t know how to incorporate them into a well rounded program. I don’t know what to do, help is much appreciated. Thanks.

Start reading up on articles like this

and get your shoulders healthy first then you’ll be free to hit it hard

Nothing is universal!

The bench-press, deadlift, and squat work well at the beginning (and forever of course) because they stress the entire organism! All bones, joints, tendons, muscles, etc, etc grow and strengthen, laying a solid foundation for different approaches.

However if it hurts, stop. Read a lot, but read things which relate directly to your problem. You shouldn’t be thinking about switching programs but WHY you are suffering shoulder pain in the squat. Perhaps find some simple imbalance tests for the shoulders, and if you find something wrong (like a limited range of motion in some movement) you can do the corrective exercises, and slowly incorporate light squatting back into your routine. If you are getting pain while holding your shoulders back (retraction), perhaps try wall slides. Try them with PROPER form and see how much range of motion you have.

What is your balance of pressing to pulling work like in your training? I see this issue alot (myself included previously) in people who do alot more presing that pulling. weak lower traps, rhomboids and teres result in you being unable to stabalise your shoulder in your pressing movements, resulting in injury and/or inflammation and this could carry over to shoulder pain when you squat.

putter2712 nailed it. Trap 3 raise, Lateral Raises, Powell Raises, and External Rotation are 4 Exercises that will rebalance your structure. Try to find demonstrations of them on youtube. Unfortunately, generally speaking the majority of us are internally rotated naturally because of the environment we live in (ex: me rolled over on the computer as I type here). Add the fact that your’e a “newbie”, likely want to train the muscles you can see in the mirror (chest, quads), and likely have a low base (if any) and you’ve got a recipe for shoulder pain & other imbalances. The best thing you can do as a newbie is train ALL muscle groups equally at higher rep ranges until you’re feeling comfortable with basic lifts. Add what putter2712 mentioned and try to emphasize pulls over pushes and you’re laughing.

The bench is easy to understand from what I’ve mentioned above; when it comes to shoulder pain on the squat its about flexibility because of imbalance. Your pecs are tight and your back is underdeveloped, so it’s difficult for you to put the bar behind your head. Try a specific movement like the DB fly on the swiss ball to develop your range. LIFT LIGHT GET IT RIGHT! going for flexibility as your main goal here.

All the best!