So you are pumped up and ready to hit the gym.
You come out of the change room and head to the squat rack because …
Today you are going to crush legs.
You load up the bar and then it happens!
Elbow pain strikes!
So what should you do if you got elbow pain when squatting and …
More importantly how do you avoid it?
I am going to give you some very simple tips and tricks that will help you get rid of this pain so you can start hitting some PRs.
Of course the very first thing we need to look at is technique.
This is where 90% of people make their mistake.
Is the elbow pain that you are experiencing on the inner part of your elbow?
If yes, then chances are you are holding the bar on your back incorrectly.
I am willing to be that when you grab the bar and lift it from the squat rack, your elbows are pulled forward and flared.
Am I correct?
This puts extreme stress on your elbow joint, especially if you have the bar loaded up with plates.
The more plates you have the bar, the more strength is required to maintain stability and balance.
This constant strain on your elbows to maintain this balance causes pain at your inner elbows.
Be sure to check out this post over at powerliftingtechnique.com.
They have also some great helpful hints and tips.
So the question is…
How do you correct this mistake?
One simple trick is to pull your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
This will automatically force your elbows back.
As a result this will transfer some of the weight off your elbows and into the middle of your body.
This will also allow the muscles in shoulder and upper back to create a shelf where the bar can rest safely and support the weight on the barbell.
Are you also experiencing elbow pain doing pull ups in the gym or at home?
A second contributing factor to your elbow pain could be whether or not your chest is stiff.
If you are doing a split program where you hit legs and chest on the same day( I do not recommend this ) , it is likely that your chest muscles are pumped and really stiff.
This obviously decreases your amount of flexibility and range of motion.
But here is something else to consider …
If you have poor posture due to sitting at a desk all day or constantly look down at your phone, this will also impact your ability to keep your elbows back when gripping the barbell.
So where do you go from here?
There is a simple test you can do to see if you have poor upper body flexibility and mobility.
Stand with your back close to a wall, with your feet approximately 5 to 6 inches away from the wall.
Now push your butt back against the wall and flatten out your back.
Tilt your pelvis so that the small of your back if totally flat and now raise your arms straight out in front of you as if are giving the referee signal for a good field goal.
Now see if you can flex backwards to where your arms and wrist touch the wall without your lower back coming off the wall.
If you are like most people, you will be able to flatten your back out at the beginning, but you won`t be able to go all the way back with your arms and wrist against the wall.
But you should not give up here.
Perhaps you are having elbow pain when doing push ups? Read my post here on how to fix it fast!
Because…I am going to give you a simple stretch that will dramatically help improve your upper body flexibility and mobility.
It will really help open up your chest and help eliminate any restrictions you may have.
This will help ensure that you are always in a better position under the bar when you are squatting – elbow pain free of course!
If you are a regular gym rat, I am sure you have seen this stretch for your chest before.
Put your arm against a wall in a 90 degree position.
Take a step forward.
Now just lean into the stretch, you should feel a slight tug in your chest muscle.
Do not pulsate or go all in with the stretch. Slow and steady.
It is not uncommon to feel this stretch in your shoulder as well.
But the main goal here is to really stretch out your pec muscle.
You will want to hold this stretch for about 20-30 seconds.
Do this 2 to 3 times per side.
Yes you need to stretch both of your pec muscles.
Once completed, go back and try the stretch with your butt against the wall.
There is a good chance that you will have made some progress here.
The third and final thing to consider as to why squatting is causing pain in your elbow is to whether or not you have weak external rotation muscles.
These are the muscles on the back side of your shoulder which connect at your shoulder blade aka your scapula.
If these muscles are weak, then when you have the bar loaded up for a squat, much of the weight will be transferred to your elbows and not properly distributed throughout your shoulders and back.
Of course, I have a simple test you can do to check as to whether you have weak external shoulder rotation muscles.
You will need a partner for this test.
Stand with your hands out in front of you with your elbows bent at 90 degrees.
Now have your partner apply pressure to the outside of your hands, trying to collapse and force your hands inwards towards your body.
If your hands collapse easily, then we have found a weak point.
Luckily there are some very simple external rotation exercises that will help strengthen your shoulder rotation muscles.
The easiest is using a band which can be found at most gyms.
Otherwise you can also use a pully with very light weight.
Remember that form should never be compromised for the glory of PR`s.
Stay safe and healthy.