Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wrist Pain When Squatting

I frequently come across people who have wrist and shoulder pain when squatting. This is a red flag because, if the bar is racked across the back properly and securely, there should be minimal pressure on the wrists. In some cases, it is a flexibility issue and with practice and some additional stretching, it can be remedied. In most cases, however, the cause is either poor bar positioning, and/or a poor bar.

With a high bar position, the bar is actually resting along the superior angle of the scapula. It should not be resting on the neck.


With a low bar position, the bar is resting further down on the scapula and on your rear delts. The position will necessitate more forward lean, but, as with a high-bar position, the weight should NOT need to be supported by your hands.


Frozen sleeves (the part of the barbell where plates rest) that don't rotate freely are a sure way to sore wrists and shoulders. Make sure that the bearings are well maintained and oiled.

Bent bars can be a shoulder and wrist wrecker. "Sighting" the bar is an easy way to see if the bar is bent. Fix your eyes on a stationary reference point while rotating the bar and check to see if the bar's position relative to the object changes. If so, unfortunately, it's time to find a better bar.

For further reference, see Squat Rx #4: Bar Placement & Squat Depth


fawn said...

Excellent message! I do get wrist pain only if I wrap my thumb, is that common? I see in your video you don't wrap your thumb either.

I have a low carry position when I squat, which feels great. My first PL meet I got a warning for carrying the bar too low. In the USAPL federation we can only carry the bar 1 inch below the shoulder. They seam to judge the small lifters a little harder on this rule.

Boris said...

Thanks Fawn. I've always wondered about that rule and worried about it for a time when I was competing, but I've never seen it actually enforced. It makes sense that it would be enforced more easily with a smaller lifter - I'd guess having more "mass" makes it harder to judge.

I like the thumbless grip because the bar can be deeper in the palm and the hands are in a slightly more neutral position. It's a little easier on the wrists and shoulders for me.

SF said...

The position of my hands tends to play a role in "wrist pain". I like to keep my hands as close to me as possible, because it helps me keep my core "tight", if you understand what I mean.

I resolved this issue by gradually moving my hand closer to me as I perform my warm up sets.

But I agree with you that frozen sleeves and bent bars plays a big factor and its especially true in a commercial gym. Try explaining those issues to a manager/getting a new bar.

Boris said...

I know exactly what you mean - keeping the hands closer makes it easier to keep the upper back tight, no doubt. A closer grip is harder for the wrists and shoulders if flexibility is an issue at all.
Thanks for posting.


Mouse said...

I know this is off topic slightly but
I get severe wrist pain when doing chins with a pronated grip! I'm doing ETK at present and have had to stop doing BW chins because of this.
You mentioned flexibility issues - could you offer soe fixes.

Wazzup said...

How about some flexibility-tips to get more flexible shoulders and wrists ? I am not flexible enough for a low bar squat (shoulders mainly) and can only tolerate it with "light" weights.