Monday, June 25, 2012

Fixing your low bar squat hand and elbow positioning

If you suffer from elbow pain and squat low bar, I can explain why.  I also explain how to fix this from a technical standpoint.

18 comments:

  1. Thanks for doing the video Paul. I did almost exactly this tonight based on what I read in your raw squatting series. I do pretty well with interpreting written cues, but it's good to see it and ensure I'm doing it right. I was essentially squatting high bar, close grip and squeezing the crap out of the bar. After reading your raw squat series, I went to low bar, wider grip and just holding the bar. Felt so much better & stronger in that position. I'm wondering now if my bicep tendonitis was caused by my squatting rather than the pull-ups which is what I was blaming it on.

    Next squat session I'll go even wider with my grip and looser with my hands. Thanks for all the info you provide. Looking forward to the new book.

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  2. This is an informative video Paul, I wish it had existed a year or so ago, it would have saved me some time!

    I had a similar issue with my Squat (that I since solved due to experimenting with grip/hand position in the EXACT way you say in this video) and yes it was due to trying to 'get tight'...but instead the pain manifested itself in the ball of my thumb and the wrist area directly connected to that (the radius? im not sure). It hurt whenever I squatted for any more than a rep or 2 and it pissed me off. I mean who wants their grip to be the failing factor in their squat? That sucks.

    I was kinda supporting the bar with my hands unintentionally, really squeezing my hands towards my torso and a lot of pressure was travelling through that joint as you say. Even even slightly bending the hand back as a set progressed and became more difficult.

    This video will help anyone who has pain in their arms anywhere when they squat, I can vouch for it.

    The big takeaway point from my experiences and from watching this video is that your hand position should NOT allow you to press the bar!

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    1. Yes, and your forearms should be relaxed in the squat. They don't do anything in the squat, and you don't get tight in the back with your ARMS. This is bad, and wrong, and people will end up with all sorts of injuries due to it.

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    2. Also, reading Joe Herreras comment at the top there, triggered something in my memory. Around the same time I also developed some kind of nagging pain in one of my elbow joints, it was on the inside of the arm kind of underlying the bicep. When I pressed the bicep on the inside of the arm near the elbow there, it hurt. I too blamed it on wide grip pull ups cos thats when it hurt most and switched to neutral close grip instead. But fuck, maybe it was due to my squatting, could well have been I suppose.

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  3. I've had some issues with my rotator cuff when squatting if I'm not careful about what I do with my elbows. I take a pretty close grip but with wrists straight, thumbless grip, and the bar across the base of my palm. I definitely can't press the bar. But I might try widening the grip a bit and trying out your cues here and see if that helps even more.

    I basically learned to squat from Rip, and initially I got the elbows up thing all wrong. I have to be very careful to keep my elbows down, as close to parallel with my torso as I can get them, digging into the lats like you describe in the vid. With many things in lifting, I don't think there's a 100% right or wrong answer, or right or wrong form. For instance how much you tuck or don't tuck your elbows in the bench, or how wide your stance is in the squat. There's a lot of shit you gotta figure out for yourself. But the one thing I think Rip is 100% wrong about is the elbows up cue. It is 100% aids. It feels fine for just about all lifters when they start out and it does make their back feel tight as hell, but it always ends up causing problems when the weight gets significant. And actually if you watch Rip himself squat, his elbows and grip are more or less fine, but the cue is awful and leads to a bunch of dudes jacking their elbows way up, which causes shoulder problems down the line.

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    1. When you start doing elbows up at the expense of proper spinal position is when it will all start to go bad. Your elbows can go back only so far without compromising the rest of your positioning. Rip says it's both chest up and elbows up together that keep the bar right, not one or the other.

      Then again, that is the problem with taking cues too literally. They are fairly intuitive for some and bad news for others.

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    2. Your elbows need to be in line with your torso. Not up. If your elbows are tilted up, then you will automatically lean more forward than need be, even if your chest is out. And what happens a you get fatigued, or the abdominals "sag" if/when it gets too heavy? The chest caves more. Now your elbows are up which tilts you forward, which takes the bar out of the proper path.

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    3. Yup. Even still if I'm not careful, when the weight gets heavy, as I'm coming out of the hole I will throw my elbows up and start to roll forward. The last time I missed a weight in the gym (dumb ego lifting, I NEVER go for maxes in the gym), I fucked up my shoulders for a good 2-3 weeks because of that.

      Essentially, I think elbows up is an artificial means to creating a tight back. It disengages the lats and rhomboids. All it does is it shifts the meat of your rear delts so it feels more solid. You need to learn to find that same tightness with keeping your elbows under the bar. You'll find it's actually tighter.

      When I was dealing with shoulder issues, Boris at squat rx wrote this piece and that's when the lightbulb went off. I started to focus more on elbows down after reading this and my rotator cuffs have improved a lot.
      http://squatrx.blogspot.com/2010/02/elbow-positioning-when-squatting.html.

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  4. Will be trying this tonight. If I can get away with no elbow pain I will happily give you a rusty trombone if you ever become homeless.

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  5. Fantastic video just what I needed, I've been guilty of trying to get tighter as I move up to my work sets by moving my hands in closer towards my shoulders, which obviously starts to hurt the elbows in time and probably isn't doing much for back tightness since its creating the wrong mental cues and connections.

    Do you have any tips regarding where your elbows should be pointing while squatting? I have heard people say before that they should be pointing down towards the ground when coming out of the hole, as a means of staying upright in a squat. But that can also be a source of elbow pain for me. I don't feel significantly looser if I allow my elbows to rise back and up behind me, but can you go too far in that direction too? Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

    Looking forward to the book.

    B

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  6. Sorry Paul, I'm a day late on this comment, pardon my tardiness, haha...saw Taken for the first time two days ago and it is BADAZZ--can't wait for the second one. Props to Rich Franklin though, he's been through some tough ones over the years and is no slouch. Hell, I didn't know he was older than Wandy. It looked like Wandy had him in the second when he caught him on the chin and knocked him down, but he rebounded back and weathered the storm for the decision. Man I have been Klokov pressing more often lately--makes me feel like a pussy lol--It is sort of an awkward feeling movement at first having my grip so wide--until you get used to it I guess (with no Oly experience). Honestly though man, it is damn near my new favorite lift--I really enjoy it. Cannot wait for the book brotha!

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  7. I think this affects deltoid too cus when i do heavy yoke, my deltoid cramps n i terminate the set...so far i have been bringin my arms in way tight as its the only way i noe how to get tight...gonna try this for sure

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  8. Tried this last night and although it feels like it takes all the strain off of my elbows (weightless arms), my grip is too wide to put the bar back! The squat rack at my gym has fairly deep V shaped hooks and while testing this at 400lbs I ended up looking like a retard trying to rack the bar without mangling my hands up.

    Can't bring hands narrower before racking because they're stuck wide, physically can't bring them in and can't go any narrower to begin with because then they're still too flexed and when they're at a certain width, they tend to slide out to the collars as I'm squatting anyway.

    Squat stands might come in handy here but the gym does not have any... Don't suppose you have any other suggestions?

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    1. The grip doesn't have to be super wide like mine was. Just so long as the elbows are relaxed you should be fine. I have to get my arms wider because of my size.

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    2. I'm not saying I'm a monster but I'm over 6'4" and 255lbs with some abz. Any narrower and I can't relax the elbows.

      Gone back to high bar for the time being... Low bar is the mistress, high bar is the wife - not as fun but at least there's no drama.

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  9. Hey Paul,

    I'm a beginner (think teenage, skinny fat 5'10 170 lbs) and have been squatting for around 10 months now

    Recently the side of my upper arm and delts have been aching/feeling numb at the end of my squat sets and was wondering if widening the grip like in the video would help fix this?

    If not would you suggest anything else?

    Thank you very much

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  10. Cheers mate, I'm a beginner with squats, your video was just what I was looking for.
    Nice one mate.

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