Many people who have worked out for years develop shoulder problems. This can be caused by a lot of things such as a torn labrum, rotator cuff weakness, or other types of injuries. Some of these things were probably caused from working out improperly while others just happen.
Either way you are stuck now with either pain, stiffness, limited motion, or all of the above. While that is bad news in general, for people who love to squat it is awful news. The barbell squat is a tremendous exercise but it can be rough on the shoulders for some people because of the position you place them in to hold the bar.
So what can you do about it?
Dealing with the Shoulders
Obviously the first thing you should do is consult your doctor. If you have a serious issue that hasn’t healed over time it might need surgery.
Of course if you are a guy more than likely you will ignore that advice and just hope it heals on its own. While you are waiting for that to happen, you should immediately add a rotator cuff strengthening program to your weekly routine. This will help strengthen a key aspect of the shoulder that might be the problem, but in the very least will help provide more support.
Next you should take some time to learn about proper stretching of the shoulders. Working on flexibility is important to slowly loosen up the muscles and alleviate tightness. Yoga is a great option.
Finally you should look at the various exercises that might cause shoulder pain or aggravate an injury such as the flat barbell bench press, barbell shoulder presses, behind the neck pulldowns, and even front rows. Check your form, make sure you warm up properly, and always ease into your workouts that utilize the shoulders. Or look for alternatives to those exercises.
Alternative to Squats
Now while you are doing some of the above actions to hopefully help alleviate your shoulder issues, you probably should avoid squats. I know blasphemy right? But you need to let an injury heal or take proactive measures to rehabilitate it and that means avoiding a problem. Luckily there are some great alternatives.
- Use a Different Bar – The Top Squat, Safety Squat Bar, of Buffalo Bar are all great developments to take pressure off the shoulders while squatting. For those with a home gym they are a great idea.
- Use Dumbbells – You can hold a single bell between your legs to the front or a pair of dumbbells to the side. Honestly neither is quite the same as a barbell but both are decent substitutes.
- Use the Zercher Squat – This is a different method where you cradle the barbell in the crook of your elbows. It is a bit tricky to master the form but saves the shoulders.
- Find Machine Alternatives – Hack squats are a great exercise and underused by a lot of people. However if you suffer from shoulder pain then they might be just what the doctor ordered while you recover.
Shoulder pain and barbell squats are two things that don’t together well. Rather than just skipping out on a great exercise look first to fix the problem while using alternative methods to obtain similar results in the gym. Hopefully after some rehab you can be loading up the barbell and back on track in no time!