Why Do Front Squats Hurt My Shoulders? 9 Factors To Consider

Why do front squats hurt my shoulders?

Why Do Front Squats Hurt My Shoulders? 9 Factors To Consider

Are your shoulders in pain after some front squats? It’s pretty common to feel uncomfortable while doing this exercise, but why is it happening? The fact of the matter is that there could be several reasons why you may be feeling achy shoulders after completing front squats.

In this blog post, we’ll help simplify the issue and provide you with actionable tips for addressing shoulder discomfort during your next workout. Let’s dive into uncovering what might be causing your shoulder soreness when getting into those deep squats!

Why Do Front Squats Hurt My Shoulders?

The most common cause of shoulder pain during front squats is due to mobility issues. This includes any issue with the shoulders’ ability to externally rotate, as well as issues surrounding your grip on the bar. It’s important that you have a strong, comfortable grip when performing this exercise in order to prevent slipping and potential injuries. In addition, it’s critical to pay attention to your bar placement and to make sure there’s no movement in the barbell when doing the exercise. Ensure that the bar is neither too low nor too high and that you’re consistently maintaining an upright posture throughout the entirety of the exercise. Not warming up adequately and using a weight load which is too heavy for your current fitness level are two other potential causes of shoulder pain when doing front squats. Finally, another factor to consider is your form. Make sure that your elbows are high throughout the movement and that you aren’t allowing your upper body to collapse forward as you squat down. If you’re not used to performing front squats, it’s best to start with a lighter weight load and build up gradually. You may also want to consider using straps to help you hold the bar in place while you perform your squats, as this can help with grip issues.

There are many possible reasons why front squats may be hurting your shoulders. The best way to understand and address the issue is by taking a closer look at all of the various factors we discussed above in more detail below…

1. Mobility issues

If your shoulders are not mobile enough to execute the exercise, you could be putting yourself at risk for injury. Make sure that you have adequate flexibility in both internal and external shoulder rotation before attempting front squats. If you have tight muscles from a previous workout or in general, you’ll want to take the time to improve your range of motion before proceeding with this exercise.

Your wrists and elbows should be able to move independently of each other in order to properly execute the squat. If you are having difficulty keeping your arms straight as you go down, your shoulders may not have enough mobility. You can stretch or foam roll around your shoulder joints prior to any workout activities, or even consider doing some prehab exercises like band pull-aparts to help increase your shoulder mobility.

Wrist mobility can also be an issue for front squats, as the bar needs to rest comfortably in your hands. Focus on stretching and strengthening your forearms to ensure that you have a strong grip on the bar.

2. Your grip

Having a weak or awkward grip on the barbell can cause added tension in your shoulders, resulting in pain and discomfort during the exercise. As such, it’s important to make sure that you are holding the bar securely, but not too tightly, throughout each rep. Additionally, consider using a variety of grips when performing front squats to prevent any slipping of the bar.

There are various types of grip you can use when doing a front squat, they are as follows:

Front Rack Position – This grip is used when the barbell is resting on your shoulders. Make sure that you have a firm grip on the bar and that your elbows are pointed forward throughout the movement.

Cross Grip – The cross-grip is used when the barbell is not resting too high up on your shoulders and your arms are crossed to hold onto the barbell. Make sure to keep your elbows up and pointed outward in this position.

Hook Grip – This grip involves wrapping your thumb around the bar with your other fingers, allowing for a more secure grip. This may feel more comfortable on your wrists.

Strap or Towel Hold – If you are having difficulty holding the bar securely or have a limited amount of wrist extension, consider using straps or a towel to provide extra grip. This can help prevent any slipping of the bar and potential injuries.

As mentioned on many occasions, we all have varying ranges of motion, so see what feels most comfortable for you. Also work on wrist mobility as this will help you to maintain a better grip on the bar during your exercise.

3. Injuries

Having any previous injuries in the shoulder area can also cause issues when it comes to front squats. If you have had any shoulder impingement, rotator cuff tears or any other injuries related to the shoulder, then this exercise may not be suitable for you. 

It’s best to speak with a medical professional and get clearance before attempting any exercises that involve putting weight onto your shoulders. If you do decide to proceed, then pay close attention to your form and stop immediately if you feel any undue pain or discomfort.

Usually, after any kind of shoulder injury, you will want to focus on shoulder mobility and stability exercises to help build strength and flexibility in the area before attempting front squats. The shoulder is an intricate joint that requires mindful care; otherwise, any damage could take a long time to mend and regain its original strength. It’s therefore essential to be gentle when engaging in strenuous exercise so as not to hurt the shoulder area.

4. Bar placement and movement

This ties in with what type of grip you use when doing the exercise, as ensuring that the bar is in the right position before you begin your squat can help with shoulder discomfort. The bar should rest comfortably across the front deltoids, at the base of the collarbone. Make sure that it is not too low, as this can cause you to slouch forward and put extra strain on your shoulders. 

Equally, the bar should not be too high because you don’t want it resting against your collarbone, as it will feel very uncomfortable or even painful. Once in position, make sure that there is no movement in the barbell throughout the exercise. This will help prevent any unnecessary shoulder strain.

Either way, you need to make sure the bar doesn’t move when you do the exercise – if it does, that’s a sign that you are not in the correct position and need to readjust.

Related: Why Is My Hack Squat So Weak?

5. Not warming up

You should make the effort to warm up before doing any kind of exercise because it helps to prepare the body and muscles for physical activity. Warming up can help to improve your overall performance when exercising, as well as reduce any potential injuries.

Make sure that you dedicate some time before beginning your front squats to warm up and mobilise the shoulder area; this means doing dynamic stretches or soft tissue massage on the shoulders in order to prepare them for the exercise.

Trying to get the barbell into position when you aren’t warmed up correctly can lead to discomfort in the shoulder area. This is especially important if you are new to exercise or have had any prior injuries, as these will take time and effort to heal properly.

6. Weight of load

The weight of the load you are using can also be a factor when it comes to shoulder pain. If you are attempting to lift too much, then your form and technique will suffer, leading to incorrect positioning of the bar. This can cause discomfort in the shoulders during and after the exercise. 

Plus, if the load is rather heavy, the shear weight of the load can dig into your deltoids which can cause discomfort or even pain. It’s better to start off with a light weight until you have the correct form and position down, and then gradually increase the weight as your technique improves.

Due to the position of the barbell with a front squat, it will utilise your quadriceps more than a back squat, which means you will need to be mindful of the weight you choose. It’s best to stick within a range that is comfortable for you, rather than pushing yourself too hard and risking an injury.

Why do front squats hurt my shoulders?

7. Your form 

Whenever you are doing a front squat, you want to make sure that your form is correct and that you are using the right muscles. The squat should be performed by focusing on pushing up with the quadriceps while making sure to keep an upright posture – don’t slouch or round your back as this can lead to strain and pain in the shoulders.

Make sure to not look down when doing the exercise either, as this can cause the shoulders to roll forwards and add extra strain. Keep your gaze focused ahead of you instead and be mindful of the position of your shoulder blades throughout; they should remain engaged with no slouching or rounding.

Any successful front squat should include the following:

  • Wrist extension – keep the wrists extended throughout the exercise
  • Elbow extension – keep the elbows slightly tucked in towards the body, not flared out
  • Shoulder external rotation – keep the shoulders externally rotated, with the shoulder blades pulled back
  • The grip on the bar – use a strong grip on the barbell to prevent any slipping
  • Shoulder flexion/lat mobility – ensure you have sufficient shoulder flexion/lat mobility to prevent any discomfort
  • Thoracic extension – keep the spine in an upright position throughout, with a slight arch in the lower back
  • Scapular protraction and upward rotation – use scapular protraction and upward rotation to keep the shoulders in the correct alignment.

If you are ticking all these boxes, then you should be able to perform the front squat with minimal discomfort in your shoulders. If not, then it’s time to re-evaluate and work on any mobility issues that could be causing the pain. 

8. You aren’t used to doing them

Whilst front squats are an effective exercise, they require some skill and technique in order to be done correctly. If you aren’t used to this type of squat, then it may take a while for your body to adjust and get used to the movement pattern. This can also lead to discomfort in the shoulders as you try to get into position. 

In addition, when starting out with front squats it’s important to use a light weight and focus on your form. Going too heavy too soon can lead to incorrect positioning of the barbell which can put an unnecessary strain on your shoulders. 

Therefore, if you are new to front squats, it’s best to take your time and practice with lighter weights until you feel comfortable. And if you are still experiencing any shoulder pain, then it may be best to get it checked out by a medical professional.

Related: Why Are My Traps Sore After Deadlifts?

9. How often are you doing them?

Following on from the exercise is new to you, there’s also the issue of frequency. Front squats can be quite taxing on your shoulders and, as such, it’s important to limit how often you perform them. Depending on the intensity of your workout, you should only be doing front squats once or twice per week at most in order to give your body enough time to rest and recover from the exercise. 

If you do want to do front squats more than this, it would be worth doing some lighter sessions in between, such as bodyweight squats or barbell squats with an easier weight. This will help build up your strength and stability which should help to prevent any pain or discomfort in the shoulders when you do perform a front squat session. 

On the flip side, you want to make sure you’re doing front squats enough so you can get used to them and be comfortable with the barbell resting on your shoulders. Find the balance which works best for you.

Front Squat FAQs

Why are front squats so difficult?

This is a question that often arises among weightlifters and gym users. Front squats require the lifter to position the barbell across their front shoulders and clavicles, as opposed to traditional back squats where the barbell sits across the rear deltoids. This positioning puts a greater emphasis on balance and stability throughout the lift, since the lifter needs to be more aware of their body position in order to keep the barbell positioned correctly. Furthermore, the front squat position places greater emphasis on the quads and glutes due to a decrease in hip extension. This can create additional strain on these muscles, making it harder for lifters to complete multiple reps with heavy weights. 

Why are front squats painful?

This is a common question for people who are new to the exercise or have experienced discomfort while doing them. The answer lies in the fact that front squats require you to place a barbell across the front of your shoulders and chest, which can put pressure on the muscles and joints. Additionally, the nature of the movement itself requires you to keep your torso upright, which can cause strain on the lower back. Furthermore, because you’re lifting with your arms extended out in front of you rather than behind like a traditional back squat, your core and leg muscles must work harder to keep you stable. All of these elements combined contribute to why front squats may be painful or uncomfortable to some people. 

Why can I go deeper on front squats?

Front squats involve positioning the barbell in front of your body, rather than behind. This allows you to keep your back more upright and your chest slightly forward throughout the movement, which puts less strain on the spine. Additionally, because the weight is now positioned further away from your centre of gravity, it requires less energy to control and stabilize. This allows you to not only go deeper into the bottom of the squat position but also maintain better form and balance during the entire movement. Therefore, front squats are a great exercise for developing strength and stability throughout your lower body. Furthermore, there is an increase in quadriceps activation when performing front squats compared to traditional back squats as well.

Is a front squat harder than a normal squat?

The answer to this question is not straightforward as both types of squats have their own benefits and challenges. Front squat requires more core stability and is typically considered a more advanced exercise than the traditional back squat. It also puts more emphasis on the quadriceps, which can help you develop more power in your lower body for sports performance. However, it may be easier for some people to perform the back squat due to its lower degree of technical complexity. In addition, depending on your body structure, you may find that one type of squat is more comfortable than the other. Ultimately, it’s important to experiment with both types of squats and determine which works best for you. 

Should you go heavy on front squats?

It depends on your experience level and current strength. If you are a beginner, it is best to start with a lighter weight and work up gradually as you become more comfortable with the exercise. As you gain strength and confidence, then you can slowly increase the weight until you reach your desired intensity level. However, regardless of your experience or ability level, it is important to maintain proper form and technique when performing front squats in order to reduce the risk of injury. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to consult with a fitness professional for guidance on how much weight is appropriate for your fitness level. 

Final thoughts…

Front squats can be a great addition to any strength training routine. Not only do they help develop power and stability in the lower body, but they also require more core control than traditional back squats. As with any exercise, it is important to practice proper form and technique and increase the weight gradually as you become stronger. Additionally, it’s always best to consult with a fitness professional before attempting any new exercises. With the right guidance and dedication, you can make front squats an effective part of your workout routine. 

Do front squats hurt your shoulders and have these tips helped? Let me know in the comment section below.

If you enjoy sports and use CBD to help with your recovery in between gruelling workouts, then you are in the right place. Here at Sport CBDs, we train hard and recover the best way possible.

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Until next time, all the best…

Beginners Upper Body Kettlebell Workout


Founder – Sport CBDs

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