Elbow Pain with Back Squats? Try This!

Pain can be felt with any exercise.  Commonly, with back squats, people can experience pain in the low back, knees, etc.  Occasionally, some athletes will experience elbow pain with squatting. This can be due to various reasons.  Check out a couple tests below to determine if you have sufficient upper body mobility for back squatting and if you don’t, what to do about it.

The 2 main areas needed for mobility for the back squat for the upper body are shoulder external rotation and thoracic spine extension.

2 quick and easy tests are the Supine 90/90 ER Test.

Supine 90/90 ER Test

Lie on your back.  Elbows at shoulder height and knees bent. Allow shoulders to rotate back towards to ground.  As shown in the video, you should be able to comfortably get your arms to ground to test for adequate shoulder external rotation mobility for the back squat.

What if I can’t get there comfortably?

Try performing self-myofascial release to muscles at the shoulder to improve external rotation!

Self Myofascial Release

The 2nd test to check is the Quadruped Thoracic Rotation Test.

Quadruped Thoracic Rotation

This test assesses for thoracic spine mobility.  Go on your hands and knees. Sit your hips back onto your heels.  Place both elbows together and at your knees. Then place one arm behind your back.  Rotate up as shown in the video making sure not to side bend.

For normal thoracic spine mobility, we like to see approximately 45-50 degrees or halfway from the starting position to a vertical position.

What if I don’t have that mobility?  Well, try performing thoracic spine mobility drills to address this such as:

Bench T-Spine Mobs

Sidelying Rib Roll

Sidelying Windmill

Kettlebell Assisted Thoracic Rotation

Perform for 8-10 reps per side on the unilateral movements.  For the bench t-spine mobs, perform for 10 reps x 10 sec hold at the end of the movement.

If you still want to train the squat without getting into a back squat position try:

Front Squats

Goblet Squats

Double Kettlebell Racked Squats

If you are dealing with elbow back pain with back squatting, it could be from lack of mobility at the elbow, but if you’ve addressed that and are still dealing with it, make sure to check your shoulders and/or thoracic spine and give these tips a try!

Andrew Millett