Why Do Front Squats Hurt My Shoulders?

front squat
August 15, 2022 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “why do front squats hurt my shoulders?”. This is a problem that many people face when front squatting.

I wanted to address this issue fully and help people understand how they can deal with this. The front squat is a great exercise for working the quads and core heavily. It is also less stressful on the spine compared to back squats.

Why Do Front Squats Hurt My Shoulders?

Front squats likely hurt your shoulders as you are not used to doing them. As you perform them more often you will become accustomed to the movement and feel less and less pain in the shoulders.

There are also other explanations such as inefficient technique, small delts, etc. Some level of bruising is to be expected near the clavicles even if you are experienced with this exercise. 

Practice Makes Perfect

Just like anything else in life, practice makes perfect. To get accustomed to any exercise you must perform that exercise on a regular basis.

The front squat is no different. The first few times you front squat, the movement will feel a bit alien. You will likely experience pain and discomfort in your front delts. This is very common.

However, with practice the discomfort and pain in the front delts will diminish over time as your body gets used to it. 

Many lifters find that practice can resolve many issues. In my case I experienced the same problem when I first started front squatting. After doing the exercise for a long time I don’t experience any pain anymore in my shoulders.

This article from advanced human performance is good and goes into detail about improving front squat performance. You can read it here

front squat

Build Up The Front Delts

For a lot of people, front squats may be hurting their shoulders as they don’t have big enough front delts. This is easy to solve.

Check out my article on how to get big shoulders. The shoulder press will be your best friend if you want to get very muscular shoulders. Be sure to press to the front to build up front delt mass. 

Shoulder presses to the front are also safer than behind the neck presses. Once you have more meat on your front delts you will find that the front squat feels a lot more comfortable in the rack position.

You will experience less discomfort and soreness in the shoulders as a result. Having muscular and aesthetic shoulders is always important – when doing front squats it is also advantageous.

Inefficient Technique

Another common reason for experiencing shoulder pain from front squats is inefficient technique. Some people rest the bar on their collarbone and let their elbows drop.

The bar should be resting on the meat of the front delts and it should feel like the bar is choking you in the rack position. You need to keep your elbows up and in slightly to create a good shelf for the bar to sit on.

Inability to keep the elbows up is what can lead to form breakdown on the front squat as well as general shoulder discomfort. The video below demonstrates how to perform the front squat correctly with good technique.

Use Chalk

To minimise friction it is a good idea to apply lifting chalk to your front delts. This helps to also keep the bar more stable on your front delts throughout the movement.

Chalk will help reduce the chances of you losing the bar forwards if you drop the elbows with heavier weight or lean over too much.

I find that chalk helps to reduce shoulder discomfort when performing front squats. It is a good idea to use, especially if you are going to be doing heavy front squats.

Workarounds For Poor Mobility

If you find it tough to perform front squats with the clean grip due to poor mobility, there are other options you can try. You could wrap lifting straps around the barbell and use them to hold onto when performing front squats.

This is not ideal, but it will allow you to perform front squats if you have poor wrist and shoulder mobility. You will also find that by using straps your shoulder will be in less discomfort. 

The image below illustrates the use of lifting straps on the front squat.

front squat with straps

Front Squat Walkouts

A great way to condition your body to handling heavier weights on the front squat is to do front squat walkouts. You would pick a very heavy weight and just unrack it and walk out with the weight.

Hold the weight in the rack position for a while and then return it to the squat rack. What this will do is acclimate the body to heavier weights. When you go back to front squatting with your normal weights you will have more control over the weight.

It is likely that you will also experience less pain in your shoulders with your normal working sets as well. The key is to ensure that your technique is already solid before incorporating front squat walkouts.

Final Thoughts

In this article I have answered the question “why do front squats hurt my shoulders?”. There are many reasons for this as I have explained.

The most common are inefficient technique, lack of practice and underdeveloped front deltoids.
The focus should always be on mastering good technique first. Everything else falls into place afterwards. 

Once good technique has been established you should practice the front squat consistently. You can also introduce advanced techniques like front squat walkouts to get used to handling heavier loads and controlling the weight better. 

If you have any comments about this topic please leave them in the comments.

As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

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