Training

Why Are My Shoulders Bruised From Squats? How To Stop That

April 23rd 2019

Find out how to stop shoulder bruises from squatting.

Usually, people who squat high bar will encounter this issue.

Because the barbell is resting on your traps, you will just compress your shoulder muscles and break your blood vessels.

The barbell should not be resting on any bony part of your shoulder.

So, find out how to limit shoulder bruising from squats.

Bruised shoulders from squats

Getting bruised shoulders from squats is not uncommon. Here are some suggestions to avoid getting future shoulder bruises from back squats:

  • Proper bar position
  • Proper back tightness
  • Stay in the middle of the bar

It is normal for people just starting to lift weights

If you are a novice lifter, you will bruise more easily than experienced lifters.

This is because you do not have enough time under the barbell to withstand the pressure exerted onto your muscles.

For a newer lifter, a heavy back squat can cause small blood vessels to burst where the barbell rests on your back.

This is not uncommon and should not be alarming.

Your body will heal and make sure that it does not happen again.

Proper bar position

With that said, if you had previous should bruising from back squats, you need to learn how to limit those occurrences.

One way of achieving that is by having a proper bar position.

There are two main styles of back squatting - high bar squats and low bar squats.

Technically, there is a third style, which is usually referred to as a hybrid style squat, a combination of the high bar and low bar technique.

For our instructions, we will talk only about the high bar and low bar since hybrid style squatting will introduce a lot of different variables that will take many blog posts to address.

If you are interested in that discussion, let me know.

For the high bar squat, you will try to rest the barbell on your traps.

The barbell should not be resting on your shoulder bone.

Rather, it should be a little lower than that, a shelf created by your upper and mid traps.

For the low bar squat, you are resting the barbell on your rear delts or around your mid back.

If you are doing a very low bar squat, it can be positioned lower.

However, there are advantages and disadvantages to doing a very low bar squat.

You could say that an advantage is that you do not have to worry about any bruised shoulders from the back squat anymore.

What if I get bruises from low bar squats too?

If you are getting bruising from low bar squats, they are on the posterior shoulder muscles.

It should be around the back of your shoulder and closer to your back.

Again, this is not uncommon to have, especially for newer lifters.

Also, attempting high-intensity sets or max rep singles can cause bruising since you have not been accustomed to heavy weights.

Usually, these bruises will heal up quickly and you do not need to worry about them for a long period of time.

Should I switch stances if I get shoulder bruises?

If you get shoulder bruises from high bar squats, should you switch to low bar squats?

Vice Versa?

It really depends on your training goals.

If you want to get the biggest squat total for a future competition, you will want to squat low bar.

If you are training for a competition that only allows high bar squats, only train high bar squats.

If you have a set goal, changing your squatting style in the middle of a big training block does not make sense.

Unless you are in an off-season training style or are trying something new, it is best to stick to the basics and get good at the squat style you want to increase.

This means that you will need to push past the bruising pain.

Proper back tightness

If your back is not tensed up, the barbell is resting on relaxed muscle.

Depending on your pain tolerance, this can be quite painful.

In some cases, this can cause your blood vessels to burst where the barbell is compressing your muscles.

To avoid that, make sure you squeeze your back inward.

Try to imagine pushing your back into a small rectangular box.

The more you compress your back together, the tighter your setup will be.

Make sure the bar is evenly distributed

This may be a small point that many lifters overlook.

If the bar is unevenly placed on your back, you may be more susceptible to getting some sort of shoulder bruise.

So, it is important to check your balance and see that your body is directly in the middle of the barbell.

Some people just bruise more easily

Aside from any technique cues and form critiques, some lifters will bruise more easily than others.

This is just biology.

Of course, as you become more experienced in lifting, these bruising instances will diminish since your body is getting stronger and more resilient.

There is not really much you can do other than avoid irritating the shoulder bruises and continue to make strength gains.

It is best to try to ignore these bruises and continue to march forward.

Red lines on my traps from back squats?

This is not uncommon if you are continuously strength training with high bar squats.

Lifters noticed that these symptoms go away after 24 hours of rest.

In the past, I would also get red lines across my traps whenever I did heavy working sets of back squats.

I did not even notice at the time until my training partner pointed it out to me.

In the end, it really did not bother me and I continued to train hard.

Should I use a cushion to back squat if I get frequent shoulder bruises?

Absolutely not.

Do not use the squat cushion you see at the gym.

If you must, wear a hoodie while you back squat.

Make sure to work on developing your back muscles so that you can support heavy back squat working sets.

If you are getting neck bruises from your back squat, you are placing the bar too high on your neck.

Lower the barbell down to your traps. Do not place the barbell on your shoulder bones.

That position is too high and does not provide any support to avoid shoulder bruising.

Final Thoughts

Bruised shoulder from back squats should be nothing to worry about. It is all a part of the lifting experience. Once you get a few shoulder bruises, you will stop getting them as you continue to squat heavier weights. Your back will become stronger and more resilient to being damaged by the barbell compression.

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