Is pain in your upper body holding you back from getting the strong legs needed to be a better wrestler??
Listen, I’ll be one of the first to sing the praises of the squat and how it builds unbelievable strength for wrestling.
However, if in your quest to become stronger, you’re experiencing a lot of pain in your shoulders, elbows, and/or wrists (just take the picture to the right as an example and imagine the stress on those 3 joints) you may need to do some reevaluating.
So in this post I’m going to detail 3 strategies that will help take the stress off the joints in your upper body and get you back on track to building stronger legs without the pain that will ultimately lead to a decrease in performance.
1. Switch The Bar You’re Using
The first thing you can do it switch from a straight bar to one of the following:
Safety Squat Bar
While the SSB is not common in most gyms, the Manta Ray is an acceptable alternative (and inexpensive- I just did a quick Google search and found it for under $40)
Notice how using the Manta Ray helps keep the bar high on my back, which ultimately leads to a pain free squatting experience (as far as the shoulders, elbows, and wrists go):
The damage from squatting with a straight bar is done as it slowly gets lower on your back, thereby putting the joints in your arms into more extreme ranges of motion.
Again, take a look at the picture of the guys squatting above to see what I mean.
Now compare it to this video of a submission hold:
Look at how similar the Americana is to the position of your arms when holding a bar on your back when squatting. Notice how in the video the man says as the lock moves lower the pressure increases…the same way things happen when the squat slides down your back.
So to sum up, both the SSB and the Manta Ray do a great job of locking the bar high on your back to prevent unnecessary torque on your shoulders, elbows, and/or wrists.
2. Change How You Position The Bar
If you don’t have access to a SSB or Manta Ray, you can also simply adjust how you hold the bar:
…This is the traditional way to perform a Front Squat. As you can tell by my face, this way could still lead to a lot of pain in your elbows and wrists.
So instead, try using straps, towels, or anything else you can think of to help you position the bar like so (notice how I’m holding onto a strap with my right hand):
Holding the bar in the Zercher position (in your elbows) can also save you pain. Using a standard straight bar can sometimes lead to discomfort with it digging into your elbows if you’re using a substantial amount of weight.
To fix this wrap a towel around the bar, use a squat pad, or put Fat Gripz on the bar where it comes in contact with your elbows.
High Bar Squat
If you don’t have or don’t like the options above, you can simply focus on holding the bar as high on your back as you can tolerate (usually on the traps as opposed to behind them and then driving them forward).
3. Other Tips
Finally, if you don’t want to make any major changes, here are a few subtle changes you can make that may help preserve the health of your shoulders, elbows, and wrists:
Chalk Your Back
This will help prevent the bar from slipping down your back when squatting (which adds more torque to the shoulders, elbows, and wrists).
Be as liberal with chalking your upper back as you want. Just make sure to have someone wipe it in with their hand after applying it to maximize it’s effectiveness (I’ve found too much chalk may lead to slipping too, but rubbing it in always fixes it).
Sleeves And Wraps
Wearing elbow sleeves, elbow wraps, and wrist wraps are all ways to help add additional stability in an effort to prevent pain when squatting.
However, these are typically used to cover up pain, which means you may want to consider some of the other adjustments rather than this one.
Keep Reps Low
Try to keep all of your reps to 5 or below.
Performing high reps increases the likelihood that the bar will slip down your back.
So keeping your reps in check will cut down on the total time you’re under the bar and, therefore, running the risk of it slowly slipping.
I recently made a discovery the other day during a squat workout where I was using the straight bar- It Sucks!
My shoulders were tight and I had to wear wrist wraps to keep my wrists from feeling like they were under too much stress.
Like I said above, squatting is great. However, if you’re not going to be competing as a powerlifter (where a straight bar is used in competition), I don’t really know if you need to subject yourself to the potential damage it can cause.
In fact, one of the D1 wrestlers I train was in so much pain over the summer from squatting with a straight bar too low on his back he could barely use his arms some days.
How is this going to help you reach your goal of becoming a better wrestler??
So save yourself the pain and start implementing some of the strategies above.
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