Have you ever been barbell squatting and suddenly experienced neck pain? I know when I first started doing barbell squats I felt this very often and wondered, how I could stop my neck from hurting when I squat. I have 2 herniated discs in my neck due to sport injuries and I am able to squat comfortably and I want to help you squat comfortably too. If you are finding yourself wondering “How do I stop my neck from hurting when I squat?” I am happy to say, after years of working out and researching this topic, I have some tips that can benefit you.
The most common cause of neck pain when squatting is improper form. This includes, improper barbell position, incorrect neck positioning, and not engaging the upper back muscles. This can be fixed by either lowering the bar slightly so it sits on your shoulders or upper back muscles, looking straight ahead while tucking the chin, and squeezing your trapezius muscles to engage your upper back.
That barbell squat is a highly complex exercise, anyone who has done a barbell squat for enough time will agree, there are many small details that are highly important, you need to understand each tiny detail of the squat to achieve good form and gain all the benefits the barbell squat can offer you. The squat is one of the top compound exercises and will be your key to becoming strong and building a lot of muscle all over your body.
That being said, if you are experiencing neck pain it is most likely due to improper form and in this article we will discuss many areas that can be causing your neck to hurt when you squat. Many of these tips I will share have helped to stop my neck from hurting when I squat.
If you are experiencing intense neck pain or have a previous neck injury, it is best to consult with your doctor, take their advice over anything you’ll find on the internet because your doctor will understand your situation best and know what is best for you.
Now lets gets started on finding out how to stop your neck from hurting when you squat. I will be going over multiple areas of the squat that can cause neck pain and how to fix it. Following these fixes has helped me stop my neck from hurting when I squat and I’m confident it can help you too.
Barbell Sitting Too High
A common mistake when many people first start to barbell squat is they will not know exactly what position to place the bar. Many times they will place it on their neck or a very uncomfortable position. This can cause tension and stress on the neck and even put pressure on the discs.
Following the above image, you’ll see two variations of the barbell squat and both variations are using the correct bar position. Notice how neither of the barbell positions are sitting high up on the neck and notice the upright posture with neutral head position. This is the ideal starting position for a squat. This position greatly helped to stop my neck from hurting when I squat.
For squatting you have two choices of styles, the high bar and the low bar. I recommend doing deep research on both to learn which would be best for you.
I recommend this article to learn more about barbell placement and to learn which would be best for you. After reading that article you will have a much clearer view on the correct bar placement. Having the bar correctly placed on your neck will relieve the pressure from your neck and allow you to squat without comfortably. When I first started squatting I had made this mistake for a while, once I fixed it I noticed this drastically helped stop my neck from hurting when I squat.
Uncomfortable Neck Position
Neck position is extremely important in many exercises, including squats. This can be a tricky subject because many people have different views on neck positioning, or more specifically, where to look when you squat. Some people say look up so you can keep an upright position, others prefer to look down, and some others prefer to look straight ahead. Fixing the head and neck position has greatly helped me to stop my neck from hurting when I squat.
The core rule when doing squats and many other exercises is to keep your head and neck in a straight, neutral position. Don’t let your head hang back, hang forward, look too high up, or bend your neck too far down. All of these positions will put too much stress on the neck and during an intense exercise such as the barbell squat, you will put more pressure than normal on the neck if you’re in these bad positions. Keep your head inline with your torso!
I prefer to keep my head facing straight ahead and to tuck my chin in, this keeps my head and neck in a neutral position. I found this best because my head and neck are neutral and straight, and is a safe position to be in. Keeping the head in a neutral position greatly helped me stop my neck from hurting when I squat.
Not Engaging The Upper Back Enough
Squeeze your traps and try to bring your shoulder blades closer together! Yes I bolded that because its extremely important. You want a strong and rigid torso when barbell squatting. You want your muscles to support the weight, not your spine. You need to squeeze the muscles in your upper back to have them hold and support the weight of the barbell. If you don’t do this, the weight of the barbell will be supported by your spine itself, to keep yourself in the safest position, use your muscles to support the weight.
If you do this correctly, you’ll also notice how much lighter the weight will feel. Once I fixed this issue in my form, the weight became my lighter and I was able to lift more. Also adding this technique fix helped me stop my neck from hurting when I squat.
Lack Of Upper Back Muscles
This is common in anyone who is on the skinner side. This means anyone new to lifting, new guys or girls who haven’t built much muscles on their upper back to help act as a shelf for the barbell to sit on. This was common with me because I was a very skinny guy when first starting to lift. I had no muscles to hold the barbell and placed the barbell on my neck, this resulted in neck pain. Once I built some muscles in my upper back, especially my traps, I noticed it helped stop my neck from hurting when I squat.
What are some ways to build upper back muscles?
- Barbell or Dumbbell Shrugs
- Overhead Barbell or Dumbbell Press
- Barbell or Dumbbell Rows
These are a few of many amazing exercises that will effectively build your upper back muscles and shoulders too. I listed these 3 exercises because these are my core exercises I have in my routine that have given me incredible results at an incredibly fast rate. I personally have used these exercises for years and that is why I’m recommending them to you.
After building my upper back muscles, shoulders, and traps I finally had that “shelf” that I could place the barbell on and I no longer had it resting on my neck. Once I made this change I noticed it helped stop my neck from hurting when I squat.
Leaning Forward Too Much
This is a common issue I still sometimes face. The problem with leaning forward is it not only puts pressure on the spine, specifically the lower back, but it can also cause pressure on the neck, especially if the barbell is positioned incorrect, meaning its too high. When you lean forward that barbell can press down more on the neck and in some cases I’ve seen people force their neck up and just push the weight up after leaning forward, this just causes unnecessary stress in many areas, not just the neck.
The fix for this is to work on your upper body tightness and on your core strength. I don’t mean go and do crunches, I mean do exercises that force you to use your core to stabilize the body. Planks are an amazing example, leg raises are another effective exercise.
Aside from strengthening your core, I highly suggest learning proper breathing techniques to help stabilize your core, this technique has helped me drastically improve my squat and improve my form. After learning to properly breathe during a squat I was able to stabilize my body during the squat and not lean forward. Doing this greatly helped to stop my neck from hurting when I squat.
I highly suggest checking out the articles below to learn more on proper breathing techniques for squats and for working out in general, it completely changed and improved my workouts, and I am very sure it will help change your workouts too.
Following all of these techniques to improve my squat form has not only improved my squat drastically but greatly helped to stop my neck from hurting when I squat. I suggest trying them all out and looking more into your squat form. The squat is a highly complex exercise which requires a lot of research to learn how to best perform it and contrary to popular belief, not everyone’s squat looks the same. Many people in the gym will say your squat needs to strictly be the way they say, but the squat can look different depending on the body type.
The main rule is to follow the good basic technique rules of a squat. The ones I listed here helped me stop my neck from hurting during squats and they will help you too. If you find yourself having pain when squatting after a few weeks and it has not healed, I suggest consulting with a doctor to find out more about your specific situation.
Here are some other great articles to check out