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Back Squats and Overhead Throwers

Written on May 7, 2008 at 3:31 pm, by Eric Cressey

Q: You don’t like back squats for overhead throwers, is this because of anterior instability or some other reason?

A: In a word, yes; anterior stability is so crucial for a pitcher that I’m not tempted to push it. Then again, that’s the short version – and it also assumes that the lifter is using a closer-grip, which mandates more external rotation.

So, to the casual observer, the solution to this would be to simply bring the hands out and squat with a wider grip, which requires less external rotation. Unfortunately, this logic is flawed, too, as you have to abduct (elevate) your humerus another 15-20 degrees to get to that position. In the process, you bring it further into the “classic” impingement zone. This not only compromises the rotator cuff, but perhaps more significantly, the long head of the biceps, which is an extremely common nuisance in both powerlifters and overhead throwing athletes.

All that said, while I’d never do it with a pitcher, you can probably get away with it with position players because they have better upward rotation. I wouldn’t go near it if thoracic spine range of motion is subpar – or the athlete had a history of shoulder or elbow issues.

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5 Responses to “Back Squats and Overhead Throwers”

  1. Brad Says:


    Is there a type of bar/attachment that would make back squats suitable for pitchers without putting the shoulder and elbow at risk.

  2. Tim Hartwig Says:

    Try using a Cambered Squat Bar for less external rotation. By doing so you can still increase posterior strength and stability while limiting any potential rotator cuff problems.

  3. Ryan Morgan Says:

    eric, what do you substitute for back squats in order to get the same type of results?

  4. Jeff Says:

    How about doing front squats? I know some people are leary of the “front squat” grip that way, but you can use the “powerlifting” type grip for front squats and it won’t effect wrist, elbows or shoulders that I know. Their T-Spine and hip mobility should still be pretty good to maintain good form.

  5. Eric Cressey Says:

    Yep, we use front squats, giant cambered bar squats, and safety squat bar squats instead.

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