Can You Get a Lump on Your Back From Squats?

The lump on your upper back that develops after doing high-bar squats isn't usually a cause for concern. However, it is important to know why you might experience it and how to avoid it. 

Weightlifters, your training sessions require explosiveness, focus and precision. For an onlooker it might not look like much, but weightlifting is a world of its own. Employing unhealthy practices can result in a multitude of complications. 

Lumps or lesions on your back after a weightlifting session is not a common issue. However, weightlifters have started experiencing lumps called the “Weightlifter’s nodule” and professionals say that it could be a result of multiple contributing factors.

What is the Lump on Your Back?

The appearance of a lesion, nub, or protrusion on your back (whatever you like to call your very own lump on the back) is a complaint some lifters have in the beginning of their weightlifting journey. But, there are others who have developed it spontaneously despite years of training and many who’ve never experienced it.

The most common concern is, Could it be a malignant tumor? It most probably is…..

it's not a tumor GIF
it's not a tumor GIF

….not a cancerous tumor- If you’ve developed it when you started making changes in your weight lifting routine, then the lump is most likely linked to the bar positioning when you perform high-bar squats. However, a visit to the dermatologist is recommended if it causes more concern than it should.

A Case Study

The National Library of Medicine proposed a diagnosis of a “weightlifter’s nodule” to a 17-year-old high school football player who experienced two asymptomatic lumps on the upper part of his back. The firm, mobile and ill-defined lumps were observed on the upper aspect of his back following a few weeks of weightlifting sessions. This lump was said to resemble the “athlete’s nodule” which develops as a result of continuous blunt pressure.

The lesions were located along the muscles where the squat bar is usually placed. Microscopic analysis of the lesion revealed an expansion in the dermis (inner layer of the skin). This reactive fibrosis can be seen in athlete's nodules as a result of repetitive blunt pressure. Reference.

Causes For Developing Lumps on Your Back.

  1. Incorrect Bar Positioning When Performing High bar Squats- During high bar squats the bar should be placed high on the trapezius muscle across the top of the shoulders (Trap area). Incorrect bar placement includes resting the bar on your spine,  just below the neck or just above where your C7 and T1 vertebrae meet. 
  1. Pressure on the Nerves- Resting the bar on the spine can cause damage. Continuous and extreme blunt pressure causes pinched nerves that can lead to pain in different parts of the body.
  1. Friction- If you are resting the bar directly on your back, you need to use the right gear and equipment. We get it, you might not like to use pads but rusty barbells at some gyms are definitely a no-go. If your home-gym needs a barbell replacement, consider going through our 9 Best Budget Olympic Barbells ($200 and under) to find the right pick for you.
  1. Pre Existing Skin Conditions- Perhaps the lump has always been there and the reason it’s surfaced now is because of the changes in the muscle exertion. Some people reported having those bumps prior to ever lifting and possibly they’ve developed those lumps as children.

How to Avoid Getting Bumps Doing High Bar Squats?

The weightlifter’s nodule is a result of improper bar placement and excessive pressure on the spine. Does this mean that you have to quit doing high bar squats altogether? The answer is No. The effect weightlifting has on your back can be minimized by adhering to the following guidelines: 

  1. Obviously, Fix Your Posture- When you are squatting, squeeze your traps slightly to create a groove for the barbell to sit in. Position the bar between the top of the rear delts and the traps while avoiding placing the weight entirely on your neck or spine.
  1. Use a Neck-support Pad- If unfortunately your traps are still not toned enough or big enough to hold the bar in this position, you might have to consider using a neck-support pad like the Iron Bull Strength Advanced Squat Pad. Some weightlifters even use rolled up towels to mimic the effect. The idea is to have some type of support and cushioning to help with your high bar lifts.
  1. Experiment With Different Bar Placements- Try placing the bar slightly lower and play around with hand placement to find the positioning that works for you. Ideally, find a position that doesn’t compromise on high bar squats being “high” and that doesn’t hurt your wrist.
  1. Rest- If you notice a lump forming on your back after your high bars, common sense says that you should avoid putting more pressure on it. Refrain from doing high bar squats for a while until the bump has gone.
  1. Switch to Low Bar Squats- Considering your weightlifting goals, making the switch from High Bar squats to Low bar squats would make a huge difference. This is not to say that you can replace high bar squats with low bars. Use low bar squats only if you feel like it befits your fitness goals in the long run.

Lifters, Listen Up!

Finding what’s right for you when it comes to your weight-training sessions involves continuous progress-monitoring and trial and error. The gym is not the most conducive environment for this as most gyms work on a one-size-fits-all basis.

We believe working out should be more personal and well-designed to cater to your fitness goals and this is why we recommend building your very own home gym here on our website.

To make building your personalized home gym easier we put together the following blog posts that would help you with it.

For starters on this subject, the learning curve might seem a bit steep but this definitive guide on the subject would give you the headstart you need. 

To make your  home gym weight-based read through our posts on The Best Readymade Deadlift Platforms and The Best Half Racks that will help get the job of finding the right equipment a million times easier.