I'm on StrongLifts 5x5 program about 4 months now. I'm not a novice to strenght training. I used to do kalisthenics (I've completed convict conditioning program), gymnastics, kettlebell RKC, marathon and half marathon running and some bodybuilding. Now I really enjoy doing SL5x5. My plan is to focus only on strenght traing (4life). My body weight is 78kg (172lbs).

Here is my problem. 2 weeks ago I got squeezed by the 142.5kg (314lbs) barbell while doing squats. Nothing really bad happened because I have squat rack, but I felt a little needle pinch in my left upper belly (just under my ribs). I ignored it. But it made me think "Maybe It's time to buy a powerlift belt". So I bought it. Two next trainings went pretty easy due to the belt, but the pain appeared. My last left rib was hurting really bad and worsens. I couldn't complete next training 147.5kg (325lbs) due to excessive pain and breathing problems. I should stop then, but I thought it would heal itself faster since I will be training. It was big mistake. I decided to keep going on training.

Three days ago (17 february 2014) I was mentally prepeared for pain and psyched up to heavy lifts. I managed to complete that day - Squat 5x5 147.5kg (325lbs), Overhead Press 5x5 70kg (154lbs), Deadlift 1x5 175kg (386lbs) and it all felt surprisingly light, like I could lift more. One minute after the training the pain was unbearable. I couldn't take deep breath, I couldn't move my left arm, I couldn't change clothes, change shoes, bend, reach, turn. When I pressed my lower left chest with my right hand, it felt like knife stab, when I've released pressure the pain was a lot worse.

Few hours later, at home, I took Paracetamol. It didn't help. Massaging and doing warm compresses helped a little. I couldn't sleep that night due to excessive pain. Today (20 february 2014) it's a little better. I still have problems with dressing up, changing shoes, lifting bag with my left arm, reaching with my left arm and I can breathe only shallow I can't take a big deep breath.

I went to the doctor (a fat one of course) and he said I should quit lifting weight and rest (of course).

My plan is to take a 1 week break and after that 20% deload on all lifts (whether it will hurt or not). But I'm afraid the whole story will happen again. I don't want the situation to repeat. What should I do. I do not think the long rest (for month for example) is good. I train to be strong and healthy not to be cripple and StrongLifts 5x5 is really good.

I think my form is good (I had previous experience). I do not use any steroids, I don't use even any supplements. Only normal simple food. I don't have any heart issues, I do not party, I don't drink any alcohol, I do not smoke. I have low body fat. I'm 173cm (5 foot 8), 72kg (172lbs) and 34 years old. I can't imagine myself not training. I train to be strong and healthy not to be cripple. What should I do. Please help me.

  • 2
    Go see another doctor - preferably one that specialises in sports medicine or injuries - and get a second opinion. If the pain was so bad that you could barely function afterwards you're probably going to not be lifting for considerably longer than a week, and you may have to deload more than 20% when you are able to lift again. Not much you can do about that except accept the situation, rushing things isn't going to do you any favours. Feb 20, 2014 at 11:02
  • Thank you for the answer. The problem is that I don't know how much to deload. I don't know how long to take break. Should I do some rehab excersises instead? If I deload I should do something about the volume 5x5 (increase because of lighter weights, or maybe decrease to 3x5?)
    – Michal
    Feb 20, 2014 at 11:47
  • @Michal Find a medical professional whose opinion you trust. Do what they say. Feb 20, 2014 at 11:50
  • That kind of medical professional is hard to find in place where I live in. Thats why I thought that whould be good idea to ask people whose maybe had similar problem in the past and dealed with it somehow (or maybe are experienced trainers, coaches or medical professionals that I'm looking for). But thank you for the answer I really appreciate it.
    – Michal
    Feb 20, 2014 at 12:06
  • @Michal Sorry dude, this is an injury, we can't diagnose injuries on this site. Feb 20, 2014 at 13:17

2 Answers 2


The thing that concerns me is this:

Here is my problem. 2 weeks ago I got squeezed by the 142.5kg (314lbs) barbell while doing squats. Nothing really bad happened because I have squat rack, but I felt a little needle pinch in my left upper belly (just under my ribs).

I have a mental picture of your upper body folding forward creating an impingement. That impingement likely bruised your intercostal muscles thanks to the force being transferred through your rib cage.

If that's the case:

  1. You have an injury that needs to heal
  2. You have a form problem that needs to be fixed or you will simply keep re-injuring yourself.

I hate to tell you this, but you're going to have to lay off of squats and deadlifts for about 4 weeks.

Use these exercises instead:

  • Chest supported rows 3 sets of 8-15 reps, it should start feeling light and should not hurt. If it does you went too heavy.
  • Lat pull downs for 3 sets of 8-15. same comments about intensity.
  • Face pulls 3 sets of 10 reps.

All this work is to strengthen your upper back and lats so that you can better support the weight of the bar when you get back to bigger squats without the upper body collapsing forward under the weight of the bar. When the 4 weeks is up, start with a weight that does not cause any pain whatsoever. If you feel even the slightest twinge of pain, take weight off the bar.

For when the injury heals, I highly recommend you get the help of a coach near you. You can look for Starting Strength certified coaches, or gyms with a power lifting team. There are usually one or two just about anywhere you live--you may have to drive a bit though. Have them look at what's going on and prescribe the remedies to your squat. It might be as simple as not having proper breath control under the bar (in fact, I would not be surprised if this was not at least a part of your problems). There are likely other form issues that I can't diagnose from text alone.


I have dealt with this exact same injury (on the left side). I stopped doing all squats and dead-lifts for 2 month and waited for it to be back to 100%. Berin answer is spot on from my experience. During the 2 month hiatuses I focused on chest supported rowing, (non-chest supported rowing like bent rows caused a similar pain to squatting) LAT pulls, chin up, and more abdominal work.

I used the 2 month to focus on my overhead lifts and made more gains in the 2 month than the previous 6.

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