Knees hurt while squatting? Here’s what to do


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The squat, be it in barbell or any other form is a highly popular exercise used to build strong legs. It’s a compound movement that not only sculpts those tree trunk like legs but also burns a lot of calories. Therefore, it’s always in the to-do list of everyone, whether they want to gain muscle or lose weight. However, some people experience knee pain when they squat, it’s time to right those wrongs finally take care of your knees.

Why do squats cause knee pain?

Squatting is a compound lift, it involves a lot of your muscles. It involves your major leg muscles like the quadriceps and the hamstrings. It also involves the core and the back to a certain extent. However, one thing it does NOT work in any shape or form is the knee area. If you’re getting knee pain during a squat, chances are it’s not a squat you’re doing but something very different.

There’s a reason why big lifts such as the squat, deadlift or the bench press have high injury rates. They look simple enough but if make the slightest mistake, then you suffer a lot. Unfortunately, these mistakes are so subtle that you may never feel if your form is wrong when it may very well be. A slight misplacement of your arms or shoulders during a bench press may injure your shoulder and set you back weeks.

It’s a similar case with the squat. You might be following all the tips about keeping your chest out, back straight and all, but you might be doing just that one thing wrong. The squat, by no means, is an easy exercise to perform. Not only is it a highly taxing exercise on the body, but it also requires precise form otherwise it’s very dangerous. Perhaps the most common culprit for knee pain is the positioning of the knees themselves during a squat.

Image: physiotherapy manly
Image: physiotherapy manly

Improper Form

It’s not improper form in terms of your back or posture, but it’s how you go down for the movement. When you squat, there’s always going to be a forward motion of the knees when you go down. However, one must try to not allow their knees to go past their toes. If they do, that’s fine if they go ahead slightly.

However, when knees go excessively forward, that’s a problem. You can tell when your knees lead the way of a squat if your heels come off the floor when you go down. Your feet must stay firmly planted to the floor, otherwise, you’re asking for trouble. When the knees go excessively forward, you place a lot of unwanted stress on the knees which causes the pain.

Next time you squat, pay close attention to your knees. You’ll be surprised when you see your form. When looking at form overall, people generally don’t find this error because the more crucial part is keeping your back straight when going down. However, as we’ve established, this leads to a weaker knee in the future, which none of us want.

What to do

So we’ve established that there’s something wrong with the form. How does one fix the form? It’s by starting with something easy. Instead of loading up a barbell or picking up a heavy dumbbell, try to first master the bodyweight squat. There’s also a technique to master the bodyweight squat, it’s through the box squat. Here’s what you do:

  • Take a small 14-15 inch box, rotate your toes about 15-30 degrees.
  • Begin the squat, lead the motion with your hips. Keep your kneecaps inline with the middle of your toe.
  • As soon as your hips touch the box, come back up.
  • Keep repeating this while keeping your feet firmly planted on the floor, don’t let the knees take over.

With a bit of practice, you’ll have perfected your squat form and then you can say goodbye to the annoying knee pains.


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Olivia Parker

Parker holds a masters in computer science, but her love for movies and everything that goes into making them forced her to divert her strength to entertainment world. She has been interviewed a number of celebrities in her previous jobs.

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