Aarvi here, this blog post will be discussing knee pain whilst squatting and what are some great ways to minimize the pain. I for one have battled with knee pain whilst squatting and it had played a big part in me not enjoying leg day for a long time solely due to the knee pain. Because I am someone who loves the mental battle you have with yourself during a squat/leg day, so not being able to do it properly was very disheartening.
The good news is that I am currently squatting with minimal knee pain and very happy that I can load up the bar and not be in or aggravate the knee pain. This has brought back my love for squat day again.
As mentioned I will be discussing some of the great tips and tricks I am doing and have done to help with me in pain free squatting. So Let’s get straight into it
1. You guessed it, FORM
Highly recommend getting a good trainer/ allied health professional to assist you with form or at least record yourself. I did not realize how much my technique was breaking down at the bottom of the squat and I was going beyond my hip structure.
It was not until I recorded myself I started to notice what was happening and potential causes of the knee pain. I personally thought I was doing them great, but having a look from the outside of the squat and breaking it down there were some definite weaknesses.
Therefore change of form was needed and I went straight to work and stripped all the weight down, as I learnt that you need to work out what is more important to you. Either you can lift heavy with incorrect technique for a short time and be potentially busted afterwards or you are in it for the long game with slow subtle progressions with no breaking down of form.
2. Firing incorrect muscles whilst squatting
A big weakness was that I was not fully engaging my glutes (bottom muscles) which led to me overloading my hip flexors (quadriceps) which increased pressure and load on my knees when squatting.
A big turning point was when I started doing the activation series. I really started to notice how well the glutes can fire and work. This was all new to me and it also assisted in releasing the tightness in my hip flexors which made it so much easier to get into the bottom of the hole. I have done a great activation series in the blog post. Click here for Part 1 of 3 “The Activation Series” Click here for Part 2 of 3 “The Activation Series”. Be sure to try this out by squatting a few reps then try the activations and squat and note the difference.
3. The type of squat you are doing
As a front more upright squat will load up the knee a lot more than a low bar box squat.
A front squat will often place more force on the structures of the knee (like patella or quad tendon or compression on the back of the knee cap), because a more upright torso of the front squat means the knee must move further forward over the toe, creating a longer moment arm relative for that joint – meaning if we squat to the same depth with a similar percentage of lift for each there will be a little more torque comparatively is placed on the knee in the front squat whereas by low bar squatting to a box, we limit how much knee over toe translation the body needs to stay balanced, therefore decreasing stress to the knee.
4. is overload of the tendon/s
This is usually due to the overload or weakness in the muscles which equates to extra pressure on the tendon. Main 2 tendons impacted are the patellar tendon and/or quadriceps tendon.
This was probably the biggest issue with my knee as I was having a lot of pain just below the knee cap everytime I squatted and pain would gradually increase to the point where bodyweight squats were painful.
At the time I shut squats out completely. It was not until I saw my strength and conditioning coach Md Rhaman who got me doing an isolation exercise prior to lifting.
The exercise was on the leg extension machine where you go up with both legs till you reach full extension at the lightest load and release one leg. Therefore doing a single leg isolation hold of 10 second at full knee extension then adding the resting leg to help lower the padding to 45 deg (half-way of leg extension machine) and doing another single leg isolation of the same leg for 10 second however at 45 degrees this time then return to the start of the leg extension machine with both legs and lift up. Repeat 5 times with isolation on same leg then swapping to the other leg
5. The use of knee sleeves/wraps
I wear knee sleeves whilst squatting even warming up as it provides a light level of support, warmth, and mental reassurance for me when squatting. As I noticed the warmer my knees were the better I was able to squat.
And as always have a good day