Avoid Knee Pain During Squats!

lower body Mar 05, 2016

Kristi asked me what she can do to avoid knee pain during squats.  There is so much information on the internet, in fitness magazines and with trainers at your local gym, that it’s hard to siphon through all of it and find what is best for you.  

I’ve put together a few quick pointers that I have found helpful in the past. But I also have the 100 million dollar question for you: Do you need to do squats at all? More on that at the end of today’s post.


Tip No. 1 - Keep the movement small

Everyone probably knows the general idea of a squat, and how you want to look while doing it, but if you are having knee pain, perhaps it is best to avoid a full squat and instead start with a Half-Squat, where you bend your knees only so far, that your heels stay on the ground and your upper body can remain perfectly upright. This might be very small - especially if your ankles are tight. But it gives you a chance to become aware of the details of the movement.

Tip No. 2 - Change the angle of the legs

Are you doing your squats parallel or with your toes turned out? How far are they turned out?

Experiment with different angles. I bet you’ll find one angle where the knees don’t bother you as much. That’s a good starting point. Continue your squats in this pain free position while you work on the other tips and improve your form and strength.

Tip No. 3 - Track the knees over the center of the feet

No matter how much you turn your feet out, your hips have to come with them. Watch your knees carefully - in every single repetition - and make sure that the knees are always in line with the second or third toe.

If you have fallen arches, then you might notice that you have most of your body weight on the big toe. Try instead to keep equal weight on the big and pinky toe base, as well as on the heel. 

Tip No. 4 - Use Your Butt

Your glutes are supposed to do most of the work on the way up. It’s helpful to press the heels into the ground to activate the buttocks.

Tip No. 5 - Keep the weight back

This goes hand in hand with tip no. 4. If your weight is too much on your toes - or your torso is leaning forward too much - then your hip flexors and thighs are working too much. This excessive work makes the knees unhappy. By keeping your weight on your heels you get your buttocks involved, and your thigh muscles can chill, resulting in less knee pain.

Bonus Tip - Don’t Do (Too Many) Squats

I can hear fitness trainers and enthusiasts scream all over the world. What? No squats? I’m not saying no squats, but it sometimes seems as if there were no other exercises we could do. It’s such a staple in everyone’s workout routine. I know some people are doing 3x20 squats (while holding extra weight), 5 times per week. What are you doing to balance out that effort? We always strive for muscular balance. Do side lunges, front & back lunges, bridges. There are many other ways to strengthen your legs without equipment.

Have you tried standing on a block? Strong Legs - The Secret to Better Balance

It seems like an easy exercise, but stay there for a while, you’ll feel the burn.

Also, try these out to maintain the muscular balance we all strive for:

Related: Climbing Stairs Properly - Avoid Knee Pain

Related: Hip Flexor Massage on Foam Roller


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