Are Squats Bad For Your Knees – The Truth!
An age old question about knee health and squats, are squats bad for your knees and would you be way better by ditching them altogether.
Truth to be told, if your squat technique is on point it will certainly not destroy your knees, if anything they will make your knees healthier by strengthening the muscles responsible for stabilizing your knees.
Squatting with bad form is what destroys your knees.
So let’s put an end to giving bad name to squats and instead bash improper lifting technique!
The Most Common Reason For Knee Pain While Squatting?
The two most common problems that people mention when squatting are knee pains and lower back pains. And there are easy fixes to both of them but it might not be a quick fix, remember to keep that in mind. If you’ve been squatting for a while with a bad form it will take some effort to change it.
Knee pains are usually the result of knees travelling forward too much. It is almost impossible to eliminate all the knee travel and our bodies are not even made for that so forget that fitness myth right now that your knees cannot go over your toeline and don’t worry about slight knee travel, what we’re after here is excessive knee travel.
When the knees shoot forward so much that even your heels start to come off from the ground, you’re in a really bad place.
How To Fix Your Squat Form To Get Rid Of Knee Aches
So in order to re-wire your squatting pattern you have to first assess your current flaws. Look for these cues when you’re squatting to find out if you’re technique is not on point and how to fix it:
Problem: Are your feet pointing straight forward or even inward? This prevents you from opening your hips and activating your glutes which will restrict your descending part of the lift and usually tips your upperbody forward.
Solution: Rotate your feet outward 15-30 degrees and when squatting begin breaking at the hips not knees. This way you will open up your hips more and activate your ass which will take tension off from your knees and lower back.
Problem: Is your stance narrower than your shoulder width?
Solution: Widen your stance. This enables you to sit more back and keep the pressure on your heels rather than on the ball of your foot. The more pressure on the heels, the less pressure on the knees.
Problem: Are you sitting down instead of back?
Solution: Try to sit more back instead of straight down. Once again this will put the tension on your heels rather than the front part of your foot. This will prevent excessive knee travel.
Problem: Are you “dive bombing” every squat repetition? Dive bombing means using your stretch reflex in the lower part of your squat to “bounce” you back up and give more momentum to handle bigger weights. While you can handle bigger loads you will be putting a lot more stress to your knees and lower back.
Solution: Simply stop dive bombing altogether. You shouldn’t be doing it anyway. It is a technique that powerlifters use to break their records and get the biggest numbers. And it is not healthy habit. And eventhough they use it in the competition they usually train without it. There is no point for you to dive bomb if you’re doing just general strength training or fitness. It serves absolutely no purpose. Slow down your negative part of the lift and keep your whole body as tight as possible.
Problem: Keeping the majority of pressure on front part of your feets?
Solution: All of the above. Rotate your feet outwards, widen your stance if necessary, sit back and start the squat by breaking at the hips, keep your whole body tight and descend slowly. All these tips together will be there to emphasize the heel drive of your squats.
Problem: Knees caving in (usually when coming up from “the hole”)?
Solution: Weak glutes. A great technique that will get rid of this problem is to get a belt of some sort and start doing bodyweight squats the belt around your legs. You will place the belt a bit higher or lower than your kneecaps or on top of them, whichever feels the best and then you’ll want to try to rip the belt apart at the same time doing those bodyweight squats. Do these 3-5 times a week 3 sets of 12 repetitions and you’ll be golden.
These situation are the most common if you’re having problems with knee pain while performing squats.
A good way to assess your technique is to film yourself squatting from different angles. That along with experimenting with the different variables listed above will give you a clear picture of your current technique and what needs to be changed.
Here are some tips that I forgot to mention:
- Remember to wear shorts or trouser that do not restrict your movement while squatting. There is nothing more annoying than tight shorts or trouser that limit your optimal range of motion.
- Squat barefoot or with shoes such as chuck taylors or wrestling shoes that have a flat and or thin sole, also olympic lifting shoes are perfectly fine. If you have a pair of those running shoes with soft soles, they are the worst kind of shoes to squat in.
Here is a great quick video for proper squat technique:
Different People, Different Styles
Eventhough I listed the most common knee pain inducing form factors, all of us are built differently and there is not a one way that will fit everybody. That is why you have to experiment and find the right kind of style for YOU!
Just because you see your favourite youtubers or powerlifters dive bombing in a meet with wide sumo stance or olympic weightlifters squatting with their knees caving in, it doesn’t mean that you should mimic them.
By all means get inspired by them and take some ideas but still keep perfecting the squat style that fits your biomechanics the best.
Knee Wraps & Knee Sleeves For Knee Pain
This is kinda tricky questions since there are people saying that both of these equipments will reduce knee pain or some say it makes the pain even worse and you could be doing more damage to your knees.
Knee Wraps – Are used by powerlifters and bodybuilders to lift more weights. They are usually made from the same elastic material that is used in wrist wraps. Wraps will give you a kind of a spring so you can shoot out from the bottom portion of the squat faster. They are purely designed to add more weight than you can handle on your own. But the flipside of coin here is that they will put even more pressure on your knees, potentially damaging them.
Knee Sleeves – Are the ones that many athletes use when playing different sports. Their purpose is not as extreme as the wraps. Sleeves are bascically just giving a bit of compression to your knees, limiting patella movement and providing lateral stability. They are advertised as being a good piece of equipment to prevent knee injuries and enhance recovery of your knee joint.
My opinion is that if you’re experiencing knee pain while squatting which is the whole puprose of this article, you shouldn’t be relying on any of these equipments.
Fix your form and strengthen your own stabilizing muscles that hold the knee in place, do not rely on equipment to do it for you. This is by far the most important thing you can do the ensure proper knee health while performing squats.
Only Barbell Back Squats Hurt My Knees, Can I Do Something Else?
The barbell back squat is THE exercise for whole body strength and muscle development. But if you’re not a competitive athlete or powerlifter, there is no reason why you couldn’t replace it with different squats (check out this article for alternative squats!)
But that being said it doesn’t mean that you should just discard the barbell back squat altogether, I would encourage you to find out the weak points of your squat and get them stronger and come back to barbell back squats. Usually the problem is not the barbell back squat itself, it’s the incorrect fashion you’re performing it like mentioned earlier in the article.
But if you’re seeking good leg development in strength and muscle mass do not think that if you’re not doing barbell back squats you will not make any progress. There are many other great squat exercises that you will surely find very useful on your journey.
Conclusion On Are Squats Bad For Your Knees
When it all comes down to it squats are not bad for your knees if you’re doing them right. I know people who have had serious knee injuries and the doctors have advised them to perform squats in order to speed up the recovery and avoid future injuries.
So get your squatting technque fixed with the tips I gave you in this article and start experimenting what works for you, since we’re not all carved from the same wood.
Here is a bullet point list to recap all the key points:
- Squats are not destroying your knees, bad technique while squatting is the reason
- Try to drive with your heels, not with the front part of your feets
- Read my form tips and try them out
- Find your own individual squat technique
- Forget the knee wraps and knee sleeves
- Try different squats than the basic barbell back squat
- Re-learning technique will take time, back off the heavy weights & focus on technique and quality repetitions
That is all I have you for today. I Hope you found this article useful and got something out from it.
Have you had any experience with knee problems while performing squats? Chime in down below I’d love to hear your experience!
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