Are Squats Bad For Your Knees – The Truth!

By | June 24, 2015

Are Squats Bad For Your Knees – The Truth!Are Squats Bad For Your Knees

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 Are Squats Bad For Your Kneesthere 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 Are Squats Bad For Your Kneesactivating 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.

squat_stanceProblem: 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.

Are Squats Bad For Your KneesProblem: 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

Are Squats Bad For Your KneesDifferent 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.

First of all Knee Wraps and Knee Sleeves are not the same thing so let’s look at them individually:

squat_knee_wrapsKnee 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.

squat_knee_sleevesKnee 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?

squat_back_squatThe 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!

Check out these articles too:

Beginner’s Guide To Muscle Building

How To Eat To Build Muscle

The Progressive Overload Principle

Supplements That Really WORK

10 Health Benefits Of Weightlifting

18 thoughts on “Are Squats Bad For Your Knees – The Truth!

  1. Chris Evans

    This is an interesting article for me in particular. As a 20 year old I injured my knee playing football ( soccer ) and was told that squats should now be avoided on a regular basis. I ignored the advice and have had a decent running career ever since ( where I have used the squat method of training from time to time! ). Do you feel certain medical professionals are off the pace with their view on squats?

    1. Jesse Post author

      I’m by no means certified to question qualified medical practitioners and this article was meant to overall healthy people who do not have any actual previous damage to their knees. But that being said I do believe that there are some practitioners that give advice which could be another way around also. I know couple different people who have been told by their doctor who operated them that you can forget your hobbies, the funny thing is that the same guys have bounced back healthy and even better than before. Awesome to hear your story also! Thanks a lot for commenting πŸ™‚

  2. Sarah

    Awesome and very informative article! I work out a lot but if there’s (was!) one thing I hate, it’s squats! Why? Because my knees feel like they’re going to break lol… but now I know how to position my feet and body, that’s really cool! I’m going to be able to get my perfect summer butt more quickly =) ahahah
    Thanks, well done

    1. Jesse Post author

      Remember Sarah that slow and steady wins the race when it comes to lifting weights. Study the perfect form and see what works for you and keep the weights in your own limits. Awesome if you got something out from this article! All the best πŸ™‚

  3. Roar

    Such an incredibly useful link to come across. I actually think that you’ve managed to spot things that I’m doing wrong (without ever having seen me) better than my own gym instructor. I’m going to actually direct him towards your site too, great stuff! Had you been having issues yourself or just come across tons of people with knee/back complaints from squats? Thanks for the great tips.

    1. Jesse Post author

      I’ve had issues with my knees due to bad form. But luckily enough nothing serious got to happen since I realized the symptoms right away and adjusted accordingly. These things tend to be quite common with people who train so there is a lot of useful information around also! I’m just trying to do my part at helping people πŸ™‚ Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment, ROAR!

  4. kirk wilke

    I think you’re spot on about squats. I have arthritic in my knees and I just got a personal trainer. She has me doing squats with some light weights and worked on my form. I already am feeling some relief.

    1. Jesse Post author

      Glad to hear that Kirk! Like mentioned earlier, slow and steady will win the race especially in your case as you suffer from Arthritic. And if you feel any pain whatsoever definately stop. The worst thing to do when training is to keep on pushing when you feel that something is wrong. Keep training and progressing πŸ™‚

  5. Jolie

    Awesome post with tons of great info here! I also think that anatomy has a lot to do with technique and correct form, so it does depend on some things like how long your legs are etc. My boyfriend damaged his knee pretty badly doing weighted squats because of incorrect knee tracking. I saw his form later and his glutes are SO weak – so I gave him some tips on building them and referred him straight to my website, lol!

    Seriously though, people underestimate how much glute strength does also play a role in squats. It’s possible to do squats without even really engaging the glutes much, which is a sure way to injury.

    1. Jesse Post author

      You’re spot on here about the anatomy of individual, limb length and torso length, the way your hips are built, all of these facts will affect your optimal squat stance. All of the points I listed in the article have basically the same key factor, force more glute drive to the squat. I mean it is the biggest muscle in our body so we better use it to the best degree possible. And glutes have absolutely crucial functions when squatting heavy, such as preventing your lower back from rounding. Anyways thanks for the comment!

  6. Emily

    hi Jesse
    well I fully appreciate this post on squats and knee pain. One of my knees is sensitive (I hurt it once and it remained sensitive). So at times, I have felt pain while squatting. However, that being said, I have found that with good technique (and yes one needs to focus to make sure it is right), the pain typically subsides. I remember a past trainer of mine who kept staying “stick your butt out!” and I stick it out πŸ™‚ And thank God about the myth of the knees not going past your toes!

    1. Jesse Post author

      Thanks a lot Emily. I’m glad if you got something out this πŸ™‚ And good thing you didn’t give up on squatting since the squats were not the issue!

  7. Brad


    Good article. I wish I read it years ago. I spent a better part of my 20’s with knee issues which I thought was just do be me being active. It wasn’t until a few years back that I was shown who to properly do a squat. Not only have my knee problems not gotten worse, they totally disappeared! Glad I didn’t have anything serious when I was butchering them

    1. Jesse Post author

      Really nice to hear that Brad! All the best to you πŸ™‚

  8. Nnamdi

    Hello Jesse,
    I couldn’t agree with you more on the idea that a bad form of squats can really hurt you instead of helping your fitness level. However, if done in the appropriate way just as you have pointed out, it will build you. I can totally relate to what you are saying as I am a gym nut too, lol. Keep up the good job.

    1. Jesse Post author

      Thanks a lot Nnamdi! May the strength be with you my friend πŸ™‚ Keep training and progressing.

  9. roamy

    Good i found your site, been suffering from knee pain since last year so i was looking for info on what i can do.
    You have explained things so well and in a way so easy to understand.
    My question is, does the weather (cold) affect the knees? im asking because when my knee problems started and nothing was working,when i went for a 3 week vacation in a warm climate, my problems vanished and thought,at last knee pain gone.
    But last winter the pain returned and seems nothing is working.
    Thanks for your time

    1. Jesse Post author

      Definately the temperature will have an effect. As in my home country winters all really cold and the room temperatures drop inside my house. As the weather gets could enough while I’m working at the computer my fingers get really stiff from cold. Although the finger joints are way smaller than knees the same thing definately applies there. The climate has a big inffluence on how we feel due to a myriad different factors but for example if you’re living in a cloudy and cold country you will be Vitamin D deficient almost 100% sure. And being crhonically deficient something as important as Vitamin D there are so many different illnesses linked to that fact! So definately the cold weather will affect your knees. Hope this helped πŸ™‚


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