Are Squats Bad for Your Knees?
For a deeper dive into squats and knee pain, check out this article by DPT and Starting Strength Coach, Liz Zeutschel.
Rebekah Cygan, Staff Coach with Starting Strength Online Coaching and Co-owner of Krieg Strength has more than 15 years of experience as a Physical Therapy Assistant. In this video, her mission is to bust a myth that is held to be true by the medical profession and the fitness industry alike. People who should know better are still telling people that squats are bad for their knees when nothing could be further from the truth.
“If You Squat Too Deep…”
The biggest thing you may hear from your Physical Therapist, local gym trainer or Orthopedic Surgeon is that you shouldn’t squat too deep. There is an inherent problem with this point of view. If you never exercise the full natural range of motion of the squat, you are only getting half as strong. If you don’t go below parallel, you leave out the vital hamstring muscles, which are critical for stabilizing the knee. Far from being safer, partial squats push more of the load onto the quadriceps and lead to increased chance of injury. When it comes to training, we want to work a full range of motion to work the hips and knees in balance the way they were meant to move.
If you struggle with getting the full range of motion your squat, check out some tips here.
Sitting Down and Standing Up
Squatting, or sitting down and standing back up, is one of the most natural of all human movements. Our knees and hips are built to bend. From the day we are born until the day we die, our hips and knees have to bend to motor us around in our world. In fact, one of the down sides to aging is our loss of the ability to squat. Getting out of a chair or going down stairs gets difficult. And as the legs get weak- knee pain increases, and so does our ability to squat down to the chair or a toilet.
How to Fix Knee Pain
Most people who are experiencing knee pain with squats are doing a movement that incorrectly loads the knees rather than the hips. That’s why we train the squat with a moderate toe out angle, and the knees shoved out to be in line with the toes. Shoving the knees out and sitting the hips back with a more horizontal back angle, loads the big muscles of the hip: the glutes, hip adductors/groin, hamstrings and internal rotators. This balances the forces acting around the knee joint as the movement is performed. A healthy knee moves with the quadriceps, the primary knee extensors, working in line with the hamstrings, groin muscles, and other hip musculature all working together.
Why Aren’t You Squatting?
You may have had knee replacement surgery, or think your squatting days were long gone with your football career. If you are finding yourself avoiding squatting movements, don’t wait! Learn how to squat the proper way to avoid knee pain and to strengthen your legs. Training the squat in small incremental loads over time will lead to healthier knees no matter what history of injury you have.
Don’t lift a weight that is too heavy for you to squat to below parallel. Take a video of yourself and make sure you are squatting to a depth that takes your hip crease below the top of the knee cap. Find a weight you can squat to depth and slowly increase the load over time.
Don’t leave squats out of your training program!