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We all know squats are some of the best exercises you can do for building muscle and gaining strength.However, there are lots of joints and muscles involved in doing them and getting your posture wrong can really cost you.

And if you're someone who can be found at the squat rack at least a couple of times a week, then it's most likely that you have experienced some of the issues we'll be discussing in this blog.

Correct posture is not just about targeting all the right muscle groups, it's about directing the weight load so it goes straight down through the centre of your feet. It's one of the reasons why we promote practising getting the correct technique, form and posture first - before you add any weight. Otherwise, you may be at risk of injury.

So, if you’re experiencing knee pain from doing squats – or even wrist pain, elbow pain or shoulder pain, firstly, you're not alone.

To help, we've put together a few pointers that will help to correct your posture when doing squats, so you can avoid injury and pain.

(If you are experiencing any sharp pain, we recommend you stop doing squats and see a doctor or a professional physical therapist. You should only work on correcting your form when you feel ready to train.)

 

Knee pain

If you’re experiencing knee pain when you squat, then it's most likely that you need to correct your whole-body posture. This is to ensure the weight trajectory goes straight down and the weight load is pushing down through the middle of your feet - not through your toes.

You should also be aware that the position and direction of your knees as you squat is strongly influenced by the position of your hips, ankles and feet. Get these elements right and you'll be well on your way to pushing the weight back into your glutes and away from your knees.

So, let's look at each individual element to ensure that weight load doesn't get pushed forward:


Bar position

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If you're having trouble getting the weight load off your knees, then having a low back bar position will help. With a low bar position, your posterior chain is much more engaged, as you sit your weight back and load your hamstrings.

The weight path should still be travelling straight down through the centre of your feet, but you'll see that your weight is forced behind you by straightening up your tibia. This means a wider angle and less strain on your knee joints.

Tip: A good high bar position is when the bar is right on top of your traps. A low bar position is when the bar is resting on your lower delts. It's important to remember that with a high bar position, the bar doesn't roll forward onto your neck.

An unbalanced squat form will upset your weight path and increase your risk of injury.

 

Grip position

It may seem surprising at first to think that your grip position can affect your knees. But it's all about posture. When setting up a low bar squat, you need to tense your back - but it's difficult to maintain that tension all the way down into the squat.

This means for many lifters that as they go down their elbows will push back, their wrists will bend, the weight will move forward and then the weight load falls over your knees.

The main thing to think about here is your wrist position and your elbow position. They need to be stabilised throughout the squat. A straight wrist will come more easily if you have a thumb-less grip. This means your thumb is resting over the top of the bar and not around the bar. By doing this, you'll be able to practise keeping your wrists straight as well as maintaining the tension needed to prevent the bar from rolling down your back.

With a steady grip, the weight load should stay in position for you to be able to squat with a straight bar path. Equally, there shouldn't be any movement in the elbows either. In a low bar position, you're aiming to get your triceps to touch your lats.

This is going to help you maintain the tension in your back needed to keep it straight. If you loosen your back muscles and let your elbows move up and back, the weight is more likely to move forward, upsetting your squat balance.

 

Hips

Squats require a good amount of flexibility. They also take patience and proper form. Your hips should be square and in-line with your spine. Any tilts will manifest themselves as a stretched lower back or twisted knees.

Foam rollers are great for helping you increase your hip flexibility. It's also worth concentrating on this without doing squats and targeting any specific areas of tightness or weakness.

 

Knees

It's often said that the knees shouldn't be going over the toes. This is actually more of a reminder that your weight should be going down through the centre of your feet rather than through your toes. Whether or not your knees fall over your toes or not often comes down to joint mobility, flexibility and body type.

In terms of positioning, your knees should be following the path of your middle toe – pointed slightly outwards but not so much that they're twisted. And as you go down, let your hips break open so your knees can move progressively outwards.

 

Ankles

Many people have tight ankles. And it's this inflexibility that often means we fall forward as we squat, because the weight load gets pushed forward. Remember, the weight needs to travel down and through the centre of your foot.

So, while you work on increasing your ankle mobility – by doing stretches and using a foam roller – it's a good idea to use a squat ramp. This will help you push your weight back and strengthen your posterior chain but avoid straining your knees.

 

Butt wink

A commonly debated squat feature is the butt wink. The butt wink is technically considered a bad thing, because you don't want to be doing squats while your back is in flexion. This is when your lower back is curved in and your hips are pushed up towards the ceiling.

However, you can expect a natural degree of movement when doing squats, just because that's what you need to do to keep your spine in neutral. This is perfectly acceptable. The thing you're watching out for is a rounded back. This can happen more often if you naturally have a weak lower back and weak hip flexors.

 

In summary:

  • Keep your back tense 
  • Push the weight down and through the centre of your feet 
  • Break at the hips 
  • Push your knees slightly outwards 
  • Keep your spine in neutral 
  • Use a low bar position and vertical tibia 
  • Maintain a straight bar path at all times

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Final tips:

If you already have poor posture and areas of weakness – perhaps from sitting behind a desk all day, hunching over a computer or driving – then these issues will not correct themselves by squatting. Identify your issues first and work on these before you start loading yourself up with weights.

Make sure you isolate your muscle groups and keep a close eye on what needs stretching or strengthening. Box squats are great for helping you to push your weight back and relieving that pressure going through your knees.

We talk more about box squats in our squat variations blog.

If your knees are sore, you need to rest them before you start trying to correct your squat technique. We recommend seeing a physical therapist. In the meantime, rest your knees and ice them to reduce any inflammation.

If you have any questions, you can find us on Instagram and Facebook @Mirafitofficial.

Happy training!