Do your knees hurt when you squat? This is a follow up article to the last one I did called “Squats are bad for your knees – FALSE!”
In this article I am going to give you the answers to the following questions:
- When should you go see your Doctor about knee pain?
- How do you stretch your ankles and hips (the common reasons why people have knee pain when squatting and knee pain in general) to help you squat and move better?
- The two different types of squats you can do and how to perform each.
- And a hell of a lot more!
I hope you enjoy!
Quick Squat Tutorial
This is a real quick down and dirty squat tutorial where I go over the two types of squats – The power squat and natural squat.
Tests to determine what’s causing your squat issue.
There are three easy tests we use to assess someone’s ankle and hip mobility (mobility differs from flexibility). Mobility refers to how easy a joint moves, flexibility refers to how easy a muscle can move. Think gymnastics for mobility and yoga for stretching. For our purposes, we want good mobility, but as far as you are concerned the terms can be interchangeable when discussing the squat.
This test assess your straight leg ankle mobility. If you cannot touch your toes this doesn’t mean you can’t squat, but it certainly tells us some stuff…mostly that you have tight ankles in a straight leg position.
This test is pretty straight forward – Can you squat without pain? If you want to squat…you need to squat! This test allows us to assess your overall tightness. Specifically, we are looking at it from the hips down. Can you get below parallel? Can you hold it there? Bonus points if you can hold it there WITHOUT SHOES ON. Not a necessity, per se, but that is something to work towards. Some people can bounce down and up with no problem, we don’t want that.
This is another pretty straight forward test – Where are your toes pointed once you get into the full squat and what do your knees do? Do your heels come up off the ground (tight ankles)? Do your knees cave in (tight hips)? Do your feet turn out (tight ankles)?
If you cannot perform any of those movements WITHOUT KNEE PAIN then skip down to the last video on this page – When should you talk to your doctor about knee pain with squatting?
Start at the ankles.
Most knee pain can be attributed to tight ankles. What exactly is a tight ankle/how do you know you have tight ankles? Well…you probably do. Tight ankles and a tight upper back are the MOST COMMON joint restrictions we see at our gym. World renowned Strength Coach Mike Boyle (arguably the guy who brought functional training into the mainstream) always says – “You can always improve your ankle and thoracic mobility.”
There are two ways you need to stretch your ankles – in a straight leg and in a bent knee fashion. You have two muscles that make up your calf (gastrocnemius and soleus – One likes a bent ankle, the other likes a straight leg) both need to be stretched in two different ways.
Then go to the hips.
Hip mobility is the next thing to tackle. Poor hip mobility will cause your knees to do some wonky things during the squat as well as possibly cause lower back pain if you are trying to force yourself into the bottom of the squat.
When should you see your doctor if squatting hurts your knees?
Understand something – Most, as in over 95%, of your aches and pains can be alleviated through proper exercise selection, rest and good coaching/program design. At the end of the day, it takes time to heal things.
Having said that – If you perform these stretches, a few times per day, for 30 days and you still have knee pain when squatting, you might want to consult your doctor. These are just STRETCHES/MOBILITY exercises. If you came to our gym with knee pain, we would use these exercises PLUS strengthening moves that target the hamstrings and glutes. But, that is too much for this article.
Here’s a quick video on WHEN you should go see your doctor about knee pain with squatting.
There ya go! I hope you enjoyed this article and that it helps you squat better without pain!
Do you have knee pain? Let us help you! Give us 30 days and we will show you how to fix your knee pain while also getting some weight off of you, improving your energy and teaching you a lot of things about your body you didn’t know!