T Nation

A Bad Combination of Caving Knees and Hip Shift


Hey guys,

I have made it a priority to fix my squat form. I’ve always had knocked knees, so I went about it by incorporating lunges into my routine (believe it or not, I used to not do any lunges). I also started to use the hip abductor machine, even though I hate using it as a dude. I was doing all that I could to fix the weak glutes and hip mobility I may be lacking.

I also lowered the weight significantly, and in the videos I’m about to post, I decided to go up in weight by a mere 5 pounds because the weight I was using before just didn’t feel heavy enough.

Squatting Video

My last rep is abysmal. I’m also leaning forward on the squat, which is hard to tell from this angle, but you can see it with my foot in the last rep.

My question is, why does this weight not feel particularly heavy, but I’m having such an uncomfortable time moving it?

When I squat, I’m not fighting the weight, rather, I’m fighting my form. My knees want to go inward and instead of just pushing the weight up (which doesn’t feel all too heavy on my back…), I have to focus on not collapsing.

I feel like I’ve addressed this with targeting my glutes and using the abdcutor machine, yet I still can’t go up in weight without my form falling apart. Do I really need to lower the weight to 25 pounds and just focus on my form?

Here is a video from a little while back of me doing paused squats with significantly lighter weight. My knees don’t cave and I can get more depth.

Lighter squat form

I am getting very discouraged because I can’t seem to help myself out. If I lower the weigh to 25 pound plates, I feel like I’m not doing any work and it doesn’t even feel like a workout. I just don’t understand how once I hit a certain weight, my form collapses regardless of how heavy it feels. I know my quads can take more than the 145 pounds I was doing in the first video, but apparently my hips, knees, and glutes cannot.


Slow down there speedy. Get tight, control the decent. Don’t be afraid to do reps with lower weight until you get the form down. No shame in learning how to do it right, even if you have to start with bodyweight, goblets or just the bar.


Wide stance builds close, close stance does nothing for wide.
-Dave Tate

If you want to build your hips and glutes, and learn to properly brace and use your glutes to “spread the floor,” you should spend some time in this position.

You probably won’t be able to reach the floor, so elevate the barbell like this.

Or higher

Even the blocks are too low for me, so I set up around knee height in the power rack.

It’s a short range of motion, and it’s over pretty quick. To spend some time under tension, get really tight, just break the bar off the pins, Hold for a brief pause, then finish.

Focus on spreading the floor, keeping your back arched and pushing your abs/obliques into your belt.

Then drive your hips to the bar


My visual aids got out of order, but you get the idea.


Try thinking about it differently. Instead of trying to lift a bar with your back you are pushing your chest to the ceiling under weight.

You may also have to work on your back as a whole (traps lats etc.) to hold good form. And goblet squats for a four count at the bottom.


Take a video of you doing a goblet squat. Exhale your lower ribs down, in, and back. Hold the tension that you feel in your abs and squat down. Is the shift still present?


If the weight isn’t too heavy then there is no collapse. Would starting my workout with pause squats be a good benefit? I would significantly lower the weight and focus on my technique. This would replace my regular back squats, however, which means much less weight than I was previously doing.

Squat Form Progress After 4 Months

Is there a reason that you need to squat? A reason that you need to back squat specifically?


Then you are using the wrong TM/ weight. You will have to drop the weight and do reps until you are stronger.


Don’t think about spreading your knees for the time being. Think about opening up your groin. Engage the hip flexors and flex your hamstrings and quads at the bottom. You are already doing this instinctively with the paused squats.

I suggest you rely less on mental cues at the moment and develop more body awareness by learning to flex the individual muscles instead. When the weight gets heavy, you need to fight the instinct to let your body go on autopilot and be consciously aware of the muscles firing.


So the best way to go about this is inevitably lowering the weight?


@brix unrelated to your post, but do you study at VT?


You will have to lower the weight as all you are doing is reinforcing bad technique at higher weights.

You don’t have to use light weights. Just lighter weights. Don’t go squatting just the bar. Do multiple sets of a challenging weight until technical failure(your ass rises, knees cave excessively etc) for 5-6 reps.

Right now, you will need to learn to:

  1. Develop body awareness. Learn to flex/contract/fire/whatever(these are multiple terms being thrown around which all mean more or less the same thing) the muscles involved in the lift and be consciously aware of the muscles firing at different parts of the lift.

  2. Fight to maintain technique when approaching technical failure. If your ass is rising when you’re near failure, you need to be aware of it and engage your hip flexors and contract the hips and quads HARD while driving your traps into the bar to prevent this.

  3. Get tight all over during the lift, especially in the midsection. See the Paul Carter article posted above.

Get your technique down. Then we’ll worry about any potential muscle imbalances.


Thank you very much, I appreciate the advice. I ended up doing 5 sets of 6 reps, as shown here: https://youtu.be/w28bxq5DRu4

I ended up barely getting 6 reps despite dropping the weight 20 lbs. I guess focusing on my form and slowing the movement down made it feel just as difficult. Knee valgus is stil there, but not as bad. What I’m noticing is it is just my right knee. My left side stays in like throughout the movement, but the right side gives out no matter how much I focus on it.


Your ass already rises on the first rep and the weight is shifted onto the front of your foot. You are not activating your hips/hamstrings at the bottom. Read my posts again. Lower to a weight where you can FEEL all the muscles involved firing. Increase when you can complete your reps without technical failure. And stop thinking about the knees. Think about opening up the groin. It would be best if you can find someone in real life to coach you.


Box squats and zombie (no arm) front squats. Stay tight… REALLY TIGHT.

Problem solved.

It is impossible to mess up much with those, so use them to teach yourself how to find a position of strength and then go into your normal squats after that. It’s very hard to squat well with a really light weight, so don’t be afraid of using reasonable training weights (no 30% 1RM “technique work” is necessary).

EDIT: on watching again, I’d like to add: get flat shoes (no insoles either, if you get chucks / vans take them out) and narrow your stance slightly.


To be fair mate, lifting with bad form is not a good idea.

It’s a lot better to lift lighter weights with good form than heavy weights with bad form.

If nothing else, bad form can, and probably will, cause injuries down the road.

I’d echo everything dt79 wrote, except that I think you should do goblet squats and nothing but goblet squats for the time being.


It can be any number of things. You may have weak glute meds, your arches might be collapsing, or you may have poor dorsiflexion. All we can do is spit out possibilities but you have to do the detective work.


I had similar problems. As part of my warm-up before squats I do bodyweight squats with elastic band around my legs, slightly above the knee. This teaches me to push my knees out and helped cure me of having my knees collapse inwards. Also try squatting without shoes, that may improve your form if you don’t have proper weight lifting shoes.