T Nation

Front Squats and Knee Pain

Hey guys, I’m 36 y/o and have reintroduced myself to gym 2 year ago. Just recently (2months ago) I’ve decided to use the squat exercise (as everyone here seems to endorse). Unfortunately, I have a degenerative disk c5 c4 on my neck and so I’ve been trying the front squat.

I’ve been working with light weights(135lb-170lb) and trying to improve my form. I kept feeling pain on my knees, kind of like tendon strains which last for a week.

Yesterday, while on the squat rack, a younger fellow watched my form and noticed the my obvious pain.

He stated that my knees were passing over my toes, and that was the reason for the knee strain.

How are you supposed to balance the bb on your front chest/neck and squat low, that you would not pass your toes without dropping the bar. I’ve read that there is no bad form in front squats because you’d drop the bar if you had bad form.

Thank in advance

[quote]Badhabits wrote:
Hey guys, I’m 36 y/o and have reintroduced myself to gym 2 year ago. Just recently (2months ago) I’ve decided to use the squat exercise (as everyone here seems to endorse). Unfortunately, I have a degenerative disk c5 c4 on my neck and so I’ve been trying the front squat.

I’ve been working with light weights(135lb-170lb) and trying to improve my form. I kept feeling pain on my knees, kind of like tendon strains which last for a week.

Yesterday, while on the squat rack, a younger fellow watched my form and noticed the my obvious pain.

He stated that my knees were passing over my toes, and that was the reason for the knee strain.

How are you supposed to balance the bb on your front chest/neck and squat low, that you would not pass your toes without dropping the bar. I’ve read that there is no bad form in front squats because you’d drop the bar if you had bad form.

Thank in advance
[/quote]

Knees passing over toes does not cause knee problems. Such an action is required for very deep full squats.

Are you squatting with your weight mostly on your heel? Do your heels “pop up” when you squat (ie. do they leave the ground)?

I believe most of my weight is on my heals.
I’m willing to attempt different methods ie 2.5lb plates on my heals to improve my form.

So I’m guessing the young man was wrong on his statement?

[quote]Badhabits wrote:
I believe most of my weight is on my heals.
I’m willing to attempt different methods ie 2.5lb plates on my heals to improve my form.

So I’m guessing the young man was wrong on his statement?

[/quote]


articles/kneesbeyondtoes.pdf

That article explains why it’s actually worse when your knees don’t move beyond the toes.

It is a common misconception that your knees shouldn’t pass beyond the toes. But, it’s simply not possible to execute a correct deep squat without some movement beyond the toes.

I dont know how avid a lifter you are, but 130-170lbs is not what I would consider light weight. You have to remember that front squats are a more strict movement and ask more of your quads than a back squat, also meaning you are getting less of a contribution from the hip extensors.

I would ease into lifting, and front squatting that much weight is not what I would consider appropriate. Most people I would start with 40-50lbs and move up from there. Again I am assuming you are relatively inexperienced, but take your time with the weight.

[quote]Shadowzz4 wrote:
I dont know how avid a lifter you are, but 130-170lbs is not what I would consider light weight. You have to remember that front squats are a more strict movement and ask more of your quads than a back squat, also meaning you are getting less of a contribution from the hip extensors.

I would ease into lifting, and front squatting that much weight is not what I would consider appropriate. Most people I would start with 40-50lbs and move up from there. Again I am assuming you are relatively inexperienced, but take your time with the weight. [/quote]

I didn’t realize that 135lb to 170lb would be considered much weight. I currently weight between 165-170lb and have consistently been on TBT for 2.5 years. Front Squats seem so foreign to me (as well a painful). I reconsider the weight load, yet I always feel I have to push myself to a heaver load.

Now if I were to only work with 50lbs, that would be about the weight of the bar (45lbs). All kidding aside, my ego would be quite shattered staying within that range (as a non stretching exercise).
Thanks so much for the info. Alway ready to learn more.

I agree with Shadow, front squats are a quad dominant squat. I’ve experienced knee pain from to much front squatting. Making sure you really stretched the quads and adding RDL’s and/or GH raises to balance things out should help.

I agree with Shadow, front squats are a quad dominant squat. I’ve experienced knee pain from to much front squatting. Making sure you really stretched the quads and adding RDL’s and/or GH raises to balance things out should help.

[quote]Badhabits wrote:
Shadowzz4 wrote:
I dont know how avid a lifter you are, but 130-170lbs is not what I would consider light weight. You have to remember that front squats are a more strict movement and ask more of your quads than a back squat, also meaning you are getting less of a contribution from the hip extensors.

I would ease into lifting, and front squatting that much weight is not what I would consider appropriate. Most people I would start with 40-50lbs and move up from there. Again I am assuming you are relatively inexperienced, but take your time with the weight.

I didn’t realize that 135lb to 170lb would be considered much weight. I currently weight between 165-170lb and have consistently been on TBT for 2.5 years. Front Squats seem so foreign to me (as well a painful). I reconsider the weight load, yet I always feel I have to push myself to a heaver load.

Now if I were to only work with 50lbs, that would be about the weight of the bar (45lbs). All kidding aside, my ego would be quite shattered staying within that range (as a non stretching exercise).
Thanks so much for the info. Alway ready to learn more.
[/quote]

Im not necessarily saying you should use a working weight of 50lbs. What I am saying is that front squats are usually quite a bit harder than back squats and that is if you are proficient at both of them. It depends on how well you get your quads into regular squats. What I would do is start with 45-50 pounds and work up from there.

1 of 2 things will happen. You will not be able to do a proper front squat with any weight, which means you have some flexibility issues you need to hammer out. Or #2 you will be able to do a good front squat with between 95-115 pounds which means your quads are probably not strong enough to enter 90 degrees or more of knee flexion so obviously you would have to build up to the heavier weights.

In any event keep your weight through your heels and take your time. Religiously using strict form on the hack squat (meaning making it as much a quad exercise as possible) will improve your front squat with the quad strength issue. If you notice you knee is hurting even with 95 pounds or so you may have some other issues…

[quote]Shadowzz4 wrote:
Badhabits wrote:
Shadowzz4 wrote:
I dont know how avid a lifter you are, but 130-170lbs is not what I would consider light weight. You have to remember that front squats are a more strict movement and ask more of your quads than a back squat, also meaning you are getting less of a contribution from the hip extensors.

I would ease into lifting, and front squatting that much weight is not what I would consider appropriate. Most people I would start with 40-50lbs and move up from there. Again I am assuming you are relatively inexperienced, but take your time with the weight.

I didn’t realize that 135lb to 170lb would be considered much weight. I currently weight between 165-170lb and have consistently been on TBT for 2.5 years. Front Squats seem so foreign to me (as well a painful). I reconsider the weight load, yet I always feel I have to push myself to a heaver load.

Now if I were to only work with 50lbs, that would be about the weight of the bar (45lbs). All kidding aside, my ego would be quite shattered staying within that range (as a non stretching exercise).
Thanks so much for the info. Alway ready to learn more.

Im not necessarily saying you should use a working weight of 50lbs. What I am saying is that front squats are usually quite a bit harder than back squats and that is if you are proficient at both of them. It depends on how well you get your quads into regular squats. What I would do is start with 45-50 pounds and work up from there.

1 of 2 things will happen. You will not be able to do a proper front squat with any weight, which means you have some flexibility issues you need to hammer out. Or #2 you will be able to do a good front squat with between 95-115 pounds which means your quads are probably not strong enough to enter 90 degrees or more of knee flexion so obviously you would have to build up to the heavier weights.

In any event keep your weight through your heels and take your time. Religiously using strict form on the hack squat (meaning making it as much a quad exercise as possible) will improve your front squat with the quad strength issue. If you notice you knee is hurting even with 95 pounds or so you may have some other issues…
[/quote]

That was extremely informative and I’ll work more on form. Guess I’ll have to lower my progress until I can increase without any pain.

p.s. I do DL once a week but have not attempted ham raises

Just like back squats, you can play with your stance on front squats. Knee pain becomes more of an issue for me the narrower my stance gets in either of these lifts. Maybe try moving your stance out a little wider on the front squats. What’s most comfortable for me is just a tad outside of shoulder-width. This seems to make the glutes work harder.

How do you warm up for you front squats? A couple sets of light weight or no weight may help out before loading up up for your working sets.

Funny, because I feel less knee stress doing fronts as opposed to back squats, which usually I have to do several “stretch” sets before starting my work sets.

Thanks guys,

My stance is usually shoulder length. I think you may be correct in changing my foot position outside of shoulder length. I’ll try it next week.

I stretch for 15 minutes prior to a work out and start with just the bar to stretch for the front squat.

The stretch sets are fine. But the 15 minutes of stretching is not unless its of the dynamic variety…