Help Me Build My Squat

Stats: 25 years old, 5’7" 180 lbs, 3 years training experience (1 year of “good” training), training for first powerlifting comp in December.

Estimated current 1RMs: 225 bench, 395 dead, 275 squat

Injuries: Torn meniscus resulting in partial meniscectomy in left knee about 8 years ago. Occasional arthritis pain/ discomfort.

Issue: My squat is the weakest of my weak links, and squatting causes pain and discomfort in my knees most of the time. The pain varies from mild (feels more like pressure and light discomfort during the workout and I “feel like I squatted yesterday” the day after) to considerable (it straight up hurts during the workout and my knees are sore as a bitch the next day). Because of this, I’ve been inconsistent with back squatting and have opted to sub it out for goblet squats, front squats, and single leg movement in the past. I would get stronger at those movement but the carryover to back squatting just doesn’t seem to happen for me. My best ever squat was 300 lbs, but after not doing the movement for a few months that dropped down to a 1RM of 235. I’ve been able to build that up to sets of 225x5 and an easy single at 265 in about 3 months, but the pain is really starting to wear on me.

I’d like to be squatting in the mid 300s by my contest and feel like that is a very attainable goal if I’m able to get this pain under control. I’ve included a video of me squatting on a day where the pain was light, a day where the pain was considerable, and a day of front squatting where I had virtually no pain. My goal is to identify what causes the pain and fix it, but I’m also interested in other solutions: supplements, equipment, recover strategies, etc. The pain itself is not my primary concern so I don’t bother with pain killers; what I’m concerned about is causing damage/ further damage to my joints.

If its important, the pain is sometimes on the medial part of the knee, sometimes right behind the patella, and sometimes both. It presents in both knees although is more significant in the left one, and does not seem to be dependent upon the amount of weight moved.

Please let me know if there is any more information/ footage that I can provide to help with your assessments, as this is an ongoing problem that I very much need to fix. Thanks in advance for any help.

Video does not appear to have attached. Here it is:

My suggestion is to try squatting with your shin perpendicular to the ground the whole time. It seems to work for a lot of people with knee problems, but I can’t promise it’s the magic cure for you. Box squats like Louis Simmons preaches are a good way to learn to squat like that.

Thanks for the reply. I’ve attempted to replace squatting with box squatting (with hips pushed way back and near vertical shins) but I have an equal amount of pain with or without the box. It does appear that the difference between my less painful and more painful squats in that video is that my shins stay more vertical in the less painful squat. I’m just not sure how to make this happen consistently as both videos were taken in the last month and I was not trying to change my form in either.

All I know to say is that you try to spread the floor really hard while pushing your hips back. There’s many videos on that kind of squat by Dave Tate and Louie Simmons. I can’t say what you should be doing different without seeing a video of you trying to do that style of squat.

Noted. I’ll remember those cues when squatting this week and see if it helps. In your opinion would an Olympic weightlifting shoe be beneficial for keeping my shins vertical? I know that traditionally guys with a more narrow stance and lots of forward knee movement wear them, but in my head it makes sense that they’d allow for more vertical shins.

For that type of squat, you want a flat shoe like a converse.

When doing this more Westside type of squat, you may not have the P-chain strength and flexibility to do it to depth. Just keep working on those types of things to get there, but don’t allow compensation patterns like low back rounding or letting the bar get in front of or behind you.

The simplest way to do this is with a box squat and just set it lower and lower until you can get depth over the course of a couple to several weeks or even more.

Again, thanks for the advice. I don’t expect mobility to be an issue with that type of squat but strength may be another story.

I have patella pain when I have forward knee movement of any kind the more the movement the more the pain. Also, your dropping hard into the hole adding even more stress especially when coupled with the above mentioned forward knee flextion. A few things I have done with in just the passed few weeks to keep it minimized…

  1. Widen up my stance roughly 3in per foot so I am squatting quite wide now.
  2. I always broke at the hips but now I really break at the hips pushing them back hard. While I do this I force knees out and screw my feet into the floor outward. The sides of my Chucks are actually starting to blow out. This keeps my shins almost completely vertical and forward knee movement is damn near unnoticeable.
  3. Slow your decent into the hole especially if your not wrapping your knees. Really learn to load your posterior chain and then explode on the way up.
  4. I apply Icy Hot and Horse Ligament Gel to my knees all the way around top and bottom and then pull my knee sleeves up and over them to really lock it all in there and trap even more heat. I take them off once I get to my top sets if I choose to go honestly raw like in the video above.
  5. Ibuprofen before training just 200-400mg tops.

These five things have allowed me to completely eliminate knee pain for the first time in over a year. I have went almost a full month with out even considering wrapping my knees and have been able to smash PRs left and Right in my Belt Only Squat. I hope this help you.

Oh and in your 245 for 3 video you can noticeably see you getting pulled forward on to your toes and that is putting even more strain on the tendons of the knee.

Awesome advice and great PR vid Reed. Sounds a lot like what Fletch was saying: go with a more traditional powerlifter squat over a “hybrid squat” or whatever the hell I’ve been doing. I think I got into the habit of dropping into the hole because I know it helps with my front squats and I figured there would be carryover. Is there any benefit to the ligament gel and ibuprofen other than pain relief? As I mentioned in my first post I’m much more worried about causing further damage to my already shitty knee than with the temporary pain.

Is the “getting pulled forward on my toes” just a product of me not sitting back enough as well? I have a video of me squatting 245 for and easy 2 and 265 for an easy single where I’m not pulled forward, so unless I got weaker in the 3 weeks between those videos I assume its a form issue.

[quote]TrevorLPT wrote:
Is the “getting pulled forward on my toes” just a product of me not sitting back enough as well? I have a video of me squatting 245 for and easy 2 and 265 for an easy single where I’m not pulled forward, so unless I got weaker in the 3 weeks between those videos I assume its a form issue.
[/quote]

Correct it is a form issue but hard to say if its solely from not sitting back enough. Could be that, or bar placement is too high to counterbalance where your hips are, or poor ankle mobility even.

As for the ibueprofen is essentially a temp fix. The horse ligament gel adds heat to the muscle as well as some pain relief. A warm muscle is a much safer muscle same for tendons.

Here’s some footage of my squat session last night. It was my first time squatting in a belt and I also tried to implement the suggestions I received here: I moved my stance out several inches, slowed my descent, and pushed my knees out aggressively. I had trouble screwing my feet into the floor but I tried to do that as well.

In the video I’m very carb depleted and about 2 weeks into a mild calorie deficit but still hit a grinder at 275. This means I’m either stronger with this stance or it at least doesn’t have a negative effect on my strength (when coupled with the belt.) We’ll see what I hit when I’m full of food in another week or two.

I went into the session with some discomfort in my knees and I definitely still “felt” them while squatting. Today its the same thing; feels like swelling or something. But it’s nothing like the shooting pain I got while squatting last week, so thats good. I guess time will tell if this form can reduce my knee pain even more.

Any feedback or suggestions would be very appreciated. This is my first time squatting like this so I expect there to be things that need to be fixed. The last clip is filmed front on to show my stance and what my knees are doing in relation to my feet. It looks like my feet are uneven or one leg is longer or something weird. Not quite sure what is going on there but input would be appreciated. Thanks

Don’t see a video

I thought it was just taking some time to load. Here:

I don’t have a subscription, but this is the headline from a consumer advocate type site called ConsumerLabs that focuses on the efficacy of supplements:
Update:
Curcumin for Knee Osteoarthritis – A new study found that curcumin taken for six weeks significantly improved physical functioning and reduced pain among people with osteoarthritis of the knee. For details, as well as our tests of similar curcumin products, see the update to the Turmeric and Curcumin Supplements and Spices Review

Biotest sells Curcumin, that plus Flameout should be a staple for anyone with joint issues imo.

My comment is this: in your front squats, your knees travel forward the most of any of your squats and yet you felt no pain? curious.

Since your knee pain (from what I can understand here) seems to vary but not based on weight per se, why don’t you wait for a day where you do feel noticeable pain, and then try all the suggestions to see what works or doesn’t work. Try to isolate the variables so to speak. (hope that made sense)

Sorry, forgot to convert video into an acceptable format before uploading. Doing that now and I’ll post when its done.

The easiest thing I’ve found is to upload the video on youtube, then just copy and paste the link here and the site takes care of the rest.

Should work: