T Nation

Help With Squat

My squat has always been weak, and always been painful. I’ve tried several self diagnosed stretches and tricks found on YouTube. I’ve had multiple appointments with a professional physical therapist. I’ve had multiple appointments with a chiropractor as well.

The physio Gave me some stretches and strengthening moves which I did for a long time with nothing ever changing.

I would love nothing more than to squat but I just can’t. It’s too painful. This is a last ditch effort to see if anybody had any ideas.

Things I’ve noticed:

Doesn’t matter if I have 135 or 375 on the bar, bar speed never changes. It’s slow. Even with an empty bar I can not be explosive or move any faster.

It feels as though I can get any power to the ground and drive up. Hard to explain but it’s like besides the pain, there is a massive power leak somewhere if that makes sense.

The pain is around the crease where my thighs meet my torso. As well as my groin area. Feels like I’m being torn in half.

The pain gets so bad I’ll usually finish reps on one leg. Good leg alternates randomly.

Barefoot, flat shoes, lifting shoes don’t make a difference.

Can’t squat with a wide stance even though physio said I should be. I can make it about 1/4 of the way down and it’s like I’m being ripped in half and have to return.

I have short legs and a very long torso.


First thought, find some cables or one of those hip machines and check your abduction and adduction strength. There’s a ratio you should have for balance. Most of us are better at squeezing (adduction) than spreading (abduction). I’m sure your physio assessed this, but it’s the first thing that popped into my head.

I’ve always wanted to buy an ab/adductor machine.

I’m a member at a gym that I think has one. Guess I’ll finally go workout there and see my strength at that.

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Do you know what exact muscles are the issue here?

I see you have your feet pointed way out to the sides and your knees travel pretty far forward, plus you aren’t going below parallel (which doesn’t matter unless you actually plan to compete in PL). I can’t tell from this angle, but I wouldn’t be surprised if your knees are tracking inside your feet which is not great in terms of knee health and could potentially cause other problems. Try squatting with your feet angled out at no more than 30 degrees and keep your knee in line with them. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have two cameras if possible, one at the side and one in front so we can see where your knees are going.

The groin is most likely adductors, and that could explain the rest as well. The adductor AKA good girl machine could be useful as a warm up, I would recommend trying that but I don’t really see any use in trying to see how strong you are in that exercise because what are you actually trying to compare it to?

There are a lot of things that could potentially hurt, it’s a shame these supposed experts don’t know anything. A common problem is tight hip flexors and it would cause pain in that area, you could try half kneeling hip flexor stretches. Anything beyond that is a shot in the dark at this point.

Lack of internal hip rotation. Could be related to tight adductors, but there could be other stuff going on too.

Those are actually advantageous proportions for squatting, you should be able to stay more upright and your hips stay closer to the center of mass.

If I bring my toes in it feels like I’m about to break my knees in half. Usually will force my toes out at the bottom if I try, but not before trying to break them lol.

My knees actually spread outwards as I squat. They don’t want to come in or anything.

I used to do a lot of ab/addiction work with bands.
I also used to do all kinds of absolutely crazy hip flexor stuff. Now I keep it simple and just do the half kneeling stretch you mentioned.

I also can’t go any deeper than that, even with no weight. Hurts too much :cry:

I don’t really know what to tell you, you could check out Squat University, on the site there are a bunch of articles and you might find something. The depth issue is one thing, but the pain is something else and I don’t want to tell you to do something that results in you fucking yourself up worse. And keep in mind that unless you plan to compete in powerlifting or weight lifting then you don’t actually need to squat, it’s a good exercise for sure but there is more to life than squatting and other exercises that will build your legs.

good point- lunges, deadlifts and … Bulgarian split squats (if you’re really a sucker for pain)


I can’t see anything glaringly wrong.

You do descend fast though, and it looks like you kind of bounce out of the hole. That could definitely make whatever is hurting hurt a lot worse, and it’ll make it hard to hold position. Combine those two and you’re definitely going to aggravate anything in the hip and groin area that isn’t happy.

I haven’t a clue what the issue is, so I won’t speculate.

What I would suggest is to slow your descent. Do all your reps with a 5 0 0 tempo. See how that feels. If it helps, try 4 0 0. If that works, 3 0 0, etc. until you find the fastest descent you can manage while not hurting.

If that works, awesome. You can squat.

If it doesn’t, try box squats (actual box squats, not to a box). Start with a high box, maybe 18 inches. Work with that for a few weeks. I think @T3hPwnisher has quite a bit of experience with ROM progression so he can tell us if I’m barking up the wrong tree with this:

3 weeks at 18 inches, week 1 8x3x60%, week 2 10x2x65%, week 3 7x3x70%

Then go to 16 inches, same weight, for three weeks. Then 15 inches, etc. until you reach the lowest height that doesn’t hurt.

Then you remove the box squat and set a band across the rack at that height to squat to as a depth regulator.

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What’s funny is that seems to be the only speed I can manage lol. Going slower or faster hurts worse and pauses squats, even with no weight is very painful.

I think Chris and Mark are on the right track. Your feet look super turned out in your video, or at least the right one does. A while back you traced your feet on the floor and your feet were way turned out too, so it’s not like we’re just making this up.

It sounds like your quads and hips are beat up and painful, it hurts to make them take weight in the descent of the squat. So you turn your feet and knees out to take pressure of the quads and avoid painful hips/knees. This is stretching/blasting your adductors and groin.

The whole thing hurts so you kinda get loose to relieve tension and bounce out of the bottom. And a little bounce just pulls on your tendons more.

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What’s funny of that position doesn’t feel good anymore. And my right foot needs to be a touch wider. As mentioned earlier, if I bring my toes in any it absolutely kill me knees. It try’s to twist them so hard.

Another thing that always bugged me is I never feel anything in my quads. At all. Even high two stuff I don’t feel it. It’s always something else that goes out first.

Only think that torches my quads is leg extensions and weighted lunges (that I’ve tried).

When I get home I’ll take a front video with light weight. I don’t feel like warming up to a working weight. But it will look the same.

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That pain could easily be some tightness or tendonitis/ inflammation.

My homie @IronOne used “Spanish Squats” to overcome this issue.

I did Hack Squats with zero weight and 3 pauses in the descent to teach my quads to take weight again.

At about 6:00 this guy shows a drill up against the wall to learn to load the quads. Maybe try that real fast,feet neutral, before you squat and see if it has any effect.


It pains me to say this but Squats might just not be your thing. Having said that…

Some people are just slower lifters and even this can change over time and may be different from lift to lift (think Stefi Cohen).

This makes me think it is fixable.

I think these are usually closer stance squatters and much more upright (think Amit Sapir).

Video: Honestly this form looks really good so everything after this is nit picking because you asked :smiley:

I would like to see an angle from the 1ish oclock and/or 5 oclock angle as well as the Noon angle.

From what I can see it looks like you push into your knees a bit rather than going straight down and then your ascent is a perfect vertical line. To this degree is not a big deal but could explain why when you shift your toes it causes knee pain.

What could be a big deal is that it looks like you kick your hips back and anteriorly tilt your hips ever so slightly before beginning descent. This I think will cause you to slam into your hips which could cause this pain and limit depth. This also causes minor butt wink that is probably not an issue at all with anything (bad butt wink can cause back pain but this is almost nothing). I also just realized that when you push into your knees this might be your body trying to stay balanced.

I sometimes get hip pain in the same area you do and I do this stretch and I think this helps. You said you have tried it all but are currently only doing the hip flexor stretch so maybe give this one a go again:


I then do the exact opposite putting my feet close together and holding my knees out.

As previously mentioned Tempo Squats are a great idea and I would add Pause Squats as well. Paused Tempo Squats are actually how I warm up ever Squat workout.


I’ll work on getting the video. Thanks for the tips!

And yes I have tried that stretch as well as a little harder version.

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The reason I can’t go lower on the feet straight ahead is it feels like the center of my knee is breaking by trying to force my feet outwards.

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I’ve also got to say, I don’t see anything slow about that squat. Seems about as fast as I move and I’ve never worried about speed. I mean, I might be wrong to have been complacent but I never get pulled up on it.

Also with the long torso and short legs @BOTSLAYER I fit that category (my wife is 5’ 4" and I’m 5’ 9" and our legs are the same length), I squat with a relatively wide stance and a decent amount of lean. Close stance is stoopid hard for me and feels pretty much like a deadlift that has drifted way out in front of me.

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After watching the videos I’m definitely moving faster than it feels. I guess because of the pain,it feels like an eternity.

I’m 6ft and wear 30” inseam blue jeans lol. My wingspan is like 75 or something. I’m weird.

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So am I. A lot of us are.

Hammer away. Keep trying different things and eventually you’ll figure out what you need to do.