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Knee Cave In During Squatting

Hey everyone I just started training for strength about 9 months ago and I noticed my knee caves in Whenever I come out of the hole. I squat fairly wide (just outside my shoulders) and been told it’s because my glutes/hips are weak what exercises should I do?

You can use the abduction machine (ab not ad), but if you can do some lighter squats with a slightly closer stance and put a thick band around your thighs just above the knee that forces you to push against it and drive your knees outward, it can reinforce that motion.

This also has to do with how much you’re squatting, as a lot of people who squat heavy have a noticeable but quick knee cave during heavy squats, but I’ll assume you’re not a genetic outlier.

Post vids of this happening for best advice.

For some people a bit of knee cave isn’t bad because they go from a varus position to neutral so like not going excessive valgus/ knee caving.

For some people cuing, targeted warm up and hip + foot muscular activation and practicing will resolve the issue.

For some people targeted hip strengthening work may be required but I’d try cuing, activation and technique work stuff first. Could also be related to your foot stability e.g. if ur feet tend to roll inwards ur knees can follow.

You’ll have to do some self assessment and see what seems to fit ur issue

Vids for reference:

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The correct term is Knee-bola

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Kneebola CAVID-19

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A really important thing to do is until you have corrected the problem (either through cues or targeted weak point work) is to not use weight that causes the knee cave to happen. Every bad rep you perform neurologically reinforces that movement pattern, and I believe it is exaggerated the closer the weight is to your 1RM. I like to think of it like this… it takes 10 perfect reps at 50% to undo the movement pattern you taught your body to do with 1 bad rep at 90% (totally random numbers I made up but just illustrating the general idea).

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Practice squatting with a load that’s light enough to allow perfect form, whilst changing other variables in your program to continue to drive strength and hypertrophy

To achieve that, I’d say it’s a good idea to be squatting at least 2 days a week. When you do squat, load should be quite submaximal (since you need to make sure the squats are executed as perfectly as possible), sets should be quite high (8+) and reps should be low (3 and down, imo). Rest between sets should be short to moderate, to make sure you’re still achieving some level of fatigue, but not so short that your quality goes to shit. 45-90s works pretty well depending on the protocol.

An exemplar protocol that does all these things is the Hepburn progression ( @chris_ottawa introduced me to this a long time ago and I regret never doing it) :

  • Execute the chosen lift(s) 2-3x per week, with at least 48hrs recovery between sessions
  • Use a load you could do 6-8 good reps (err on higher to start)
  • At the chosen load, perform 2 sets of 3 and 6 sets 2, resting ~60-90s between sets
  • Next session, perform 3 sets of 3 and 5 sets of 2 at the same load, resting ~60-90s between sets
  • Next session perform 4 sets of 3 and 4 sets of 2 at the same load, resting ~60-90s between sets
  • Repeat the above pattern until you’ve done 8 sets of 3, then add load (~5-10kg) the next session and go back to the start

The above is just an example of how to “practice” a lift as effectively as possible, but is not the only way to go. EMOM (every minute on the minute) cycles, similar to what Westside use for Dynamic Effort cycles works very well. I’ve had clients do the following:

  • Perform the chosen lift 2x per week
  • The first session, perform 8 x 2 at ~10RM. Set a timer for 8 minutes and perform a set at the start of every minute, using the remainder of the minute to rest
  • The second session, perform 8 x 3 at the same load. Again, use the timer as above
  • Next week (session 1) perform 10 x 2 at the same load
  • Session 2, week 2, perform 10 x 3 at the same load
  • Session 1, week 3, 12 x 2
  • Session 2, week 3, 12 x 3
  • Session 1, week 4, 15 x 2
  • Session 2, week 4, 15 x 3
  • Add load week 5

Again, just an example. Remember that lots of sets, manageable load, low reps per set and short-moderate rest is what you’re looking for.

Now that you’ve got your skill acquisition done, you still need a stimulus to drive hypertrophy and strength (because we all want to be jacked). Whilst you’re still learning to squat, this is where I recommend pushing exercises that are easy to perform and progress, that still nail your lower body. Leg press and/or hack squats and/or bulgarian split squats are all prime examples. Push one, two or all three of these in the range of anywhere between 6 and 15 reps per set, 1-5 sets per session, 1-2 times per week to make sure your lower body is getting enough stimulus to grow.

So, to recap. If you’re experiencing a technical flaw with squatting, it’s a good idea to practice more squatting. This means lots of volume of perfectly-executed reps, at a load that is a bit lighter than you’d usually use. To supplement for the lighter load you’re now using on squatting, you must push accessory exercises (including, if not especially machines) a bit harder to give your muscles the stimulus to adapt as well.

Also, a couple of technical cues that might help you squat:

  • Focus on maintaining the tripod foot, meaning your weight is evenly distributed between your heel, the base of your big toe and the base of your little toe
  • Don’t arbitrarily cue “knees out.” Instead, focus on “knees not in”
  • Use slow reps, particularly 2-5s eccentrics to practice managing your position

Good luck

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I think knee cave in can happen just from being too wide - possibly from your body auto-correcting to it’s best path. Worth trying a set and see if this happens. Personally my stance is wider than hips, but not shoulder width (or so it feels like)

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Also band clamshells, or band bad girls (the band version of the abductor machine). You can do those as part of your warmup.

A wider stance can make it harder to keep your knees from caving in, if you can squat without that problem sing a narrower stance then it wouldn’t be a bad idea for now at least.

I had to visualize “knees out” on the descent and ascent of the squat. This is actually how I tore my ACL squatting at a meet. Could be my buddy wrapped the shit out of my knees and shifted the ligament but pretty sure my knee caved in.

I had never heard of someone doing this before. That must have absolutely sucked. How’s your knee doing now?

I had it repaired using my hamstring and now it’s my strong knee. I still avoid leg extensions but otherwise it’s fine. Granted, I haven’t tried squatting over 400lb again either.

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You’ve never heard of anyone tearing an ACL at a powerlifting meet?

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I was under the impression that the ACL generally only tears under faster loading rates

Really good to hear you had a solid recovery

Me neither. Quad and hamstring tears are not uncommon, but never heard of an ACL tear from lifting.

Meh is twisty and bendy. Sounds legit enough lol

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I think there’s a video of Scott Cartwright tearing his ACL in a meet. I’m not saying it’s common, but I’ve heard of it happening.

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Maybe it’s cus I’m a girl. Anatomical differences from hips to knees etc. I’m proud to say I white lighted the lift though. And went on to bench and deadlift and finish with a personal best of 1003.

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My bad, I wanna go watch his video now

Absolutely epic