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Knee Pain with Squats Over 225


Hey guys, I'm Will, I've been training seriously (Stronglifts 5x5) for four months now, after kind of dicking around with isolation exercises, BB splits etc before.

I'm about 195 lbs, 6 foot and could probably stand to lose a little body fat.

Anyway, I've been experiencing some knee pain in squats once I try to push them over 225 lbs. It seems like my knees are tracking correctly (keeping them out), but I have noticed I tend to lean forward quite a lot. Keep in mind these are low bar, powerlifting type squats. Would this lead to knee pain? Any advice on how to keep from leaning forward so much?


Keep your chest up, and squeeze your shoulder blades together as hard as you can. Bringing your hands as close together as possible also helps.

It sounds like you're just using too much weight. Back off until you can handle it.


Are you breaking at the knees or the hips? The motion should be like sitting down in a chair, so the hips should break first. A good remedy is box squatting.


I feel obligated to reply. Don't go deep. Don't go below 90%. Yes, going deep is going to give you a greater range of motion and give you the best results BUT if you are having knee problems FORGET IT! You are either: a) damaging the meniscus tissue which may tear and cannot be fixed with surgery, or b) your patella(kneecap) is under too much strain.

I suffered patella instability for years but mine was due to a weak VMO muscle(the teardrop shaped quadriceps muscle that holds the patella in place). I strengthened it enough to do deep squats without trouble but I am half expecting trouble each time I add more weight. At the first sign of trouble I will be switching to 90 degree squats.


You've gotten good advice from the posters above but if you can post a video showing your technique it would be easier to get accurate critiques on your form.

Knee pain is never a good thing. Backing off on your weights a little and dialing your form in seems like a good idea.


Another thing to consider is the exercises you are doing.

My knees HATE the incline leg press. I've tried everything but I always get an annoying pain, so I don't bother with it anymore.


I'm newer myself, but personally I've had good success with incorporating goblet squats, front squats and box squats for sitting back further into the squat, staying more upright and keeping my knees tracking correctly. From a body feel perspective the idea of feeling my weight on my heels to the point where I could wiggle my toes if I wanted to made a big, immediate difference as well. I'm not telling you to ditch back squats, but training through actual joint pain is often a bad idea. However there are loads of people on here with way more experience than me, so consider whose advice you want to take. A video, as mentioned above will likely get you more and better help. Good luck.


x2. Even if it feels like you're using great form, a vid and the advice from the posters on here will probably help quite a bit.


Thanks for the good advice guys. I'll try and get a video up next time I lift Monday.


It's either your form or genetics for shitty knees, more likely the former.

Also, HaveIron isn't right. Im sorry man. The PTs usually don't know or don't care. They all seem to think the VMO sucks in regards to knee pain. There are so many other factors that go into that. Chances are, thats not the issue. tight muscles and shitty muscle balances are the usual culprit, not 1 muscle in the quad. Also, lets pretend the vmo actually does support the knee (exclusively). why do you think that the knee just doesn't rip up vertically? there are other muscles that go into that equation.

offering someone the idea of doing half ass squats that don't utilize the hamstrings (another stabilizer of the knee) is beyond absurd. that will just make the issue worse.

Post a video, of you doing FULL or competition depth squats with 225 and lower weights. that will help us, and you. no half squats.


By competition depth you mean just below parallel right? Thats what I always aim for.


Sigh...Here we go again

  1. I didn't say it was due to his VMO. That was MY problem.

  2. 'shitty muscle balances' was what I was talking about with MY problem. The VMO was weak in relation to my other quad/ham muscles.

  3. Let's NOT say the patella supports the knee exclusively, nor suggest that I did.

  4. "why do you think that the knee just doesn't rip up vertically?" - Because it sits in a vertical groove called the trochlea and is prevented from vertical hyperextension by the quadriceps and patella tendons.

  5. "offering someone the idea of doing half ass squats that don't utilize the hamstrings (another stabilizer of the knee) is beyond absurd."

  6. Yes the hamstrings do contribute to knee stability but we were talking about squats. The hamstrings can be trained via lying leg curls(with dumbbells held with the opposite foot on the back of the ankle if machine is not available).

Lastly, your advice seems to suggest that everyone can do full squats regardless of knee problems and that full squats will improve said knee problem. This is dangerous advice.


Haveiron, leg curls? really? Yes leg curls will train the hamstrings but even I, as a beginner know that deep squats are a far better exercise for them, being a compound exercise they will stimulate growth far better, at least for a novice lifter.


I know this also as you will see from my first post where I mentioned 'much better results' from full squats. Also, full squats vs parallel is a highly controversial issue and you will find a lot of people who are against fulls all together. I am not against them, but I am of the opinion that 'knee pain' is not a 'good result' and that something is wrong. I also believe that, whilst many get away with it the knee is not designed to be taking forces of 3/4/5 x BW.

I am not an expert by any means but I can assure you that if your patella/s subluxate or you tear your meniscus cartilage at the bottom of your squat, your 'results' will be far from 'good'.

Ed Coan knee blowout during squat:


A video would really help. Too many variables. Short torso+long femurs = forward lean. Narrow stance + low bar = forward lean. Too much weight for the legs to push = hips rising first and turning the lift into a good-morning = forward lean.

As far as the knee pain goes: List your entire leg training routine. Include stretching and warm-ups/cool-downs. You may be developing an imbalance between the knee flexors and extensors.


My training:

Stronglifts 5x5.

Workout A: Squat 5x5
Bench 5x5
Barbell Rows 5x5

Workout B: Squat 5x5
Overhead Press 5x5
Deadlift 5x5

In addition, I do pushups and planks on workout A, and pullups after workout B (well do those every workout, just more sets after workout B)

I warmup with:

leg swings
glute bridges
lying on side extend leg upwards while flexing glutes
shoulder dislocates
scapular pinches
foam rolling IT Band, hamstrings, quads, calves, adductors.

static stretching whole body after workout plus contrast shower.


I agree with this 100%.

HaveIron is a fool.


A better warmup can sometimes make a difference, I know some people like to do a bunch of mobility exercises and/or use the leg extension to get some blood in the knees. Personally I've been doing about 40 body weight squats before I start squatting or deadlifting these days and I no longer experience any discomfort. A more thorough warmup has also helped my elbow with extensions recently. Something to think about.


Hey, I don't deny I'm fool. But here's an article entitled 'How Low Should You Squat - Full or Half'. I don't agree with this guy but this is part of what he says:

"there is a common belief that ATG squats are superior to parallel or half squats because the full range of motion promotes balanced and superior muscle and strength development. The implication is that parallel squats don't involve the hamstrings and gluteus (butt) muscles like full squats and therefore you get a muscle strength imbalance between the quadricep muscles at the front of the thigh and the posterior chain, which includes the hamstrings and the glutes. This belief seems to be widespread because it's repeated regularly"

Also, see an article about the Bulgarian Olympic weightlifting team entitled:
'Bulgarians don't do squats'. That's right. Leg training without using ANY form of squats.

Not saying I agree with this either. Interesting though.


1) This article compares the full squat (rock bottom) to a half squat (parallel), not a 90 degree squat which is way above parallel. Thus, it is irrelevant to your first post.
2) The OP is doing PL-type squats, which emphasize the glutes and hams much more than other types of squats. That makes the article you posted irrelevant to the OP's situation.
3) The VMO is not the teardop shaped muscle. The Vastus Medialis is the teardrop shaped muscle. The VMO is the portion of the VM that is situated diagonally, hence the name Vastus Medialis Obliquus.
4) Why would you reference a viewpoint you don't agree with? That doesn't make a damn bit of sense.
5) Leg curls only work one of the four muscles of the hamstrings. The other three are hip extensors only.
6) You cannot take a vid Ed Coan blowing out a knee while squatting 4 metric fuck-tons and apply it to a situation concerning a mere mortal. Mr. Coan was pushing the limits not only of muscle; but of bone, tendons, ligaments, pain tolerance, structural flooring, and usually the bar itself.