T Nation

Knees and Squats

Newbie here trying to incorporate squats into my routine. I am experiencing right knee pain two days after squats and it causes me to “lay off” another two days. Not much weight as I am just learning.

Could it be a technique issue? What do you think?

Who is teaching you to squat? A bodybuilder, powerlifter, Olympic lifter or a regular gym rat? The styles can vary greatly and so can the pain spots if done incorrectly. Without having seen you squat I would just guess that maybe you are doing high-bar squats. This is where the bar is sitting way up on the traps just below your head. When most people do this and then squat down (by the way, go all the way down) the knees end up going over and extending past the feet. This will bring on knee pain. When you are in the hole (bottom position of the squat) your knees should not be past your toes.

Begin the squat by putting the bar lower on your back and sticking your butt out first before you begin to descend. Keep an arched back with your head up and eyes fixed on a point in front of you. You want to go down and sit back. Box squats are great for beginners to learn this approach. Also, don’t squat in front of mirrors. I urge you to seek out someone that knows what they are doing to check your form. This is an ongoing thing so you might as well get used to it if you want to squat correctly and have zero to minimal injuries.

Do you have a history of knee pain?

How much is “not much weight”? I started out with an empty bar.

I have been trying to do squats like the back squat shown here: http://www.uwlax.edu/strengthcenter/videos/exercisevideos/High%20Bar%20Back%20Squat.mpg

I cannot go as far down but am working on my flexability. I have not had knee problems in the past. I’m pretty sure it’s my technique do to a lack of flexability that is causing my pain.

70lbs is what I am currently working with.

[quote]Weezer wrote:
I have been trying to do squats like the back squat shown here: http://www.uwlax.edu/strengthcenter/videos/exercisevideos/High%20Bar%20Back%20Squat.mpg

I cannot go as far down but am working on my flexability. I have not had knee problems in the past. I’m pretty sure it’s my technique do to a lack of flexability that is causing my pain.

70lbs is what I am currently working with.[/quote]

After watching the video link it was what I suspected…high bar squats. Now Olympic lifters do these and a lot of them without suffering from knee pain. There is just a tendancy for knee pain to be brought on because the knees are going forward past the feet. There are so many variables that may be going on here with your situation. Again, seek out an experienced lifter, preferably a powerlifter who competes, and have him/her check out your form and possibly give you some instruction. Just keep the weight light and learn the form. When I was being taught all I used was a broomstick.

[quote]Raw Power wrote:
There is just a tendancy for knee pain to be brought on because the knees are going forward past the feet. There are so many variables that may be going on here with your situation.
[/quote]

Knees going past the toes will not inherently cause pain/damage. There’s simply no basis in fact for this to be true. It’s the other variables that are the problem.

To original poster:
The issue here is primarily flexibility - trying to go too low without the prerequisite flexibility will cause knee pain. Only go down until you feel a slight stretch for now while you work on improving flexibility.

Some key points to remember - keep your weight on your heels/middle of your foot, even when doing ass to grass squats. If you feel any weight on the front of your toes, either your flexibility isn’t there yet or you’re simply leaning too far forward (which the guy in the video you posted is doing - he’s lacking calf flexibility and compensating with torso lean, or just not very good at them).

Also, make sure that your knees don’t buckle in at all, and that you don’t push them out sideways past your feet. Your shins should be directly over/in line with your feet. Usually this involves actively pushing them out a bit, as the tendency is to buckle in.

Make sure you avoid the butt tuck as well - if there’s any inflexibility about the hip, there will be a tendency to sort of tuck your butt underneath you as you get lower. Have someone watch for that and stop descending just before it happens while you’re building your flexibility.

And tight abs, slight back arch, elbows down, etc., normal lifting posture cues as well.

Happy squatting -

Dan

[quote]Weezer wrote:
Newbie here trying to incorporate squats into my routine. I am experiencing right knee pain two days after squats and it causes me to “lay off” another two days. Not much weight as I am just learning.

Could it be a technique issue? What do you think?[/quote]

One thing that could help you immediately, if you’re doing full squats, is trying to “sit between your legs”. As Dan John’s says, you’re not supposed to fold up and down when squatting - instead you try pushing your knees out and “open your groin”. I don’t know how to desciribe it with words any better; maybe I’ll be able to find some good pics.

One other reason for knee pain can be imbalance in strenght between quads and hamstrings. So, it could be that the pain isn’t directly caused by squats; rather, squats expose your weakness. Check out the writings of Cressey and Robertson here for many more details.

[quote]slotan wrote:
Weezer wrote:
Newbie here trying to incorporate squats into my routine. I am experiencing right knee pain two days after squats and it causes me to “lay off” another two days. Not much weight as I am just learning.

Could it be a technique issue? What do you think?

One thing that could help you immediately, if you’re doing full squats, is trying to “sit between your legs”. As Dan John’s says, you’re not supposed to fold up and down when squatting - instead you try pushing your knees out and “open your groin”. I don’t know how to desciribe it with words any better; maybe I’ll be able to find some good pics.

One other reason for knee pain can be imbalance in strenght between quads and hamstrings. So, it could be that the pain isn’t directly caused by squats; rather, squats expose your weakness. Check out the writings of Cressey and Robertson here for many more details.[/quote]

Slotan
Do you mean it is ok for your knees to go out wider than your feet when you squat?
Thx for the info.
Pittbulll

http://images.t-nation.com/forum_images/./1/.1129158400161.squat4.jpg

Not sure what you mean exactly. When full squatting, my toes are turned outward by about 30 degrees and when I go down, my upper thighs follow the direction of the corresponding foot. Ugh… I really don’t know how to explain it better. But, the key issue for me was reading that Dan John’s line “sit between legs” - it’s like something clicked from then and squats felt better. Where my body parts end up… I’m not really sure :slight_smile:

This is the best picture that I have of a really good full squat. Something to aim for, although many of us don’t have the ideal leverages.

[quote]slotan wrote:

Slotan
Do you mean it is ok for your knees to go out wider than your feet when you squat?
Thx for the info.
Pittbulll

Not sure what you mean exactly. When full squatting, my toes are turned outward by about 30 degrees and when I go down, my upper thighs follow the direction of the corresponding foot. Ugh… I really don’t know how to explain it better. But, the key issue for me was reading that Dan John’s line “sit between legs” - it’s like something clicked from then and squats felt better. Where my body parts end up… I’m not really sure :slight_smile:

This is the best picture that I have of a really good full squat. Something to aim for, although many of us don’t have the ideal leverages.[/quote]

Slotan
What I mean is when you squat your knees should not go beyond your toes. I can almost set on the ground if I point my toes out and move my knees beyond the sides of my feet. Almost like your knees move to the side when you cross your legs.
Thx
Pittbulll

[quote]pittbulll wrote:
slotan wrote:

Slotan
Do you mean it is ok for your knees to go out wider than your feet when you squat?
Thx for the info.
Pittbulll

Not sure what you mean exactly. When full squatting, my toes are turned outward by about 30 degrees and when I go down, my upper thighs follow the direction of the corresponding foot. Ugh… I really don’t know how to explain it better. But, the key issue for me was reading that Dan John’s line “sit between legs” - it’s like something clicked from then and squats felt better. Where my body parts end up… I’m not really sure :slight_smile:

This is the best picture that I have of a really good full squat. Something to aim for, although many of us don’t have the ideal leverages.

Slotan
What I mean is when you squat your knees should not go beyond your toes. I can almost set on the ground if I point my toes out and move my knees beyond the sides of my feet. Almost like your knees move to the side when you cross your legs.
Thx
Pittbulll

[/quote]

I believe that Cressey targeted the whole issue of “knees over feet” is one of his articles. It is, pretty much, a myth. I think what you’re doing is ok, as long as your weight remains more on your heels.

[quote]slotan wrote:

I believe that Cressey targeted the whole issue of “knees over feet” is one of his articles. It is, pretty much, a myth. I think what you’re doing is ok, as long as your weight remains more on your heels.

[/quote]

I agree. Knees past the toes isn’t a problem as long as the weight is on the HEELS. However, for someone new to squatting they probably aren’t going to be able this properly… mainly due to lack of flexibility.

I think a new squatter will tend to lean forward and keep the weight on the balls of his feet for fear of falling backwards. I find that when I transfer my weight to the balls of my feet instead of my heels I get knee pain and tend to tweak my knees that will then bother me for a few days. Keeping my weight on my heels works best for me.

What Kurmatt says is also what I’ve seen with new guys, also the knees coming in.

Don’t muddle thru on your own. Get a set of DVDs from Ian King or someone else that teaches the squat on this site. Watch them, and then if you can, find someone that does them like that to help you. For sure, have someone video you so you can see exactly what you’re doing.

You don’t neccessarily need to just work with a broomstick, but you should be empty barring it until the movement feels real smooth.

Learn how to do them right now, or you are in for some misery at some point down the line.