T Nation

Problems with Squat Technique, Knee Valgus


#1

First up I squat raw, not very strong only been training on and off for a short time with a huge break in between due to work commitments. Recently I spent a few hundred and got a pair of adidas adipower weightliftinf shoes for squatting. I usually squat in chucks. I have had problems with knees collapsing in my squat but started to get on top of it. I bought the adipowers as many people mentioned they help with knee valgus.

4 squat session later and it is back worse than ever and I have a horrible sticking point just above parallel during the concentric portion of the squat. The knee valgus is worse when my stance is closer but gets better as I widen my stance (though it is still evident) however the sticking point nearly puts me at a dead stop before I grind through it. Once I pass the sticking point though the bar flies up.

I have tried mini bands around the knees, hip thrusts, wide box squats, pause squats, bulgarians all to build glutes, lowering the weight and building back up, my mobility is excellent, hammies are weak but I have been hittng them with RDLs and even isolation stuff but nothing has worked. I started to get on top of ot when squatting in chucks but since the change to heels it has gotten much worse. The knee valgus is now starting to leave my knees feeling beat and while I have always had crepitus it has become much worse since wearing weightlifting shoes to squat.

Any advice or points I might be missing would help enormously

Cheers


#2

A video would help to see if there are any other factors involved. Are you driving your hips forward and under the bar? Are you replicating the feeling in your glutes when you take the mini bands off?

When doing all that accessory work, how heavy were you going? Are you able to fire your gluteus medius/minimus now as you’re sitting?


#3

video


#4

If your knees don’t feel good afterwards then that is definitely a bad sign, did they hurt after squatting in chucks as well? I have heard some people say that squatting in shoes with a raised heel hurts their knees, the thing is that there is more knee torque due to the knees going forward more. If you can squat in chucks without pain then do so.

All I can say based on the info you provided is to consciously focus on pushing your knees out through the entire movement, consider knees coming in as technical failure - stop there, don’t go heavier than whatyou can squat correctly. Also, try foam rolling your adductors, that may help somewhat.


#5

My advice would be to stop it. It is usually that simple. Take some weight off the bar, and concentrate on keeping your knees out while screwing your feet into the floor.


#6

First, if the weightlifting shoes are making things worse, STOP WEARING THEM!

If chucks aren’t letting your knees get beat up as badly, then wear them.

Secondly, this could be anything really. Sticking point wise concentric only squats off the safety pins from your sticking point will help. Valgus wise it could be anything: often times people with good mobility are either a) compensating elsewhere and thus disguising a mobility OR stability deficit at a vulnerable joint or b) not creating enough stability in the first place.

Could be your program, since we don’t know what exercises, sets/reps/weekly layout look like, could be lack of strength in posterior chain with overcompensation, could be tightness somewhere (especially quads, TFL, IT band), could be a technical problem that is pitching you forward onto your knees, could be a ton of things. If your hamstrings are in fact weak, then you need to really get them up to par ASAP. Especially as you are experiencing problems at the knee joint, this might be a good time to switch emphasis and work on a KNOWN weakness that will also most likely help stabilize your knee joint and the tensions from the quadriceps. You may end up surprised at how much it helps.

You’ll likely also be surprised at how much glute strength and releasing the hip flexors help as well. Regardless, get away from the pain for a bit and focus on known weak points. Worst case is they help you once you get the problem at your knees figured out…which is to say, working the weaknesses will help regardless either immediately OR down the line.


#7

Now assuming you take some time off to work on your hamstrings/glutes other weaknesses and get away from the pain a bit, when you come back to training quads for the squat (as opposed to bodybuilding quad training), some things to consider are leg presses, bulgarian split squats, and lunges.

These all seem completely unrelated to squatting more weight for a powerlifter…but they’re not. Again it’s hard to say for sure without any information, but if the problem is that you can’t control your structural alignment and balance point then these exercises will highlight it in a big way. Not being able to stabilize your leg is a potential issue for knees, and it shows up much more rapidly on single leg exercises. Leg presses just allow you to hit the sticking point in your squat, pause, and explode up for volume training–nothing special there just an assistance exercise.

Another point is that if you can’t feel your VMO working you are probably having trouble recruiting it. That, of course, is a possible reason that you might be having valgus as well. Obviously I don’t mean feel it under a heavy squat, because we aren’t bodybuilders and nobody ever got under 800 lbs and went “oh man, I really wanna feel my VMO working”. But it does mean if you focus on it in leg extensions, lunges, or anything else you should be able to feel it contract and burn.


#8

No dramas, first chance I get I will post a video. At the moment I havent been pushing too hard on the accessory stuff, just trying to do it right. Its hard to say if I get my glutes firing, they seem to but as soon as I get 120kg+ on the bar my knees just want too pull in. The other week I squatted 110kg and 115kg x20 and it was sweet as, then recently I had 120kg on for 5x10 and it was just ugly.


#9

Those sets of 20 and the 5x10 were meant to be lighter sets to practice some volume at lighter weights to try and nip this problem. I have just started doing bulgarians again they are fantastic and they have been blowing up my glutes and hamstrings lately so there is definitely some merit to focussing on correcting that weakness.

Other than RDLs (which I dont seem to get much out of) what else can I use to hit my hammies directly that will assist in terms of squatting? Leg curls and the like give a good burn but do they assist much when it comes to the bigger picture?


#10

[quote]Morgish wrote:
Those sets of 20 and the 5x10 were meant to be lighter sets to practice some volume at lighter weights to try and nip this problem. I have just started doing bulgarians again they are fantastic and they have been blowing up my glutes and hamstrings lately so there is definitely some merit to focussing on correcting that weakness.

Other than RDLs (which I dont seem to get much out of) what else can I use to hit my hammies directly that will assist in terms of squatting? Leg curls and the like give a good burn but do they assist much when it comes to the bigger picture?[/quote]

At the moment (without video) I’m guessing the problem is your glutes. You said it’s hard to say whether you are firing them but the answer would be a firm yes if you were because you should be able to feel them working. Bulgarian splits squats do work well in targeting your gluteus maximus but that isn’t the problem. The gluteus maximus assists with hip extension but right now your main concern is hip stability.

You should be engaging your gluteus medius/minimus (the outside glutes) and hip flexors to ensure you have control of your hips and femurs, and ultimately your knees, throughout the range of motion. Do some wide stance glute bridges and side lying clamshells to see what this feels like.

For now you don’t need to focus on the primary movers like the quads, hams and gluteus maximus. Once you learn to use all the stabilizer muscles correctly, the primary movers are easy to strengthen. This is probably the most important thing people overlook when jumping into heavy compound lifts.


#11

Yeah I get what your saying. I will spend some time tonight to do those exercises and see how it goes, get a better idea. In the mean time I might wander down to the local crossfit gym and see if any clean and jerk fanboys want a near new pair of 250 dollar weightlifting shoes. I didnt really like having to take multiple pairs of shoes to the gym on squat days anyway haha!


#12

[quote]Morgish wrote:
Yeah I get what your saying. I will spend some time tonight to do those exercises and see how it goes, get a better idea. In the mean time I might wander down to the local crossfit gym and see if any clean and jerk fanboys want a near new pair of 250 dollar weightlifting shoes. I didnt really like having to take multiple pairs of shoes to the gym on squat days anyway haha![/quote]

Damn that’s expensive, lol. Do realize that you didn’t give the Oly shoes a fair assessment because you didn’t have proper body mechanics to see if they really work or not. The same goes for everything else like grip width, stance width, amount of sit back, programming, etc. - anything related to preference.

For example, I ran Westside programming for 6 months about 5 years ago and it didn’t work. However, it wouldn’t be fair for me to assess the program because I had shit form back then and it was a bad idea to push the intensity with inconsistent form. I bet I could actually make some progress on that program now or most programs with sufficient volume because I have a better understanding of how I should perform the movements.


#13

So I havent had a chance to film anything yet due to work. But I have been playing around with pulling sumo as it was a weakness and was lagging far behind my conventional pull. 2 days ago I had a fantastic session pulling sumo, and following it up with conventional deficit pulls then front squats. Today I back squatted in flats again, warmed up in a wider lowbar stance and it felt horrible, hips shot back, back took over and knees came in. I peeled the weight back and warmed up again in my usual close stance high bar (still in chucks) and not a drama was had. Very slight medial knee movement but it corrected itself immediately and the weight floated up. I had been convinced that being a 6ft+ lifter who is built to deadlift that I needed to be squatting wider and possibly in heels.

However while sumo deadlift is know feeling fantastic and im not having and dramas with knee valgus there my squat tends to be strongest in flat shoes with my feet just at shoulder width with a high bar position. Is this typical or is there a possible discrepancy somewhere. I notice alot of the russian ipf guys pull wide and squat narrow. Is there a reason for this?


#14

Don’t know about Russians but about your problem;
What I do is step on a 6 inch block and do 1/8 (or less) of a squat with one leg, while keeping your hips level, I do them until I cant take the burn anymore (50 reps)

If you do this right you will feel it in the vmo and glute med, if you don’t feel it in your glute med your hips aren’t level.

Once you do 50 reps at 6 inches go to 8 inches and so on. Don’t forget to push with your TOES like if you were to jump.


#15

[quote]Morgish wrote:
So I havent had a chance to film anything yet due to work. But I have been playing around with pulling sumo as it was a weakness and was lagging far behind my conventional pull. 2 days ago I had a fantastic session pulling sumo, and following it up with conventional deficit pulls then front squats. Today I back squatted in flats again, warmed up in a wider lowbar stance and it felt horrible, hips shot back, back took over and knees came in. I peeled the weight back and warmed up again in my usual close stance high bar (still in chucks) and not a drama was had. Very slight medial knee movement but it corrected itself immediately and the weight floated up. I had been convinced that being a 6ft+ lifter who is built to deadlift that I needed to be squatting wider and possibly in heels.

However while sumo deadlift is know feeling fantastic and im not having and dramas with knee valgus there my squat tends to be strongest in flat shoes with my feet just at shoulder width with a high bar position. Is this typical or is there a possible discrepancy somewhere. I notice alot of the russian ipf guys pull wide and squat narrow. Is there a reason for this?[/quote]

Although it seems that you solved the problem by moving your stance width in, you still need to make sure you have truly fixed it by getting your glutes involved throughout the lift. Otherwise you’ll be disappointed if your hips shoot back when going heavy again.

I’ve noticed that trend as well where sumo pullers that start with a low hip position tend to be quad dominant squatters and conventional pullers that start with a high hip position tend to be hamstring dominant squatters. That does seem reasonable since a lifter would want the most carryover between the two lifts. IMO, it just depends on how strong your back is and what back angle you can handle without failing.