Protecting your knees while working out is essential, especially when doing squats. While squats are very beneficial for strength training, especially in the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings, correct form is imperative to avoid pain and to protect your knees while doing squats.
Correct Form for Squats
As you have probably heard, read or experienced, squats can be harmful to your knees if done incorrectly. The placement and alignment of your feet and knees is essential to safely complete a squat. Below is the correct form you should follow when doing a squat.
To complete a squat:
- Begin with feet hip-width apart and slightly turned outward
- Engage abs and keep back straight
- Squat down in a motion similar to sitting down in a chair
- Keep your knees in line with your feet
- Keep your heels on the floor
- Continue the squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor
- Slowly ascend by squeeze your glutes and pushing from your heels
- Do not let your knees buckle in
First and foremost, when you are squatting down, look at your knees and make sure that they do not extend further than your toes. If they do, then concentrate on slowing down your motion and descend with more weight placed in the heels of your feet. It is often helpful to imagine if a chair has been placed directly behind you to guide you through this motion. The reason you do not want your knees to extend past your toes is because this form will place increased tension and pressure upon the patellar tendon and ligaments in the knee joint. Do not squat down past a point if you begin to feel pain in your knee joint.
For individuals who are new to squatting or are overcoming knee pain, a chair squat is an excellent way to begin. Instead of having to imagine a chair behind you, simply place a chair, box or bench behind you. Stand approximately one foot in front of the chair with feet hip width apart and feet slightly turned out. Slowly squat down into this chair, pause and slowly stand back up. While squatting, double check that your feet and knees are correctly aligned and that your heels are flat on the floor. This process should help familiarize you with the proper form for completing a squat. For beginners, attempt to complete two sets of 10 squats in a slow and controlled motion.
Ball Wall Squats
Squatting with a large exercise ball is an excellent method to protect your knees during a squat. Place the large ball between your back and a wall. Stand up straight and slowly squat down while rolling the exercise ball behind you. This ball should help guide you on your descent until your knees and hips form 90 degree angles. Slowly stand up and allow for the ball to guide you through the ascent. Complete two sets of 10 squats in a slow and controlled motion.
With attention to form, you should be able to squat while still protecting your knees at the same time. Through practice, you will see that squatting does not have to mean knee pain.