October 27, 2020
Squat Depth & Knee Pain – The Art Of Bending

Why do we start out squatting perfectly as babies, and then we’re unable to squat to the floor as adults? Why do so many experience pain when squatting?

Squats are a fundamental exercise for building strength, flexibility, and endurance in the lower body. However, many people experience knee pain due to incorrect squatting techniques or a lack of understanding of how to properly execute this movement.

Some say sitting is the cause of problems while squatting. But is that true?

knee pain woman in grass holding knee

What Causes Knee Pain When Squatting?

  1. Incorrect Squatting Technique
  2. Limited Ankle and Hop Mobility
  3. Muscle Weakness

Incorrect Squatting Technique

Knee pain during squatting often stems from improper technique. Misalignment of the knees and hips can place undue stress on the knee joint, leading to pain. Correct posture and alignment during squats are crucial for preventing knee pain.

Limited Ankle and Hip Mobility

Limited mobility in the ankle or hip can affect leg alignment and increase knee stress during squatting. Ensuring adequate mobility in these areas is essential for a healthy squatting technique.

Muscle Weakness

Weakness in the quadriceps or hip muscles contributes to knee pain, as these muscle groups support the knee joint during squatting. Strengthening these muscles can alleviate and prevent knee pain.

Proper Squat Form

  1. Squat Mechanics
  2. The Role of the Pelvis and Spine in Squatting

Squat Mechanics

Squatting is not just about bending your knees; it's a complex movement that involves folding at the hips and knees harmoniously. When performed correctly, squats can enhance hip mobility, but when done incorrectly, they can lead to knee pain and other issues. The key to a proper squat is ensuring that the hips, knees, and spine work together in a coordinated manner.

The Role of the Pelvis and Spine in Squatting

The initial phase of a squat requires a slight tilt of the pelvis and an adjustment in the lower back's orientation. This adjustment allows for a smoother descent into the squat, maintaining a vertical torso as you go deeper. Problems arise when there's an inability to adjust the pelvis and spine correctly, leading to compensatory movements that put undue stress on the knees.

Consequences of Poor Squat Form

  1. Impact on Knee Health
  2. Ankle Mobility

Impact on Knee Health

Incorrect squat form can shift excessive weight onto the front of the leg, stressing the patella and surrounding areas. This misalignment often results in knee pain, particularly above the kneecap, where the bone can bear too much pressure, especially during activities like running or walking.

Ankle Mobility

Limited ankle flexibility can prevent proper forward knee movement, essential for achieving a deep squat. This limitation forces the body to compensate, often resulting in additional strain on the knees and lower back.

Strategies for Improving Squat Depth and Reducing Knee Pain

  1. Proper Technique
  2. Correcting Pelvic and Spinal Alignment
  3. Squat Variations and Positional Adjustments
  4. Squat Depth and Knee Health
  5. Ankle and Hip Mobility


Proper Technique

Proper squatting technique, including maintaining good knee and hip alignment, is fundamental to avoiding knee pain. Learning the correct form under expert supervision and adhering to progressive training loads can make deep squats both safe and effective.

Correcting Pelvic and Spinal Alignment

Adjusting pelvic tilt and ensuring proper spinal alignment are critical for a healthy squat. Practicing movements that encourage a neutral pelvis and spine can alleviate pressure on the knees and enhance squat performance.

Squat Variations and Positional Adjustments

Exploring different squat variations and making slight adjustments in foot positioning can also contribute to better squat form and reduced knee pain. It's essential to find a squat stance that allows for balanced weight distribution and aligns with your body's unique mechanics.

Squat Depth and Knee Health

Contrary to common belief, deep squats do not necessarily increase the risk of knee injury. Biomechanical research indicates that the highest retropatellar compressive forces occur at 90° knee flexion, not in deeper squats. The wrapping effect and functional adaptations contribute to enhanced load distribution in deep squats, suggesting that with proper technique, deep squats can be an effective exercise for strengthening the lower extremity without increasing injury risk.

Ankle and Hip Mobility

Given the role of ankle and hip mobility in squatting, incorporating mobility exercises into your routine can improve squat performance and reduce knee pain. This is especially important for achieving deep squat positions without compromising knee health.

At Beometry, we were finally able to solve knee pain when we started to understand what’s actually supposed to happen as your hips get more range of motion (e.g. when you squat).

Squatting is just about folding! You’ve got to fold your knees. Then you’ve got to fold your hips. If you’ve got an issue with the relative motion of either of those, then you’ll have to compensate. And it’s compensation that runs us into problems.

In the Facebook Live video linked below, Isaac will teach you all about squats. He’ll show you a couple of different kinds of squats, and he’ll tell you everything you need to know about what happens when we’re all born with great squats… and then we lose great squats… and how you can start to squat pain-free again!

And then head over to the Total Body Confidence group to share what you learned and see more content just like this! Isaac is going live every week with insights that members are calling “invaluable”. We’d love to see you there! If you are also interested in having a coaching session with us, we would love to help you out!

– Coach Michelle

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