Squats are a great compound exercise that everyone should be doing. They not only strengthen several muscle groups in the body, but they’re also a fat-burning exercise that can help you avoid injuries during your daily life.
Despite all the benefits that come with making squats a regular part of your workout routine, lots of people avoid them because of knee pain. If your aching knees are causing you to avoid squats altogether, give these five tips a try so you can squat safely and make your workouts more effective.
1. Check Your Form
If you want to be able to squat comfortably, you need to start by checking your form. Bad form puts too much pressure on your knees and can cause serious damage.
Keep these cues in mind next time you do a basic squat:
- Keep your shoulder-distance apart
- Turn your toes out to about a 45-degree angle
- Keep your weight in your heels
- Sit back into the squat as if you’re sitting down in a chair
- Keep your core engaged to support your spine
- Avoid letting your knees rock inward
- When you rise out of the squat, push your hips forward and squeeze your glutes
This can be a lot to think about at the beginning. To make things easier, squat with just your body-weight until you’re comfortable, then add weight.
2. Wear a Knee Brace
If your knees hurt during squats because of an old injury, you can wear a knee brace support sleeve to help stabilize your knee and avoid causing additional damage.
Knee braces help your knees move through a proper range of motion. They also add compression to prevent inflammation after your workouts.
In order to get the most benefit from your knee brace or sleeve, make sure you’re still practicing good squat form while wearing it. Otherwise, it probably won’t do you much good.
3. Change Your Shoes
The type of shoe you wear while squatting can make a major difference in how your knees feel. Most people experience knee pain while squatting because they put too much weight on their toes. They do this because their ankle mobility is limited and they have a hard time keeping their heels on the ground.
Good ankle mobility is essential for proper squatting, but wearing the right shoes can help you practice good form while you work on improving your mobility. Instead of wearing cushioned tennis shoes, look for a pair of shoes designed specifically for squatting. You can also wear Chuck Taylors, which have a flat sole and will provide the same benefit.
4. Warm Up Properly
A proper, mobility-based warm-up will help you avoid injuring your knees while squatting.
Give these exercises a try before you squat to warm up your muscles.
You can do them with just your bodyweight or add a resistance band. The best resistance bands for women and men are circular bands that you can loop around your thighs.
Glute bridge: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Press into your feet to lift your hips. Hold for two seconds, then lower yourself back to the ground. Complete two sets of 10 reps.
Clamshells: Lie on your side with knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep the bottom knee on the ground and lift the top leg so your knee points toward the ceiling. Complete 10 reps, then switch sides.
Knee Hugs: Lift your right knee toward your chest, grabbing below the knee. Hold for a couple seconds while pulling it toward your body, then release and repeat on the other side. Complete two sets of 10 reps.
Squats can be a difficult exercise to master, but they’re one of the best compound exercises you can do. Keep these tips in mind, and you won’t have to worry about knee pain holding you back!