Can squats be bad for knees?

Do your knees hurt when you do squats? There are reasons behind knee pain during squatting. But does that mean squats are bad for knees?
Strong glutes can help with mobility. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 29 Apr 2023, 16:30 pm IST
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When we think of building stronger legs and thighs, we are often told to do squats. All you have to do is stand then lower your hips and finally stand back up. Seems like an easy exercise, but some end up with knee pain while squatting. So does that mean squats are bad for knees? Before you cut it off from the list of your strength exercises, you should know that it’s not always the exercise or the wrong technique that can make your knees hurt. There are other reasons too.

Health Shots consulted Dr Vivek Mahajan, Orthopedic and Joint Replacement Surgeon, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, New Delhi, to find out about knee pain and squats.

knee pain and squats
You can have knee pain if you don’t do squats right. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Knee pain while squatting

Your knee can hurt while squatting due to various reasons. Some of them are:

• Poor form or technique while squatting, which can put excessive pressure on your knees and lead to injury.
• Weak or imbalanced leg muscles, especially the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, which can affect the stability and alignment of the knee joint.
• Previous knee injuries or conditions such as torn meniscus, ligament sprains or arthritis, which can cause pain and inflammation during squatting.
• Overuse or excessive training, such as doing too many squats or using too much weight, which can cause wear and tear on the knee joint and surrounding tissues.
• Lack of warm-up or stretching, which can reduce joint mobility and increase the risk of injury during squatting.

Are squats not good for knees?

They are not inherently bad for the knees, but it can be if you do it incorrectly or excessively, says Dr Mahajan. Proper squatting technique, appropriate load and volume, and adequate rest and recovery can help to prevent knee pain and injury. However, people with pre-existing knee problems or conditions should check with their doctor before starting or modifying their squatting routine.

Tips to prevent knee pain while squatting

It goes without saying that you need to improve your squatting technique and form. That includes proper foot placement, hip and knee alignment, and depth, notes the expert. Here are some other key tips.

• Strengthen your leg muscles, especially the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, through exercises such as lunges, leg press, and deadlifts.
• Use proper equipment, such as knee sleeves or wraps, to provide support and stability to the knee joint.
• Do warm-up and stretch before squatting, including dynamic movements and foam rolling to increase joint mobility and reduce muscle tension.
• Take pain relief medications or apply ice or heat therapy as needed to reduce inflammation and soreness.

knee pain and squats
You should stretch and do warm-up before squatting. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Squat like a pro

To perform squats the right way, you need to do the following:

• First stand with feet shoulder-width apart and make sure your toes are slightly turned out.
• As you keep your chest up, make sure your core is tight, and shoulders are back and down.
• You can start lowering your body by pushing your hips back. Bend your knees while lowering down. Keep the weight on your heels and the knees in line with your toes.
• Descend to a depth that is comfortable for you, such as until your thighs are parallel to the ground. At this time, you should maintain a neutral spine and engaged core.
• Drive your heels into the ground and push through your legs to go back to the first step.

Just make sure you are doing it right so that you don’t go home with a knee pain.


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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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