5 Reasons Your Knees Hurt Squatting & How To INSTANTLY Fix It

If your knees hurt squatting it doesn’t mean that squats are a bad exercise.

 

In fact, squats and lunges have gotten such a bad reputation for causing knee, hip and lower back problems.

 

However, in most cases it’s not the squat that causes pain but rather how it’s performed.

 

 
The truth is that the squat is a poorly understood exercise.   Squats are an excellent exercise for strengthening the hips and knees but, unfortunately, most people do not perform them correctly even though think they do.

 
There are 5 common mistakes I have identified in individuals whose knees hurt squatting.

 

Just one of these mistakes is enough to feel knee pain during squats:

 

1. Weight on the toes: This happens a lot when using too much weight which tends to pull your body too far forward. Other times it’s simply a lack of awareness of how to distribute one’s body weight.

 

2. Knees moving forward while squatting: This is another common example of using too much weight. It can also be the result of the quadriceps (thigh muscles) overcompensating for weakness of the trunk stabilizers, hips and hamstrings.

 

3. Thighs and lower back muscles doing most of the work: This happens when the core, glutes and hamstrings are weak. When you lack proper core and hip strength muscle imbalances often result in the quadriceps and lower back over working. This is one of the main reasons for knee pain during squatting.

 

4. Abdominal stabilizers and hips are weak: These muscles need to be properly strengthened in order to eliminate knee and lower back pain.

 

5. Trunk collapsing too far forward: This is a sure-fire sign of weak core muscles and/or quadricep and lower back overcompensation. Typically, weakness in the abdominal and hip muscles are the problem.

 

It’s important to understand that each of the above are caused by muscle imbalances that cause pain and injuries to areas of the body like the knees, back, shoulders, neck, ankles and feet.

 

If you don’t address muscle imbalances your pain will get worse over time and ultimately that’s how injuries happen.

 

However, there’s a great program called Muscle Imbalances Revealed that’ll teach you how to quickly and easily address and correct muscle imbalances so you can get rid of nagging aches, pains and injuries fast. Whether you’re a personal trainer working with injured clients or if you’re looking for a solution for your own injuries this program will work for you:

 

Muscle-Imbalances-Revealed-Injuries-300x216                Click Here To Learn More

48 Responses to “5 Reasons Your Knees Hurt Squatting & How To INSTANTLY Fix It”

  • JanskiNo Gravatar:

    I have watched this video yesterday, and it revolutionized the way I do squats. I have recently included squats in my work-out, and my knees were hurting even with very light weight. Watching your video helped me understand that it is not the quads that are the primary working muscles, but rather the glutes and hamstrings. The way you demonstrate the hips forward movement has helped a lot. Thank you!

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    @Janski

    Thanks for the comment. I’m glad the video helped you out.

  • Graphic DesignNo Gravatar:

    Brilliant blog but seriously the sheer amount of advertisements really make our experience much less.

  • KazzaNo Gravatar:

    hi Kevin

    My problem with squats is that I am physically unable to come down very far at all if I keep my trunk almost upright. Reading point 5 above, I think my core is quite strong so I am guessing it is more to do with quads/lower back – are there any exercises/stretches I can do to improve this?

    By the way, I have been watching your videos etc for a few months now and they are really helpful so thank you!

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    It’s not so much to do them completely upright with your trunk just not excessively forward…In your case if it’s quad and low back compensation then stretches will do very little if anything to correct it…instead it may be a case of your core and hips not being strong enough in the extended position so you’d need core strength in the role of stabilization with your trunk in more upright and extended position

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  • MarianoNo Gravatar:

    I don’t know. I tried squatting with my feet straight ahead more or less, and what it does is my hips get pulled down at the bottom pretty hard ie I round.

  • Take your child and family together as a unit on several practice runs to the church to familiarize them with the surroundings and what to expect. Show them where the bathroom is, where they hang their coats, a nursery, or play room if any during the servNo Gravatar:

    This excellent website really has all the information I needed concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  • FeliciaNo Gravatar:

    I thought this video would help. But I still have problems. In my ankle, toes, and knees.
    One day I will do a squat properly :/
    Thanks for taking the time.

  • AmeliaNo Gravatar:

    Good video. As soon as my knee pain goes down I will try doing it the right way. Also I have read on many websites that if you got knock knees its better to do the squad with feet pointing outward and knees pointing the same direction. What would you suggest in case of knock knees?

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    I’ve discovered that knock knees have more to do with poor core and hip strength (and compensation patterns) than with the knees themselves.

    The feet turned out gives you stability through leverage but not through muscle contraction. Not to say you cannot perform a squat properly with feet turned out but you shouldn’t have to rely on this position to perform a squat safely.

    As your core and hips become stronger the knees will not ‘knock’.

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    Check your hips Felicia. Stand with your side facing a full length mirror. Watch your hips. Do they move forward upon the initial decent into a squat? If so, drive your hips back keeping your weight on your midfoot/heels.

  • MariaNo Gravatar:

    I have cronic low back pain from tissue damage. And two knees that “crunch” when I squat or do stairs, they don’t hurt, I just don’t want to make them hurt. My question is this. ..is there any move I can make so I CAN do squats? I think I’d like the result of doing them. Thanks!

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    I usually don’t worry about ‘noise’ if it doesn’t cause pain.

    Do your needs move forward, inward or outward as you descend into your squat?

  • MariaNo Gravatar:

    Straight forward…thanks.

  • MandiNo Gravatar:

    I am very glad I found this video because I did pay good money for a personal trainer (only to injure myself) who told me the EXACT opposite!

    I did appreciate the trainer telling me that squats were one of the best exercises (I did not know that and I am glad this video is consistent).

    BUT, the trainer had me working quads over and over again, even when I told him my knees were hurting! He said if I couldn’t unsupported squats then spread 30 mins on the leg extension machines or leg press machines. Those machines, while I was able to lift lots of weight, only hurt my knees more.

    I burned out! I quit going to the gym. I thought I had seriously had hurt myself beyond repair.

    This is a great video to refer to when I want to SLOWLY re-introduce squats into the workout.

    Thanks for clearing up the expensive misconceptions I paid for earlier.

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    What you’re describing is actually very common and it happens in more than just personal training.

    I’ve seen many, many physical therapists having their patients doing the same thing…strengthening the quads without ever looking into the fact that our bodies are not meant to work in isolation.

    They are a functional unit designed to use many muscles to accomplish movements.

    One quick suggestion that may help you out…

    …If you’re not yet able to squat you can try using a cable machine and perform bent over rows. Just line the cable in front of you rather than toward the floor so it moves in a straight line toward you. That way it allows you to squat to your depth (whatever is comfortable for you) and conditions you into the squat pattern.

    You can progress your depth as you’re able.

    I’m happy to know my video helped you Mandi :)

  • MarleneNo Gravatar:

    WOW! I’ve tried over and over again to do squats but all they is hurt my knees. I followed your suggestions and was able to do five without any pain!!! Thank you!!!!

  • MonkeyfighterNo Gravatar:

    Fuck! I have had these lower back and knee pain all the time, I thougt my knees were broken or so.. I’m gonna try it the way you showed it, I guess it’s gonna fix the problems, thank you very much man!

  • IvanNo Gravatar:

    I’ve been trying to work around knee pain for several years. Squatting heavy with poor form damaged them and I only made it worse by continuing to put pressure on my knees with a variety of activities. Nothing helped. Trainers and gym members told me that my form was good, so I thought that it was just my anatomy that wasn’t conducive to squatting. Xray and MRI showed no damage but the pain continued so I gave up squatting with weights, only doing bodyweight squats until they began to hurt.

    Just came across this video and tried it on a whim. I wasn’t expecting anything, but am now squatting without any pain besides normal soreness. No weights yet but this is already a remarkable difference. Thank you so much!

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    Right on Ivan! That’s awesome…I’ve NEVER once in 14 years I’ve been doing this seen anyone who cannot squat without pain as long as they’re activating the right muscles.

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    Cool man. Lemme know how it goes.

  • lindapNo Gravatar:

    Was worth a shot, but didn’t work for me.

  • alinaNo Gravatar:

    I am doing squats for 5 days and I have a terrible knee pain . I just want you to ask the pain is when the squats arent doing in the right way or these pain are normal -thanks for the video btw

  • alinaNo Gravatar:

    Hello . I am 15 years old and I started doing squats . Since ive started I ve got too much pain in my knees . Day by day the pain is bigger. Is that if I am doing wrong squats or is it a normal thing . Should I do exercises soon or should I stop. I mgonna wait for your answer . Thank you wery much ☺<<<

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    Having minor muscle pain is normal but having joint pain is not something you should be feeling.

    The knee pain can be fixed by correcting your technique.

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    Also, make sure you’re not doing squat workouts everyday. Gotta give your legs time to recover.

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    Hey Alina, I just replied to your other question but for now take some time off to give your knees a rest.

    After the pain resolves itself try squatting with just your own body weight so you can master the technique.

    If you have trouble then try squatting while holding a support like a pole, light weight dowel or something similar that’s stable.

    It’s not the exercise that’s hurting your knees. It’s just that you’ve gotta get the technique down with the right muscles working.

    Once you get it down you won’t feel pain in your knees.

    Hope this helps :)

  • LeighNo Gravatar:

    hmmm..been doing squats for years and since ive increased my weights recently, I have noticed knee pain. will try your suggestions. the instructors always say toes pointed out! thanks for posting this video!

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    lemme know how it works Leigh

  • Erik BNo Gravatar:

    One last question remains for me: Do you recommend deep knee squats or stopping when the hips and knees are in line horizontally? Thanks.

  • HankNo Gravatar:

    Thanks for the informative video Mr.Yates.
    I have been having terrible knee pain the last few months. It all began when I started the Madcow 5×5 program.
    I really, REALLY like that program, but since beginning my knees have taken a major hit.
    Just bending down to pick something up sends waves of sharp knife-stabbing pain to my knee’s.
    I had basically given up on doing squats. The whole purpose of working out is so I can remain in good shape to play with my kids and grandkids. It seems like it’s doing the opposite.

    I’m going to try your recommendations and see if it helps.
    One question I have is, what is your opinion on ATG (arse-to-grass) squats?
    I’ve enjoyed that form more than parallel but want to make sure it’s safe and the proper way of squatting.

    Thank-you!
    Hank

  • MonicaNo Gravatar:

    Great advice. This really helped my form and knees. The video and all the pointers were spot on. So glad I came across this!!

  • EmilyNo Gravatar:

    Very helpful! I was really frustrated with the knee pain I was experiencing while doing squats. Thank you for such a thorough explanation!

  • KhalisNo Gravatar:

    Very helpful. I’ve been doing daily bodyweight squats for about two months now. Yesterday, I had some discomfort in my right knee while squatting. After the workout, it stopped but started again in today’s session. I think it may have something to do with my wide stance and the fact that I try to keep my trunk as vertical as possible. Or maybe the reps are too high (80)?

  • SarahNo Gravatar:

    I only have pain right beside my knee’s on the inside when I squat. If I bend at work, run or bike I have no issues. It’s only while I do squats any clue what I might be doing wrong?

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    Hey Sarah,

    Sometimes it can just be an issue of over-thinking it too much. I used to have a couple clients who had the same type of issue. But, when they tried to do squats they got all caught up in over-thinking it and couldn’t do them.

    Try getting a bench and straddle it (one leg on each side) then just sit down as you would at work and stand back up.

    Don’t think about it but just do it and see what happens.

  • BrettNo Gravatar:

    Hi Kevin,

    I started doing squats 3 months ago and developed knee pain so I put it on hold. I was doing feet pointed out so will try your style to see how it goes.
    My question is this: I am 6’8″ so obviously have long legs and trunk. Are there any adjustments I need to make for being so tall or do I just follow the video as outlined?

  • HeatherNo Gravatar:

    Hi Kevin,

    I have knee pain already (outside of just doing squats). It occurs primarily when I go up OR down stairs, and when I am getting up out of a chair. I weigh way too much and I know it, and I have never had knee pain before a couple years ago but I’ve had it ever since.

    I have knock knees too, but I can’t see how my knees would ever not-knock (as you stated in an earlier reply) because if I extend my leg straight from a sitting position, my leg angles out from my knee down. I only mention it because I don’t know if it matters.

    The thing is, I just attempted a squat the way you said and both knees hurt pretty intensely when I was only a slight way down. I probably do not have good core strength. I have been going to the gym lately and the only thing that seems to work well is the individual machines because anything else hurts my knees. Even the leg press hurts my knees at approx 100+ lbs but it is a tolerable pain level while I am doing it.

    My question, even in proper form, is a squat something I should attempt at all or do I need to wait? I don’t know if my knee pain is caused solely by the weight or something else (my knees make sounds too, though it doesn’t *always* result in pain). If you do it in proper form but other body involved muscles are weak, will that still cause pain?

  • amiNo Gravatar:

    hi , i was doing squat yesterday and had tremendous pain in my knees just because i have made mistake that you have mentioned in video. now i do not know what to do. should i relax for few days or continue workout. as my instructor say that yest i had done leg exercise and that the reason for knee pain.

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    muscle pain and joint pain are very different. if you feel pain in your knee joints than it’s not just muscle soreness. it’s a warning that something is wrong. you can try the suggestions in my video to correct your squat. if your knees feel better as you perform the exercise then you should be ok to keep doing it. if your knees feel worse than rest up until the pain goes away and try again. by the way, any instructor that tells you joint pain is just from doing exercise is someone i would not want to have train me.

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    good question and here’s the thing…

    …yes, you do need to squat just because so much of what you do outside of the gym and in everyday life involves squatting. sitting down, getting in and out of your car, getting in and out of bed, bending down around the house or at work, even going to the bathroom ;)

    my point is that if you don’t correct it then squatting will continue to hurt your knees.

    in your situation there’s 3 issues that are likely causing your knee pain:

    1) a forward tilting of your pelvis (a.k.a ‘anterior pelvic tilt’) contributes to ‘knock knees’ which then causes

    2) core weakness particularly of your lower abs which help keep your pelvis in neutral alignment

    3) weak glutes (glute maximus and glute minimus) which are the muscles that control squatting and going up and down stairs. basically your glutes are designed to do the majority of the work and when they’re weak it causes more stress to your knees as they take the brunt of the force

    so to correct this I would first address the core which will put everything in alignment so you can then train the glutes.

    get yourself aligned using floor based exercises like I show in some of my videos on this blog and also in my program ‘The Muscle Imbalance Solution’ which I originally wrote for personal trainers however it has helped many people who aren’t trainers get rid of nagging pain and injuries.

    once you get to where you’re doing things right on the floor then work your way to standing exercises.

    hope this helps :)

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    Hey Brett,

    I’ve experimented with squatting over the last year or so and I’m finding that a lot depends on your hip structure. However, try squatting the way I suggest and see if that fixes your pain. If not, just squat down naturally as if you were a caveman telling a story at a campfire. Lame example I know but it’s all I can think of right now ;)

    Anyway, allow your feet to go where they naturally feel comfortable including the width of your stance. Rock yourself around in this bottom position. You’re looking for what feels comfortable and natural for you.

    Once you have it stand up without moving your feet.

    Notice if there’s any significant differences in foot position or leg position between right and left sides. If not, then try squatting from there and see how it feels. You should have no pain if everything’s good.

    If you’ve got some noticeable differences then it’s suggestive of muscular imbalances that need to be addressed at a deeper level than I can give you here but I do have in my program ‘The Muscle Imbalance Solution’. Although I wrote it for personal trainers it’s helped many people who are not trainers to get rid of their pain and injuries: http://functionaltrainingcoach.com/muscleimbalancesolution

  • pain rehabNo Gravatar:

    Heya! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 3gs!
    Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your
    posts! Keep up the outstanding work!

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    Hey Heather,

    I just posted a video on your question as this is something that affects a lot of people.

    Here you go and hope this helps you :)

  • aliNo Gravatar:

    Hi
    my name is ali and i m 34 years old 6’2″ ,i have back problem, my lower disks are dehydrated L4 and L5 and due to that i have pain in my back almost all the time and for some reasons my knees are weak and doing squats even without any weight makes my knees hurt and i feel if it will burn from inside and sometimes my right knee just locks and i cant move my leg. i use knee wraps when i squats but it still hurts. i want to do squats to improve my health but this problem of mine is not letting me do so.
    can you help me so that i can achieve my goal.
    Thanks
    Ali

  • Kevin YatesNo Gravatar:

    Here you go Ali…hope this helps you :)

  • BrettNo Gravatar:

    Thanks for the response!

    Brett

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