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The Truth About Knee Pain When Squatting

Squats get a bad rap. They are often blamed for causing knee pain and other physical problems. But are they really the problem? Or is it how you are doing the squat? Let’s take a look at the wrong way and right way to perform a squat.

Are Squats Bad for Your Knees?

Squats themselves are not bad for your knees, if you are doing the squats correctly. Incorrectly performed squats are definitely bad for your knees. Squats are a great form of exercise that actually strengthen your knees and hips. Regrettably, most people do not perform the squat correctly causing them to have knee pain.

What Causes Knee Pain When Doing Squats

There are 5 common causes of knee pain when squatting:

  • Putting Too Much Weight on Your Toes – Some people aren’t aware of how to distribute their body weight while they are doing a squat. Other people tend to pull their bodies too far forward and this creates weight on their toes.
  • Moving Your Hips and Knees Forward – One of the biggest reasons people’s knees hurt from squats is that they move their knees and hips forward. This can be an example of weak movement or possibly tight hamstrings.
  • Your Thighs and Lower Back Do Most of the Work – When your glutes, core and hamstrings are weak, your thighs and lower back will take on most of the work. Imbalances happen when you do not have correct core and hip strength making your lower back and quadriceps work overtime. This is another big reason people’s knees hurt after squats.
  • Weak Abs and Hips – To eliminate knee pain, the abdominal and hip muscles need to be correctly strengthened.
  • Weak Abs and Glutes – You can tell if you have weak abs and glutes when your trunk folds forward.

All of the above reasons are the result of a muscle imbalance which then causes pain to the knees. So the squat movement itself is not bad for you if you are doing it correctly.

Other Reasons for Knee Pain Can Come from Other Sources:

Form and Posture

Knees can be affected from poor posture just like your back and hips. Poor daily posture can cause your knees to be out of alignment while standing or walking. If you let you knees oscillate inward while doing activities, you can damage your knees.


Arthritis can also cause your knee pain. Knee arthritis can be caused by an injury and present itself like osteoarthritis or it can also just be caused by weak thighs. One way to strengthen your knees is to do daily squatting. It may also help prevent certain of knee arthritis. Contact your doctor if you think you have knee arthritis for recommended care.


Recent knee injuries can also cause knee pain. Make sure to warm up before exercising with lunges to decrease your risk of injury during your workout and if your knee hurts during your exercise, take a break. Check with your doctor if you think you might have a knee injury or have sharp knee pain for evaluation and treatment. You might be suffering from Patellofemoral pain syndrome which is pain in the front of the knee caused by injury or overuse. You will definitely need to follow your doctor’s advice about future exercises.

How to Prevent Knee Pain When Squatting

Here are a Few Tips on Performing a Correct Squat
The best type of squat to decrease injury to your knees is a full squat. The benefits of a full squat are toned quads, hamstrings and butt. There is a common misconception that full squats are dangerous but this is based on outdated research. With that said, it might not be easy to do a full squat at first if you are not used to doing them. Follow these steps to strengthen your body and achieve the proper squat form:

  • First, when squatting down, see how deep you can actually squat comfortably. If you don’t have the flexibility in your hamstring and hips, it might take you a few tries before you can safely and comfortably squat down that far.
  • Next, during squats only use minimal weights and then work your way up to more weight as it becomes more comfortable.
  • Keep you lower back from arching at the bottom of the exercise. If this happens, you are going lower than your body should. A minimal curve is ok but a drastic curve is telling you your lower back and hamstrings aren’t flexible enough yet. You need to continue to strengthen and increase the flexibility of these areas.
  • Keep your core tight and head up, making sure not to arch your back and keeping your knees straight. Following the proper form of the exercise will go a long way to helping relive your knee pain.

Once your body is strong and flexible enough, you are perform a squat correctly.

How to Fix Your Squat Form

  • Keep the proper form while doing a full squat, this will help to prevent knee pain
  • Your feet should be shoulder-width apart when you are standing and make sure your toes are pointed out at a 45-degree angle
  • Make sure you back is slightly arched and you keep your chest forward
  • Then lift your toes a little bit to balance your weight back onto your heels. This is when knee pain normally happens when your toes are carrying most of your body’s weight, this puts a lot more stress on the front of our knees.
  • You can pretend you are sitting back onto an imaginary chair while you squat
  • Contract your core muscles so that you have better control
  • When you are done, push forward with your hips to come up and out of the squat

Once you have mastered how to do a squat in the proper form, you should have less knee pain. Make sure to get your body flexible enough to do a full squat and then practice the proper form until you get it right. The key is not placing as much weight on your toes which places stress on your knees. Balance your weight back onto your heels and you’ll have less pain in your knees and a much better workout for your quads, hamstrings and butt. Good luck!!


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