Save Your Knees: How to Squat with Good Form
Most people experience knee pain at some point in their lives. Even among otherwise healthy and active folks, knee complaints abound. So, if you’ve been complaining about your knees, you’re not alone.
Sports, exercise, even walking, can cause muscle strains, tendinitis, and more serious injuries. From “runner’s knee” (pain behind the kneecap), to injured anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs), to more than 14 million arthritic knees, knee pain is a common ailment.
Over 700,000 people will undergo knee-replacement surgery this year. Surprisingly, the largest increase takes place among people age 64 or younger. Interestingly, about a third of those may be unnecessary.
One of the big surprises of recent knee science is that regular and vigorous physical activity promotes healthy knees. To begin with, when you’re inactive, your muscles and bones lose strength. By staying active you can significantly lower your risk of falling or fracturing a bone.
How to Save Your Knees
Squats an are awesome exercise for strengthening muscles that relieve knee pain! Squatting builds strength in your legs and hips. Muscle strength is vital to stabilize your joints, improve your balance, as well as remain independent and mobile in later years.
A squat is really a full body movement that works almost every muscle group in your body. Not only that, you do it in a lot of activities of daily living, from standing up from sitting in a chair, to getting pots out of a bottom cabinet, to picking up shoes off the floor.
Learn How to Squat
If squatting hurts your knees, it’s most likely because you’re making your knees do more work than your hips. The key is to learn to keep your feet flat on the floor. The box squat is a great teaching tool for this. As you practice, you start to feel the correct squat pattern, and it becomes easier to maintain the correct form for other squat variations.
If squatting hurts your knees, it’s most likely because you’re making your knees do more work than your hips.Click to tweet
Contrary popular theory, there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation when it comes to how deep to squat. In truth, everyone has anatomical and structural differences. The ideal full squat for an individual is no lower than where you lose the natural arch in your lower spine.
When you perform the squat exercise regularly, thigh and core muscles become stronger, and your range of motion increases. When done correctly, squatting is even tolerated by people with osteoarthritis.
Generally, squats follow the same basic movements. Specifically, you’ll find differences are in the starting position or equipment used.
- Feet shoulder-width apart.
- Keep knees in line with heels.
- Breathe in as you squat by “sitting down” as far as you can go comfortably.
- Tighten your abdominal and buttocks muscles.
- Exhale as you return to standing position, pushing up through your heels and working the muscles in the back of your legs and buttocks.
Beginning Squat Variations
Squatting correctly without pain can be improved by starting with these 3 modified versions.
- Ball squats: Place a stability ball against a wall and lean against it, positioning the top of the ball into the small of your back. Position your feet 10 – 12″ in front of your body, with toes facing forward or turned out slightly.
- Wall squats: Stand with your head and back against a wall. Place your feet shoulder-width apart, about 18 – 24 inches from the wall, and your arms at your sides.
- Suspension strap (TRX) squats: Facing the anchor point, hold the suspension strap handles with a neutral grip. Lean back slightly, so it supports your bodyweight. Use the support of the suspension straps to assist you as you squat.
Squatting to Build Strength
Once you can perform an assisted squat, the next step is to do it freestanding. Two bodyweight squat exercises are (for lack of another term) “regular” and box-squat.
A box squat is the same as a regular squat except you put a box (or chair) behind you as a guide for depth. Having something behind you is great for starting out, or if you have bad knees.
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