Demmy James - Squats are one of the most widely performed exercises for targeting leg muscles and core muscles as well. There are a variety of different variations to choose from, but they all have similar issues that happen to most without alot of training experience. You may end up with hurt knees, painful back pains, or even pain in your abdominal region. All of these issues and more can be addressed usually, and below are four fixes for common errors that lead to the squat hurting the body.
You are Locking Your Knees
This is one of the most common issues that people do while performing squats. Locking your knees means that you fully push your knees forward and straighten your legs out, which could cause knee pains and may cause you to lose balance. When you lock your knees, you cause unnecessary pressure against them, and actually cause a sudden oxygen flow blockage. Your knees are supposed to maintain a very slight bend in them for proper form and prevention of knee injury.
While on the subject of your knees; another common issue is using your knees as the area that receives force. This occurs when your push your body back up out of the squat and drive down the force using your knees. Glute, hip flexor, and quad contractions should be what cause your body to press back up out of a squat.
Your Back is not Neutral
A neutral back is when your spine is vertically straight, and is also referred to as a neutral spine position. You achieve this by standing up straight and bending your hips during the squat while keeping your chest out. Rounding your back is the opposite of this and a reason why squats can hurt. Back rounding occurs by too much emphasis on the forward lean and possibly too much weight on the bar. While getting in your stance for the squat simply stand up straight; tilt your chin slightly up; puff your chest out; and bend at your hips to squat. If the weight feels heavy in proper form drop the load and try again.
Your Feet are Improperly Placed
Another reason for hurting during the squat is foot placement. Your feet can be slightly wider than shoulder width apart, but if they are too narrow or offset, then pain may occur and balance could also be thrown off. Offset foot placement means that one foot is either too far forward or backwards from the other. Proper squat form is when your feet are parallel with each other and shoulder width apart.
You are not Breathing Properly
Breathing properly is essential for allowing muscular contraction and preventing your body from blacking out. You may be breathing in with your shoulders like most people do instead of your stomach instead. Breathing in with your shoulders means they pull back during the inhale, which inhibits the full use of your diaphragm – a core muscle. Your diaphragm contracts properly when you focus on breathing with your stomach, and squeezing your abs. Practice inhaling with only your stomach and notice the difference than how you normally breathe.
These four solutions to fixing squat pain address the most basic reason even advanced athletes have for pain during the squat. Usually, bad form is always the culprit because too many people want to throw on the weight and show off how much they can squat. You benefit more by performing the squat with the correct weight required to train your body, and by fixing any issues you may have from the list above.
Also, you might want to alternate your squats with other leg workouts from time to time such as the leg extension. These will also help to make the squats easier on you and provide you a greater balance when squatting.
Sometimes a Weight Belt is Useful
Weight belts are used to keep your back straight and cause your abdominal muscles to contract properly. This enables the use of core muscle to help stabilize your body and produce maximum energy exertion to lift the weight required. You want the belt to be tight around your abdomen, but not so tight to where you cannot breathe. They can improve your squat significantly in the early stages while you are still getting the right form down.
You should seek medical advice if the pain persists after performing squats, and if you are still having issues with your form then a personal trainer may be your next step if you are serious about improving your squat performance.
Demmy James is a fitness buff as well as strength and conditioning specialist. He is also a content contributor for Muscle & Strength.