How to Squat When Squatting Hurts

It’s your favorite day of the week, SKWATZ day!  You’ve been looking forward to it all week and you’re ready to go, but when you get under the bar you realize something’s off… Your insert joint/muscle groupis tweaky.  Before you burn down the gym in a sad and frustrated fit of rage consider some options that will still allow you to get some quality squat work in.

Angry Knees

Sitting into a deep free squat with bum knees is not fun.  If you feel like your knees really don’t enjoy sitting into deep flexion at the bottom of a squat try going to a box.  Using a box to sit waaaaaay back makes it much easier to attain that vertical shin to take a ton of stress off the knees.  It shifts the demand of the movement into your hips much more and you can still work the squat without sacrificing the well being of your much-needed cartilage.

How high of a box?

Whatever height allows you to move in a pain free range of motion.  If that means that the box is 4 inches above parallel then so be it.

Above parallel?! But every awesome squat guru says squat low! BLASPHEMY!

Keep in mind that this is a “work-around” for the time being, and as your knee starts to feel better you can slowly increase the range of motion by lowering the box and eventually incorporating free squats again.

Bum Shoulders and Elbows

Getting into a tight back squat requires cranking your shoulders into what can be an uncomfortable and vulnerable position.  If you feel like putting the bar on your back is really irritating your shoulders or elbows try a front squat with a clean grip or a “cross-arm” grip.  This position can be much more upper-extremity friendly.

This is where specialty bars also come in handy.  A safety squat bar is an awesome tool to have access to.  It allows you to sit the bar on your back while keeping your arms relatively relaxed.  A giant cambered bar is also a great option as well.


Lower Back Whackness

If your back starts to get all uppity when you sit back into your squat, contrary to popular belief, you do not have to give up lifting weights and take up ping pong (a chiropractor actually told me this before…).

Again, try a front squat.  Moving the load to the front can help “turn-on” the anterior core and help keep the spine more stable during the squat.  Also, the nature of the movement allows for a more vertical torso angle, which goes a long way in reducing the sheer stress applied on the spine compared to a back squat, especially a “powerlifting-style” back squat.

You can keep moving the load even more forward by opting for a goblet squat, using a kettlebell or a dumbbell.  You don’t need to be heaving around a barbell with the plates clanging to achieve the stimulus you so desperately crave.

Be Smart!

Remember, sometimes you aren’t just tweaky or a bit banged up.  Sometimes you’re injured and you need to take a break, see a health professional, and get your body back in order.