3 Strategies For Squatting With Cranky Knees

28 May

I have a new found love for squatting. It wasn’t always such a wonderful love affair. In fact, the squat was formally a source of pain and discomfort for me. I have anterior knee pain, that can act up once in a while, and in the past it could be debilitating. Below are three changes I made to how I train that have allowed me to attack the squat weekly, aggressively and pain free.

1. I learned how to back squat.

Oh snap, you didn’t expect that did you. Honestly though, if you are someone with cranky knees you need to have solid squat technique. More accurately, you need to learn to sit into a back squat and allow your hips to do more. I have done a couple posts on squat technique: here and here. In the same frame, minimize or scrap more quad dominant squat variations (mainly front loaded squat variations, and high bar back squatting / Safety bar) while you allow yourself to master the more hip involved back squat variations.

2. Manage Frequency.

I do “quad dominant” lifts once per week now. I go hard on Mondays and allow a full week of recovery. If your knees are bugging you I highly recommend this approach. For my own training this means I squat Monday, squat some more on Monday, and then squat a little bit more on top of that. Place the squat and lunge variations on the same day, put in the same volume you would have over the course of the week, and then allow 7 days to rest. Also, pay attention the frequency of other activities that cause your knees to flame up. I had to cut out hill sprints on the road (when possible I choose grass), and playing basketball.

3. Get Stronger

Strengthening up that back side will take care of your knee issues in relation to squatting (granted there isn’t something structurally wrong). Squatting correctly, and working through a little discomfort during the learning process will help greatly in this. Additionally, include plenty of work for the glutes and hamstrings. I had never consistently trained with a GHR until about a year ago. In fact, I couldn’t do a single one this time last year. Now I can load it, to give you and idea of the strength increases made on my posterior chain. My ass seems to have gotten bigger, if that’s possible, and I placed a premium on glute activation drills in my warm up; namely bridges, wall marches and X band walks. So in short, pain in the front, strengthen the back.

3.5. Get some knee sleeves.

Why not?

I realize some of these look like ways to work around the actual issue, but I do consistently work on my movement quality, soft tissue restrictions, etc. I find many people with joint pain dance around trying to make everything perfect and never truly get to go out and do what they want (i.e. squat, bench and deadlift). In reality, there needs to be a happy medium between confronting the source of the pain and finding ways to work around it. Here’s to heavy squats, and being awesome.

Happy Memorial Day, and remember what this day is truly about.

JW, SP – You are remembered.



One Response to “3 Strategies For Squatting With Cranky Knees”


  1. 3 Strategies For Squatting With Cranky Knees « Greg Robins « The Laundry Room - May 28, 2012

    […] on gregtrainer.com Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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