July 4, 2011

Squat to better knees

If you are one of the many who say, “I can’t squat because it hurts my knees.” chances are it is due to poor form, not your knees.  The squat is one of the best exercises you can do to help strengthen your knees.  It is true that some individuals have too much knee damage to comfortably squat, but most people with knee pain will see an improvement after a squat conditioning program.  I am not talking about squatting with blow out weights or going ankle deep, and of course you should check with your physician first.
Bad form is the main cause of knee pain, so start with a modified squat until you can do one perfectly: 
 Stand with legs about shoulder width apart, keeping your knees so they follow the direction of your toes, then bend as far as comfortable.  It may only be a few inches at first.   Start with just six a day and gradually increase the repetitions.  Over time you will be able to bend deeper. It is crucial to keep the knees following the direction of the toes.  Some people have a natural turn out; this is fine as long as you do not twist the knees to track them forward.  Push out your rear as if sitting back into a chair.  Keep your back in its normal arch; do not round or over arch it.  Keep working at it until you can get your thighs parallel to the floor. 
Unless you are training for a specific sport or are a power lifter, you do not need to go any lower than parallel.  Make sure your heels stay on the floor.   Keep the knees behind your toes and rise up.  Keep your gaze forward and avoid looking down at the floor.

Another way to learn is to squat into a chair.  You can use your hands to help you back up until you are strong enough to get up without it. If your back hurts you can try a squat against the wall, or with a stability ball behind your back.  Once you can squat comfortably you can advance by adding dumbbells or barbells.  Keep practicing and you will see reduced knee pain as well as a tighter butt and toned legs.

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