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All about those squats, bout those squats

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I hate squats - I really do. I'm also very new to this and so am still learning. My issue with squats is that it really hurts my knees after a while. I'm pretty sure that my form is ok (feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, toes turned slightly out because that's how I naturally stand) but I am not sure how to correct it, or even tell if it's awful. Any tips? 


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I'm actually learning to love squats.  Lunges, on the other hand... :D


A couple of points:


1. Are your knees extending past your toes?

2. Are your knees following the direction of your feet?  (i.e. when your knees extend, do they track along the direction your toes are pointing)

3. How far back are you sitting when you squat down?

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Ok, cool - we can work with this.  ;)


Are you doing this at home?  In a gym?


1. Practice in front of a mirror from the side and you'll be able to tell.  A little past the toes isn't bad, but going way past isn't good.

2. Cool - it took me a while to figure that out.

3. That's another point to practice on - it also feeds into point 1 above; the shallower your squat, the more your knees will push past your toes.

3a) Practice your squats by holding onto a post, or a pillar, or even a sturdy piece of furniture.  Stick your butt out like you're reaching for a chair.  You'll want to lean forward, arms out, for balance - that's fine.  You can even do this in front of a sofa - instead of sitting down, assume a squat position and use your butt to reach for the sofa; see how far you can go down before you lose your balance.  Then try it again, but now hold it.


Your heels coming up is a normal problem - most people squatting for the first time have that issue.  It's a lack of flexibility and mobility in the knees and ankles.


Also: you can take a video of yourself squatting and post it for commentary - that's probably the easiest way for people to look at what you're doing and offer advice.


A couple of other thoughts that come to mind:


4. How often are you squatting?  If this is new, your body is still adapting to the exercise, so some pain - soreness, stiffness, and so on - is to be expected.

5. Where do your knees hurt?  The top?  The sides?  Just below the knee?

6. Look into "knee stretches" - you're doing new things with your knees and they need a warm-up as much as anything else.

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Some knee stretches that I'm fond of:

1. Yoga's "Figure 4" pose: you will feel it in the glutes, but also in the crossed knee (Image)


2. Knee to chest: you can grab below the knee, as demonstrated, or outside the knee (Image)


3. Butterfly stretch: you'll feel this in your hips, thighs, and knees.  For added effort, lift your knees up, and then flatten to the floor - if you can't go far, don't worry - the idea is to stretch. (Image


If you research runner stretches - basically stretching everything from the waist down - you'll find a huge number of beneficial stretches that will help loosen your muscles and joints.


4. Toe raises - while seated, lift the balls of your feet off the ground.  You'll feel the muscles along your shin flexing.  Now, hold it.  Relax your foot.  This is a fun little drill I do when I'm seated and bored.  


5. Calf raises - while standing, raise up on your toes.  You will feel your calves tensing as you do this.  Another "I'm standing in line and bored" exercise.


6. Caveman squats.  Oh, I love these, but they definitely take some time and effort.  Also called "third world squats", "flat-footed squats", "full squats", and other names - some I can't repeat here.



B) Unlike a dynamic squat, this is more of a seated rest/stretch position - call it a caveman "sit": Image


c) A blog post from the Crossfit side of things - worth a look if you're interested: http://www.iveneverdonethat.com/blog_files/squat5min.html

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So I started a long lovely reply and then lost everything to my computer being silly. Sigh - Lets try this again.


First off - Thanks so much for helping out a newbie with all this great advice! I actually did a squat using the couch as a guide and I felt it everywhere you're supposed to feel it and didn't just go "Holy crap Batman! My knees hurt!" Squatting and eating better and all that jazz is still pretty new for me - I'm looking forward to the next 6 week challenge to really get myself in gear but I was doing the basic workout  to hold myself over. 


I'm impressed that guy did a squat for five minutes! Not only for the strength but for the sheer focus! If I ever got to 5 min squats I would have to have a book on the floor to read hahahah.


Thanks again for all the help! I now have a great starting point for testing a research!

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Good luck!


And if you've done the "sofa as a guide" thing and it didn't hurt, I'm guessing you're over-training a bit.  Take a day off from squats and pick them back up in the next training period - your body is still adjusting to all these great new changes. :D

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Take a video of yourself. Looking at yourself on video, makes it easier to see what your form is like. It is surprising how often I feel like my form is correct, than watch the video of myself, and see how far off I am. You can also post the video here and we can give feedback.

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