I have a confession to make. My knees have hurt the last two weeks, and I’m pretty sure it is from following a ramped up squatting program. But it isn’t the program’s fault. The program is written by a fantastic company who has worked with thousands and thousands of athletes. It is my own fault, namely the fault of my ego. This has caused one of the most common squat problems with me, and forced me to reevaluate how to go about "the king of exercises."
You see, I have always squatted wider than many people would recommend, particularly those in the CrossFit community. This is probably born out of a habit of putting up the best weights possible, not moving as well as I possibly can. It is very hard to not be competitive in the gym; I get it. Plus, competition does help breed results. But on technical movements such as squats, deadlifts, snatches and clean and jerks, you should only be comparing to what you did yesterday, not the people you work out with. I made this mistake and now I have to completely change my squatting style. However, I’m always looking for the silver lining, and this gives me the chance to evaluate some common squat problems and figure out how to fix them.
Common Squat Problems, Complaints, and Fixes:
Fix: A lot of hip and ankle mobility makes it easier to stay upright. Also, squatting facing a wall forces you to stay upright instead of bending over because you’ll hit your face on the wall if you do! Amazing how that causes change.
Fix: Drop the weight! While weight is definitely the biggest reason for the knees pressing inside, narrowing your stance also can help. If your feet are too wide, your knees will be set up inside your feet before you even begin squatting, which makes it pretty difficult to keep them over your toes throughout the move. Technically, we should all be squatting just about at hip width, so shoot for that over time. I guarantee you’ll get the heaviest weights in this position, over the long term, anyway.
Fix: There are a lot of ways to fix this, starting with mobility. Stretches for the hips such as the Spiderman, Pigeon, and Kneeling Hip Flexor are a good place to start. Additionally, sometimes the proper depth is just a totally foreign concept. Placing a medicine ball behind yourself when you squat is a good reminder of how deep you need to squat. Of course, everyone is a different height, so some may need an object bigger or smaller than a med ball to get the right height.