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Should You Stop Squatting?

[ read time ~3 minutes + VIDEOs ]

Squats are an essential part of life. Sitting down on a couch, getting out of a car, and rising from a chair all involve squatting.

Squats make it easier to play with young children, get up from the floor, plant a garden or clean a bath tub. Ascending or descending a flight of stairs requires several shallow squats on each leg.

In her New York Times article, The Power of a Squat, Gretchen Reynolds states, "squats are key to living and aging well." Moreover, research supports squatting in safe ways to improve knee osteoarthritis. (I wrote about this here.)

Unfortunately, when people have hip or knee pain, they are often told that they should stop squatting. This advice frustrates most people who enjoy being active.

I offer an alternative solution.

Rather than avoiding painful squats altogether, I recommend making the squat easy enough to complete with good form and without having symptoms.

This means the squat should not cause pain or swelling during the exercise, nor should pain or swelling occur hours later or the following day.

Most people with hip or knee pain can squat without pain if the squat becomes easy enough.

Sitting down or standing up from a standard chair may create hip or knee discomfort. In this case, using the chair's arm rests to support part of one's bodyweight often eliminates the pain.

Another way to support part of one's bodyweight is by using a Gray Cook Band. (I have no financial interest in suggesting the Gray Cook Band.) By securing it at the top of a door, and then placing the loop of tubing around one's trunk, an Assisted Chair Squat may be performed:

If pain still occurs during the Assisted Chair Squats, the difficulty of the exercise can be decreased further by performing the Assisted Eccentric Chair Squat:

Given the Assisted Eccentric Chair Squats still create pain or discomfort, I recommend increasing the height of the chair or using a taller stool.

When I'm working with clients, I determine how much of their body weight they can squat without pain during or afterwards. I use a Variable Incline Plane to measure their Squat Load Tolerance:

After I’ve identified a person’s Squat Load Tolerance, I can more accurately recommend what exercises and activities to temporarily avoid, and what specific exercises to perform.

The Variable Incline Plane offers a way for people to perform very gentle squats, by lying down on the machine at a very shallow slope:

Over time, the height of the Variable Incline Plane's slope may be increased to gradually use more bodyweight during the squats.

Strengthening the body in this way allows people to avoid injury and return to the squatting activities they enjoy-- such as hiking, gardening, and weight lifting-- without hip or knee pain.


For more information on strengthening knee joints, read How to Grow Strong Knee Joints and Can You Rebuild Knee Cartilage?

To determine if working with me is a good fit for you to improve your Squat Load Tolerance, schedule a Strategy Session by clicking here.

My colleague, Doug Kelsey, PT, PhD, and I have developed Better Knees for Life, a program for people with tolerable knee pain. Better Knees for Life offers step-by-step instructions that can be performed at home with very little equipment.

It helps you strengthen your knees from the inside-out (learn more about this approach by clicking here and here).

Better Knees for Life helps you get stronger, feel better and maybe best of all, feel more in control of your life.

What people are saying about Better Knees for Life :

"...well thought out, easy to understand and implement."

"BKL (Better Knees for Life) is an outstanding program -- with graded exercise programs and guidelines for advancing, and outstanding support with the Zoom sessions."

"I've already recommended BKL to 2-3 friends because of the noticeable difference in reducing pain in my left knee."

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Carol* was recently telling me about her knees. Over the past couple of years, her knees had become "achy." They weren't constantly uncomfortable, but they were noticeably painful when she knelt down

2 comentários

Laurie Kertz Kelly
Laurie Kertz Kelly
22 de abr. de 2022

Thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like your patience and perseverance has allowed you to return to many of your activities.

Strengthening your outer hip muscles supports knee alignment. However, it's possible to sustain skeletal changes that can't be overcome by muscular forces.

That being said, you can continue to work on the strength inside your knee to mitigate occasional discomfort and make it more resilient to withstand the forces that your activities require.

Here are a few resources:

All the best to you!



21 de abr. de 2022

In early November 2021 I had a lateral plateau fracture of the tibia on my right leg. It was awful!! But, I got into PT as soon as I could, and I’m now continuing to work on my own. I am able to do unassisted squats, which I do every other day (2 sets of 10), along with stretching and bending my knee, as well as practicing going up and down steps (I use one of those exercise steps). I’m 70, and I’m really proud of myself for making this much progress so quickly (although it seems like forever). The one thing that is bothering me (along with some occasionally discomfort) is the fact that my knee now looks like it’s…

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