The squat is a great movement for improving strength, power, etc. Often times, athletes experience pain in the ankles, knees, hips, low back, and/or shoulders. There are a multitude of reasons why someone may experience pain ranging from sub-par technique to bony or soft tissue limitations.
If you are squatting and have tried foam rolling your quads or worked on improving your hip mobility, then there may be a few other options you haven’t tried to decrease strain at adjacent joints so that you can squat effectively and pain-free.
*Remember, if these tips don't help and you are still having pain, make sure to seek out a licensed medical provider.
Here are 3 Quick Tips for Pain-Free Squatting
1. Widen Your Stance
Not everyone is created equal. Not everyone is made to squat shoulder width apart. Due to bony, capsular, and soft tissue limitations or differences between right and left legs as well as between people, squatting shoulder width apart may not be feasible for all people.
If squatting shoulder width apart causes pain, doesn't allow for adequate depth, or feels awkward, try moving your feet out 1 inch per side. Try again. If that doesn’t feel good, try going another inch. Then another. Try squatting after each change and see if there is an improvement.
2. Toe Out!
As mentioned before, not everyone is made to squat shoulder width apart. With that being said, not everyone is made to squat with their toes straight ahead. There is a myth that you must squat with your feet pointing straight ahead. As mentioned before, due to soft tissue, capsular, or bony changes, squatting with the feet straight ahead may not be an option.
Try squatting straight ahead. If that doesn’t work, slightly turn your feet out.
You can toe out slightly more if that feels better. As mentioned before with width, there comes a point where there is diminishing returns and toeing out too much can actually decrease your ability to move as much weight as possible and can place you at an increased risk for injury.
Let’s not sway the pendulum too far in one direction and squat with the toes completely pointing out to the sides of your body. Find the right position for you.
If your squat feels better and you can squat more effectively with your toes slightly turned out, then try incorporating that into your training.
3. Two Feet, Two Different Positions
Lastly, not everyone is made to squat with their feet in the same exact positions right versus left. Some athletes have differences in their hip structure right versus left that need to be appreciated. Some clients or athletes may have more or less hip internal rotation on one side versus another and squatting with a leg slightly externally rotated more may feel the best for them.
So, if you are squatting and something hurts or doesn’t feel right, trying turning your feet out, widening your stance, performing your squat slightly different side to side, or a combination of these!
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