Do you ever feel like your knees cave in? Has your training partner told you they do when you squat? This is called knee valgus and no worries, it is pretty common and you are not alone. The reason you may not be able to hit the depth you want when squatting could be due to one of these reasons as well. Below we will discuss several reasons why your knees cave in during squats involving the foot, coordination, and hip strength. We all want to squat, right? Remember, you are also allowed to have multiple reasons this may be occurring. If pain is associated with squatting, make sure to contact a physical therapist (US!) to get it sorted out. If you have issues with your squat outside of knee valgus, check out our blog on the “5 Best Tips For Fixing Your Squat“.
The Pronated Foot and Knee Valgus
An over-pronated foot is often called a flat foot. These can be structural or muscular in nature both resulting in knees caving in by the joint and bone movements as you progress through the squat. In order to help with this there are shoes and inserts that can address this change in foot mechanics. Once this is addressed the knee valgus will potentially correct itself! Small adjustments can make a big difference. The muscular portion of this involves the foot intrinsic muscles and ankle control as well, which would be easily guided by a health professional.
Controlling Knee Valgus Is KEY!
Quality always supersedes weight and/or PRs when it comes to lifting, but this is very true for someone new to squatting. Practice really does make perfect. Squatting is just like any other skill we learn and requires good quality repetitions. Training your body and brain to move the way you want it is easily done in front of a mirror, or recording yourself. Practicing the path your knees should go with very light weight on the bar or even while performing air squats is a great place to start. You should be able to do the correct patterning unweighted before you continue to add weight to the bar! One common cue used by coaches and professionals is to, “push your knees out,” as you descend is a good phrase to keep in mind.
There’s More Than Just Glute Max!
There are two other main hip muscles that play a role in your squat, especially when it comes to your knees caving in. The gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus are mainly hip abductors/prime stabilizers. Hip abductors are muscles that move your thighs away from your midline. When these are not as strong as they should be, you could potentially see your knee valgus creep in during squats. These are not normally muscles that we isolate that often in training sessions regardless of type of exercise.
What Can You Do About Knee Valgus?
Banded Knee Squat
The first exercise to try works both the gluteus medius and minimus more and also works on motor control, the banded knee squat. Place a band around just above the knees and squat. But, as you are squatting the band provides the cue for your knees to push outwards, working those hip muscles and the coordination. Be sure on the way up to keep the tension in the band as well. Be sure to do this with a high number of repetitions, fifteen to twenty, in order to get more benefit and efficiency out of your time.
Single Leg Squat
The next exercise is the single leg squat from an elevated surface. When standing with one leg you will want to really focus on keeping the knee in-line with your foot or even a little bit to the outside toes. Building strength from a high surface then decreasing the height over time is key for the success of this exercise. You can start with both feet supporting when descending and just one leg doing the work on the way up to start. Progress to just a single leg for both descent and return to standing when you feel less wobbly in your knee.
Looking For A Permanent Solution to Knee Valgus or Knee Pain?
These are some common causes we see when knee valgus occurs with squatting. Trying these exercises or fixes could help you solve this issue. BUT! If pain is associated with any of the parts of squatting and evaluation by one of our physical therapy doctors is needed. Incorrectly loading or addressing the wrong thing could perpetuate the pain and problems. Contact us for a free phone consultation about your problem!