Knee pain when squatting - the perfect squat

The squat is a compound (= exercise in which movement takes place in several joints) exercise well known among strength athletes. It is an exercise that is used in the gym to strengthen the leg muscles, but it is much more than that! Regularly training the leg muscles through exercises such as squats can even help maintain physical capabilities later in life.

The squat:

The squat is a compound (= exercise in which movement occurs in multiple joints) exercise that is well known among strength athletes. It is an exercise used in the gym to strengthen the leg muscles, but is much more than that! Squatting is really nothing more than squatting/bending and has been a part of your exercise routine since childhood. Think back to your childhood, when you were tired of standing so you went to squat for a while. Even at a later age the squat is a frequent part of our daily movement pattern, for example when we have to pick something up from the ground and even somewhat when we stand/sit on a chair. Regular training of the leg muscles by means of, among other things, squats can even contribute to maintaining physical capabilities in later life.

Muscle activation:

When we start analyzing the squat we find that it is an exercise in which the calf muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes are primarily trained. In addition, there is a lot of activity in the muscles of the spine to stabilize the body. This is called trunk rigidity or trunk stability and is necessary to ensure that we do not fall over. In short, an exercise with great potential! There is a certain technique involved in performing a squat in the gym. Its purpose is to set up conditions to ensure the safety of the athlete.
This is what a (back)squat looks like;
  • Place your feet hip-width apart with the toes pointing slightly outwards
  • Tilt your pelvis slightly to create a slightly concave back.
  • Sink down making sure to keep the weight on the back/center of the foot and the upper body upright as much as possible
  • Prevent the knees from going in
  • Sink to a hip angle of at least 90 degrees while keeping the upper body as upright as possible

The perfect squat:

We can state that a good execution of the squat is important to achieve optimal training results and to ensure your own safety. However, practice has shown time and again that athletes pay too little attention to technique and consider the training weight much more important. This is where the risk of knee injuries from squatting increases. If you're going to squat, and certainly if you're going to squat with extra weight, you want to have a good foundation. Compare it to a house, without a solid foundation the house will never be strong enough to support the structure.
Knee pain when squatting


In the gym we often see people squatting on a shoe like the Airmax or a shoe with a very thick sole. This is at the expense of stability because the surface is less solid. It is better to wear a simple flat shoe or a specially designed squat shoe. This ensures maximum stability. If we look at what you especially do not want to do is squatting on a shoe with an air cushion like the Airmax. This is at the expense of stability. Furthermore, we often see people who place their feet close together. This is at the expense of your range of motion because the abdomen is held back by the legs. It is better to perform the squat with the legs on shoulder width. Then you have space for the belly to go between the legs and you can make an optimal range of motion. Many people (especially beginners) tend to let their knees fall inwards during the squat. Try to push your knees outwards so that everything moves in the same line. Last but not least, knees past the toes, because that's not allowed, right? Wrong! There is a myth surrounding the squat that the knees should not pass the toes, as this would increase the risk of injury. This is incorrect. It is fine for the knees to pass the toes during the squat, as long as it does not start the movement. Rather, you want to ensure that the movement is initiated by moving the hips and buttocks backward while the knees are bent. If at the end of the movement it happens that the knees come more to the front, we are totally fine with that!


If you do experience knee problems with the squat now, make use of the following tips;
  • Make sure your squat technique is good. You can check this by filming your squat and watch it again. Also, the assessment of the squat by a professional can be of added value.
  • If you have complaints with squatting, it may help to temporarily adapt the exercise. See what you can do and adapt the exercise by temporarily using less training weight or by reducing the range of motion.
  • When you have complaints, visit your physiotherapist to determine what is causing the complaints. The physiotherapist can make a diagnosis and come up with an adequate treatment plan together with you.

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