Squatting is one of the kings of all exercises. It is amazing for leg strength and development. It is outstanding for building your mental fortitude as well, because standing up with that weight on your back represents so many difficult situations in life. The issue is that so many people just can’t do it. If you ask someone why they don’t squat you often hear “Oh, I can’t squat because it hurts my knees.” Now for some this may just be an excuse not to do the exercise, but for many people they actually are getting knee pain while squatting. Sometimes it isn’t just pain, it could just feel uncomfortable and unstable. For me, I experienced both. First came the instability, and then came some pain. There are many reasons for this, which could range from lack of mobility to poor form. Today, I would like to focus on something a little different.
I have a question for you. When is the last time you jumped or ran since getting into the gym? Many of you may have not run or jumped in a long time. I was there at one point in my life. We get so obsessed with the weights that everything else just doesn’t matter and this is a huge mistake. While lifting weights and in this case squatting is amazing for achieving our individual fitness goals, it lacks something important. That something is impact. When you do primal movements like running and jumping, the impact of your feet hitting the ground force your joints, and the surrounding tissues to strengthen. If you do not do these impact movements your knees will lose structural integrity. Simply put your knees get weak and unstable if you don’t jump and run.
For me this was my issue. I did all of the mobility exercises, and worked on my hamstring strength, but my knees still felt so uncomfortable when I was squatting. Then by chance, I decided I wanted to add some jumping back into my training. Two weeks went by and when I was squatting it felt different. In fact it felt great. My knees felt more stable and there was no pain or pinching. The lack of impact movements that the human joints are meant for left me with weak, unstable knees. So when I added them back, my knees regained their strength and it allowed me to squat and move pain free. I encourage you to consider this if you have knee pain or instability while squatting. It could just be that you aren’t giving your knees the impact they need to be strong and stable. If you don’t have knee pain, start running and jumping anyway so it can prevent this from ever happening in the future. Just make sure you learn proper running and jumping mechanics before so you don’t get injured doing those movements either. Don’t forget to also take your time. If you haven’t been running or jumping, your joints are not going to be ready for it; so ease into it. Just some light jumping and jogging at first, and gradually increase it to more explosive jumping movements and sprinting.
Please let me know if you have experienced these issues, and if impact movements like running or jumping have helped you.
*Note this is simply my experience and I am not telling you to do anything. Always ask your physician before starting an exercise program.
Author: Mike Cuccio