Why Squats Hurt – Are they Safe?

Squatting is one of my favorite exercises! It’s also actually one of the most beneficial when it comes to maximizing your relative strength. But …. what if your squats hurt? If you have pain when you squat you may be wondering: Are squats safe to do?? Should you even squat at all??

A doctor (or an inexperienced coach) might tell you, “If it hurts, don’t do it.”

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to it than that.

As with everything, if your squats hurt, we need to examine why it hurts.

Are you performing the movement incorrectly? Is your stance too wide (or too narrow) for your anatomy? Do you have short thigh muscles, inflexible ankles or tight hips?

Do you have a strength imbalance (i.e. one leg is stronger than the other) dominating the movement and causing compensation and pain?

All of this information can be acquired from a short, simple assessment … so we’d start there.

Here are some of the reasons you may be hurting from doing squats:


If it’s a question of skill, we need to put the dumbbells away for a while and work on rebuilding and relearning the squat pattern from the bottom up. Then we can execute the squat correctly and safely before adding external weight.


If it’s the stance, we can quickly determine what the ideal and most comfortable stance should be for each individual based on their anatomy and flexibility.


If it’s a lack of tissue flexibility or joint mobility, we’ll need to spend some time performing corrective exercises to improve that. Just doing more squats is not going to help.


If it’s a strength imbalance, we’d need to focus on any number of awesome and highly effective single-leg strength exercises (split squats, lunges, step-ups) until the weaker side catches up to the stronger side.


After reading that, you can probably understand why simply eliminating an exercise because it hurts might not be the right thing to do.

Sometimes, all we have to do is other “re-balancing” exercises before we can move on to more complex exercises.

It’s not uncommon for us to see a new client in our facility who doesn’t squat comfortably or correctly. When this happens, we work on more remedial exercises to strengthen their hip muscles before we can have them squat safely.

So, if your squats hurt or you have pain when you lunge or even press something overhead — it might not be that you shouldn’t do that movement anymore. You just might need to do some other exercises first, under the guidance of a trained professional, before attempting the exercise in question. But, you may very well be able to do that “painful” exercise at some point in the future– and do it pain free!


If you’ve got a painful “glitch” somewhere in your movement patterns and it concerns you — consider setting up a 30 minute consultation with me.

It costs you nothing except your time — and you might just get the benefit of being in less pain down the road ;-).

Fill out the form below or contact us here if you’d like to set up a time to talk! We’d love to hear from you!

Committed to your (pain free!) success,

Coach Becky

Consultation Form

Squat for Life

As babies and toddlers, we were able to squat for hours. It is actually considered a resting position in many cultures. A person’s ability (or inability) to squat is a good indication of his or her physical condition. One must not only possess a flexible body, but also have well-developed leg and back muscles. Although we were exceptionally good at it long ago, the lack of practice in squatting could render a person incapable of squatting, or to maintain the squatting position for more than a minute. Full squatting involves resting one’s weight on the feet with the buttocks resting on the backs of the calves. Most western adults cannot place their heels flat on the ground when squatting because of shortened Achilles tendons largely caused by habitually sitting on chairs or seats and wearing shoes with heels (especially high heels). For this reason the squatting position is usually not sustainable for more than a few minutes as heels-up squatting is a less stable position than heels-down squatting. With continual practice, we can get back to the full squat position we were used to as a child.

Top 8 Benefits of Squats

  1. Builds Muscle in Your Entire Body. Squats not only build leg muscles but they also create an anabolic environment, which promotes body-wide muscle building. In fact, when done properly, squats are so intense that they trigger the release of testosterone and human growth hormone in your body, which are vital for muscle growth and will also help to improve muscle mass when you train other areas of your body aside from your legs.
  2. Functional Exercise Makes Real-Life Activities Easier. Functional exercises are those that help your body to perform real-life activities, as opposed to simply being able to operate pieces of gym equipment. Squats are one of the best functional exercises. When you perform squats, you build muscle and help your muscles work more efficiently, as well as promote mobility and balance. All of these benefits translate into your body moving more efficiently in the real world too.
  3. Burn More Fat. One of the most time-efficient ways to burn more calories is actually to gain more muscle. For every pound of additional muscle you gain, your body will burn an additional 50-70 calories per day. So, if you gain 10 pounds of muscle, you will automatically burn 500-700 more calories per day than you did before.
  4. Maintain Mobility and Balance. Strong legs are crucial for staying mobile as you get older, and squats are phenomenal for increasing leg strength. They also work out your core, stabilizing muscles, which will help you to maintain balance, while also improving the communication between your brain and your muscle groups, which helps prevent falls – which is incidentally the number one way to prevent bone fractures versus consuming mega-dose calcium supplements and bone drugs.
  5. Prevent Injuries. Most athletic injuries involve weak stabilizer muscles, ligaments and connective tissues, which squats help strengthen. They also help prevent injury by improving your flexibility (squats improve the range of motion in your ankles and hips) and balance, as noted above.
  6. Boost Your Sports Performance – Jump Higher and Run Faster. Squatting strength has been linked to athletic ability and therefore has helped athletes run faster and jump higher. That’s why this exercise is part of virtually every professional athlete’s training program.
  7. Tone Your Backside, Abs and Entire Body. Few exercises work as many muscles as the squat, so it is an excellent multi-purpose activity useful for toning and tightening your behind, abs and of course your legs.
  8. Help with Waste Removal. Squats improve the pumping of body fluids, aiding in removal of waste and delivery of nutrition to all tissues, including organs and glands. They’re also useful for improved movement of feces through your colon and more regular bowel movements.

Try these tips to perform a proper squat.

  1. Warm up.
  2. Stand with your feet just over shoulder width apart.
  3. . Keep your back in a neutral position, and keep your knees centered over your feet.
  4. Slowly bend your knees, hips and ankles, lowering until you reach a 90-degree angle.
  5. Return to starting position – repeat 15-20 times, for 2-3 sets for beginners (do this two or three times a week). As you practice over several weeks you’ll be able to slowly lower yourself to full squat.
  6. Breathe in as you lower; breathe out as you return to starting position.

Squats have been criticized for being destructive to your knees, but research shows that when done properly squats actually improve knee stability and strengthen connective tissue. Get your trainer to watch to make sure your form is correct to prevent injury. Go ahead, squat!

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