Weak muscles are bad for your knees.
Strong muscles hold on tight to your knees, and all joints, to keep things secure.
Strong muscles around all of your joints is the best plan you can have for healthy joints.
But there is more to it than that. I bet at some point you have started a new fitness program or training plan and a few weeks into it, you feel some joint soreness set in. What is the deal?
There is good news and some less good news.
The good news is that you are getting stronger!
The not less good news is that your joints may not be operating quite the way they were designed to. This leads to more wear and tear than needed or wanted. And it leads to sore knees.
There is more good news. If you keep going, things should get better. You may need to slow down or reduce weight, speed, etc for a period of time, but things will likely improve with time. This is because more deliberate exercise should strengthen muscles through the core, hip, legs and feet. As the whole system gains strength, your knees will likely start to feel better.
But there is something you can do to speed up this process. And that is to improve your form. Investing attention on the basics rarely disappoints.
How can you improve your squat form?
I have 3 suggestions for you.
#1: Slow down.
This is the most simple and effective way to improve any exercise. There is no long explanation needed. Just give it a try.
Go slow as you squat down, add a pause at the bottom, and go steady on the way up.
You may have to decrease the weight for a time. That is ok. You will not lose strength. Strength takes time to build. Remember that you are in this for the long process. Slow down and get really good at the movement so that you can do it for a long time.
#2: Breathe through your nose.
You probably want to skip this one because it is silly. Don’t skip this one.
This point is to properly use your core and diaphragm. Breathing is the basic diaphragm “exercise,” and breathing through the nose instead of mouth is the best way to improve your breathing.
Training your abs and core muscles are related to this and contribute to better squats. Here is why. For your knees to function properly, your hips must be functioning properly and be mobile. The hips are stabilized by the core. Having a strong and aligned core and diaphragm will allow your hips to work better. Better hips in turn lets the knees and finally the ankles and feet to line up just right.
This is why we include core work in every class warm-up. Small daily effort makes a difference!
#3: Train the posterior chain.
Posterior chain means the muscles on the back side of the body. Squats will train some of these muscles, to an extent.
It will be to your advantage to include exercises that focus on the glutes, hamstrings, calves, and back. Exercises like deadlifts, kettlebell swings, sled dragging, sprints, and olympic lifting are commonly used in CrossFit workouts.
If you continue to show up for class, we will have you covered on this point.
Your action steps this week:
#1: Go for a ten minute walk every day. There are some rules to help you get the most out of this walk. You must walk at a brisk pace while letting your arms swing. And you must breathe only through your nose!
Does this sound too easy for you? It might be. If so, upgrade to a ten minute daily run. Again the rule is that you must breathe through that fancy nose.
#2: Use slow reps as you squat this week.
Give this a try once, and I know you will be hooked! Your body is really cool and has the ability to reset itself if given the right stimulus.