Squats have rightly earned their reputation as a great cross training exercise for athletes to increase strength especially in the glutes. However, repetitive improper squat form can result in painful overuse injuries such as tendinitis or even damage to the knee joint or behind the kneecap.
In a correct squat position, the front of your knees are parallel to each other and in line with your ankles (not your toes). In other words, most of your weight is in your heels, and you are leaning far back into an almost seated position. If you squat improperly with your knees caving in towards each other (knock knees) or with your knees extending over the front of your toes, you are significantly increasing the force on the knee and causing excessive strain. This may cause knee pain during or after exercise and could cause injury.
If you suspect your knee pain could be the result of improper squat form, rest for a couple of days. If you experience pain when you return to exercise, seek an evaluation from a medical professional. If you find the correct squat position is difficult to achieve or maintain, you can modify by holding onto a stationary object such as a bar or tabletop while squatting until you find your balance.
I’m surprised by how many people in fitness centers I see doing squats improperly. Even if you think you’re doing squats correctly double check yourself in the mirror, and make some form tweaks if necessary. After all, you want all your hard work to help you achieve success, not injury!