When it comes to strength and muscle building, squats are an essential exercise. Along with deadlifts and the bench press, squats complete the Big Three in resistance training; however, the exercise is not without risk, and poor form can lead to lasting injuries which will affect your training and progress. If you have sustained a knee injury whilst squatting, read on for some tips on how to accelerate your healing time and get back to 100% as soon as possible.
Assessing the Damage
Clearly, some injuries will be more serious than others. If you experience mild discomfort when kneeling down or feelings of diminished strength, your knee has not been significantly injured and the following guide will be of use to you. If you have more serious difficulty moving around in your everyday life, a visit to a physiotherapy clinic may be in order to more thoroughly assess the damage and plan of action.
Most squat-related injuries arise when the knees have moved laterally during the movement, or when inordinate pressure is concentrated on the joint through erratic transitions between lowering and raising the weight. The first step in your recovery should be leg straightening exercises, which will help rebuild strength and range of motion. From a seated position, straighten your legs in turn so that they are parallel to the ground. Pull your toes back towards you, and try to lock out your knee. Hold this static pose for 3 sets of 15 seconds, daily or twice daily as your body will allow.
Begin your journey back towards weighted squats with the bodyweight-only version. In rebuilding strength and range of motion, low-weight, high repetition training is of the greatest benefit. Three sets of twenty bodyweight reps should be the first target to meet. If this is too difficult, or if the exercise is painful, reduce the repetitions until all sets can be completed with minimal discomfort. Note: Some discomfort is perfectly normal and expected when rehabilitating a joint; however, the first instance of sharp or jarring pain is a sign to cease the exercise and contact a professional.
Limited Resistance Squats
Again, following the high repetition, low-weight mantra, slowly add resistance to your squats over the following days or even weeks. Begin very small, with light dumbbells, before moving back to the barbell variety. Rebuilding slowly is essential, as taking on too much weight too quickly can not only cause the damage to return, it will most often be worse the second time. Patience is key. Continue with this approach as long as is necessary until you have returned to full strength and if you have any doubts along the way, be sure to contact a qualified physiotherapist to monitor your recovery. Good luck!