The squat is a basic movement pattern that we use in our daily life, hence why including some form of squat in your routine will be beneficial.
But, what if it hurts?
A doctor (or an inexperienced coach) might tell you, “If it hurts, don’t do it.”
There’s a lot more to it than that.
If something hurts, 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 quads, 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.
Skill? We need to put the barbell away for a while and work on rebuilding and relearning the squat pattern from the bottom up so we can execute it correctly and safely.
Stance? We can quickly determine what the ideal and most comfortable stance should be for each individual based on their anatomy and flexibility.
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.
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.
One more point about pain.
Exercise should never cause acute pain. For me, that’s anything 5 or more on a scale of 1-10. If we hit or exceed that threshold, it’s time to step away and reassess.
But, learning how to safely train with a pain threshold below five can unlock plenty of benefits.
First, it makes us more aware and sensitive about how to safely train through minor discomfort and still get the benefits of the exercise.
Second, oftentimes pain is a sign of weakness. If a certain exercise causes pain, eliminating the exercise, may not do anything to resolve that weakness or strength imbalance.
In fact, it could actually make it worse.
But also, remember that you need to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone while training.
Just something to think about. Hopefully, that helps you make better and more informed decisions about your training.