Knee Pain and Squat Warm-ups

If you’ve lifted for any length of time, you’ve likely dealt with bouts of knee pain, it’s part of the game. Having spent a few decades under a heavy bar, I’ve learned the hard way that if you are not addressing mobility and performing regular maintenance activities (massages/myofascial release, chiro treatments, etc.) you are going to become closely acquainted with pain.

A relatively common cause of knee pain is excessively tight quads. As the quad becomes tight it creates an imbalance in muscle tension on the patella which results in knee pain. I’ve found that simply adding Bulgarian Split Squats to your warm-ups/dynamic stretching for a squat session can have a tremendously positive effect on knee pain.

Disclaimer: This discussion assumes you don’t have physical damage to your knees; if you do have a physical problem/weakness with your knee structure, get medical clearance before performing intensive kneel/unilateral lifts like split squats.

When used as a warmup, you don’t need to turn split squats into a mini-workout. A few guidelines I use:

  • 3-4 sets of 5 reps
  • Bodyweight only, no added weight
  • Take a large step forward to set up, so you can get a good stretch in the quads and hips
  • Use a bench high enough to stretch the rear leg until your knee points straight down
  • Pause and really push the rear leg down to fully stretch your quad and hips
  • Focus on keeping your core really tight to maintain balance

After split squats I go right into squat warm-ups with the bar.

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