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F.I.T. Tips: Knee Pain? Do This! Front Foot Elevated Split Squat

With Gavin Buehler

The full range split squat is one of my favorite lower body movements and even more so when the modification of elevating the front foot is added. If you experience knee pain, this modification might be an easy fix that allows you to keep your joint moving and strengthen the surrounding muscles to help improve its alignment and stability and alleviate some of that pain.

We live in “use it or lose it” bodies and brains. Numerous studies have shown that when we cease to use our muscles and joints in certain patterns, the ability to perform those patterns diminishes, the same happens with the neuroplasticity of the brain. That is why it is so important to keep moving and practice full movement patterns.

When we move our joints, a lubricating fluid is produced that helps keep them healthy and nourished. Without movement, this fluid becomes absent and the joints will become stiff, immobile and possibly achy. This is another reason why joints need to move.

Knee pain is often the result of an alignment issue causing excessive friction to the structures surrounding and/or within the joint. One of the common areas where pain is felt in the knee is under or around the knee cap. This pain often flares up with activities that produce a forward and down force, such as walking down stairs. When the knee bends under this kind of pressure, the thigh bone glides forward creating greater tension on the tendons and ligaments surrounding the kneecap and on the cap itself. If these structures are already exasperated due to another mechanical issue, this simple motion will cause pain.

We learned above that movement is important to maintain and restore joint health. But we don’t want the movement to cause pain. We need to modify the movement in order to achieve the results we are looking for.

The split squat incorporates multiple joints and muscles all important to knee health as well as challenges balance and proprioception. Its functional carry over is undeniable. But sore knees don’t like this movement pattern unless we add elevation to that front foot to distribute the load and force appropriately. All that being said, if you perform this movement out of context or with poor form and alignment, it will likely still feel uncomfortable. As always please consult a health professional before attempting new exercises, as the following suggestions may or may not be appropriate for you.

This video provides a quick overview of why we might elevate the front foot for the split squat and how to perform it properly.

Hopefully, you find these tips helpful. Thanks for watching!


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