Since asking this question quite some time ago I have been on a quest to be able to squat.

I quickly managed to solve the ankle issue I was having by stretching daily against objects under my desk at work, but I still wasn't able to perform a squat. I can get parallel and all the way down into quite a low squat now without a bar, but once I add weight I find it really difficult and feel a lot of pain in my groin, inside my thighs, around the knees and and in my ankles (which make a crunching sound as I get to parallel).

I read the first chapter of Starting Strength and watched a tonne of videos of Mark explaining the squat. I noticed him mention that the knees should be outward in the same direction as your toes throughout the movement (at about 30 degrees). This is when I realized that when I stand up and point my feet straight ahead, my knees actually point inward at about 20-30 degrees. I also noticed that when I stand and walk, I generally do so with my toes pointed outward. This becomes an issue when I try to squat because I end up with my feet angling out extremely far so that my knees are wide enough to perform the squat (exceeding 45 degrees). If I try maintain a 30 degree angle with my feet all the way down, my knees end up buckling in the middle.

Is this problem something I can work on, or am I just born this way? Would I need to get an operation on my knees maybe to correct it, or are there exercises that I can perform to correct the angle of my knees over time? Any advice is appreciated. If anyone has any experience with this problem, especially related to performing a squat, then please share how you overcame it.

PS I have been squatting for several months; I've been using the Smith Machine and I haven't been able to increase my weight at all since starting even though I do them every week. I assume bad form because of my knees and the use of the Smith Machine is the reason for this. I have however increased my weight on leg press machine immensely (started on 40kg, now do 160kg).

1 Answer 1


This problem is called "valgus" knee. Its is more common for females due to the anatomy - wider hip and slight larger Q angle. However, here are some very common problems for most people with valgus knee, especially during squatting and landing:

  1. Weakness in hip abductors
  2. Weakness in hip external rotators
  3. Pronated feet (flat feet)
  4. Weakness in posterior chain of hip and knee (glutes and hamstring)
  5. Tightness in ITB
  6. Can be due to bad habit

Here is how to fix this:

  1. Strengthen your hip abductors
  2. Strengthen your posterior chain (glutes and hamstring)
  3. Stretch your Tensor Fascia Latae
  4. Either practice in front of a mirror or have someone continue to watch your form to give you feedback while performing a squat

Here are some great scientific journal articles about this topic:

  1. Hip influences knee problems
  2. Hip muscle weakness and knee valgus

Here are some exercises to fix this problem:

  1. TFL stretches
  2. Single leg squat
  3. Stability ball hamstring curl
  4. Monster walk
  5. Single leg reaching

Try to stretch everyday, especially during breaks on leg days. For the rest, try to perform 3 sets of 10-15 reps, 3 days per week with one day of rest in between, focusing on the form.

I hope this helps!

  • Thank you, this helped my understanding of the condition immensely. That said, I was after an answer explaining exercises, stretches and so in that I could do to correct or at least mitigate the problem.
    – Marty
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 22:11
  • I'm forcing my knees straight while standing on the train to work and it's really straining my glutes down around the back of my thighs and the outside of my knees. Maybe if I just do this everyday it will gradually straighten out?
    – Marty
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 22:30
  • @MartyWallace You have to do more than just forcing your knees straight while standing on the train. Please see my latest (edited) answer.
    – QikMood
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 1:56
  • Ah, they look pretty useful. I'll give it a go, thanks. Any insight into how long it might take me doing this three times a week before I can squat normally?
    – Marty
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 2:03
  • 1
    @MartyWallace Studies show that it will take about 6-8 weeks.
    – QikMood
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 2:14

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