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I've had a long layoff from the gym due to health reasons but am finally able to get back into it now.

Recently I've been doing some backsquats (for the first time in years)... I noticed I was getting some slight pain in one of my knees.

It wasn't until I was able to find a different squat rack, one with a mirror, where I realised I was sorta leaning more to one side when squatting, and basically putting most of my weight on the side that was starting to hurt.

So it got me thinking... if I have no mirror, and no gym buddy, how can I avoid these things happening in future?

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3 Answers 3

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Hard to say without knowing you or your training routine, but yes everyone is somewhat asymmetrical, more or less. What can you do to mitigate problems squatting:

  • since you were off for quite a while, you should come back slowly - squat a few weeks with less weight than you used to (especially if you used to squat heavy) and gradually add weight to get back where you were without pain. Let your body get used to the weight again.
  • do some unilateral work - single leg RDL and lunges, for example, to strengthen and help with muscle coordination.
  • don't forget to warm up properly. Squat with light weight for a few reps before getting into your working weight.
  • you don't need a mirror to squat properly. Squat with light weights + high reps at a low speed and proper depth, add a pause at the bottom. your body will learn how to balance the bar on your back. You can also use your phone camera to record a few sets - as long as you don't block other people from working out, at public gyms - so you can watch in between sets and fix your form.
  • do some mobilization exercises for hips, ankles. It could be as simple as a few minutes with a couple of dynamic stretches before squatting, to help lubricating the joints and pump some blood into the muscles.
  • to help with bracing your core, incorporate some core exercises - marching suitcase carry, hanging leg raises, or side planks, for example. It will carry over to your squat helping hold the bar on your back.
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I had a similar problem and watched lots of videos and practiced with no weight. Another thing that helps is having someone that knows technique correct you and watch you squat (one time trainer?). Make sure to engage your abs to not extend your back, align your knees with your toes, watch your knees to make sure they don't cave in during your squat and keep your gaze on the wall as if you are looking at something behind you & between your feet (help with head position).

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The most likely cause of an uneven squat is a muscular imbalance, meaning for whatever reason one of your legs may be stronger/weaker than the other. You could test this by simply doing a unilateral exercise such as single leg split squats or a single leg RDL and seeing if one side can perform more reps or lift more weight and therfore is stronger. Keep using these unilateral exercises to correct the imbalance as traing each side independently means that neither one side can end up taking more of the load than other and therfore works each side equally. Of course for this to correct the imbalance you must, once identified, do the weaker side first and match the load and volume to the weaker side. E.g. if your left leg is weaker, do the split squats on the left leg first. If you used 10kg dumbells and managed 8 reps, then make sure to use the same 10kg dumbells on the right, and again only do 10 reps, even if you feel you could do more.

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  • I’m not sure this is correct. I don’t have a citation either, but no one is perfectly symmetrical in their physiology, and it seems likely having an asymmetrical skeleton could also be to blame.
    – Thomas Markov
    May 4 at 19:25

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