It has taken me around 6 or 7 years of squatting multiple times per week to find this out. I have tried and tested lots of different things. I had given up hope that knee valgus was just my anatomy and it was something that could never be fixed. But I believe I have finally found the remedy. Spotters who watch me squat have noticed a massive improvement in the behaviour and movement of my knees.
Here is what has worked for me, better than any other method I have tried…
I don’t believe there’s any such thing as too much squatting, if you know what you’re doing. In the last three months I have been squatting five times per week (a combination of back, front and overhead) and my body has adapted to this.
I have also changed my programming. Since I am a strength athlete, I have spent the last couple of years prioritising heavy squats such as in the 5×5 programme. I hadn’t gone over 5 reps until three months ago. I stopped 5 rep squatting and instead, I have changed things around and now I’m doing 4×8-10 twice a week. The weight is less but the overall volume is more (5×5 is 25 reps compared to 4×10 which is 40 or 4×8 which is 32) and the total amount of weight lifted per session is about the same. Not only has this increased rep and set training improved my mental toughness and cardiovascular endurance, it has given me enough chances to really focus on my form and my knees.
Glute medius activation
I always knew my glute medius was responsible for the knee valgus, to some extent, however until three months ago I had not worked out the optimal way to activate it. I had tried a lot of things – clam shells, monster mini band walks, side raises, etc. You want to know what has finally made a difference? Weighted side leg raises. Before squatting, I always lie on the floor, hold a heavy weight plate on my outside thigh, and lift my leg up slowly and then down until I feel my glute medius burning. I repeat on the other leg. I vary how I do them – some days I’ll do 2 or 3 sets of say 20 lifts per leg (just before they fatigue) and other days I’ll just go all out max until I can’t do any more. Sometimes I’ll hold at the top for 10 seconds as well.
The image above illustrates how to do this exercise but, if you want to do what I do, hold a weight plate just above your knee to stress the glute medius even more.
These two things have helped me more than anything else ever has in reducing my knee valgus. I’ve also done some other things but I can’t tell you whether they’ve done much, these two listed here are the only two I’ve carried on doing consistently.
Other things I have done:
- Squat with ‘duck feet’, i.e. point toes out very wide. Some people disagree with this but if your hips are internally rotated too much then you need to compensate with toes out extremely wide. This position makes it much harder for the knees to move in. You can try it yourself – squat with normal feet vs toes very wide and make your knees cave each time. Do you notice a difference?
- Squat with knees together. You can do some warm up sets like this. If you squat with your thighs together then your knees have nowhere to collapse to since they are already touching. It’ll feel weird at first but this is a good exercise that hit the inner quads.
I really hope these tips help you. I would love to know. The key is however, consistency. You have to maintain these exercises over a period of time (ideally, months). I am still doing them and I plan to continue doing them until the time comes (if it ever does!!!) when I can trust my knees to behave themselves on their own!