Goblet squats and joint mobility

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Isaac M

Level 1 Valued Member
I everyone! First post so bear with me. I recently started S&S. I am loving kettlebell strength training! I feel like it's the fitness program I always wanted. I was doing swings and TGUs before S&S came. Now I am implementing the warm up of goblet squats, hip bridges, and halos.

So here's the rub. Goblet squats bother my knees. So I went to my brother (certified personal trainer) and he helped me correct my squat. But my squat is very narrow and doesn't go down very far. Everything feels fine until after my workout sometime. Then I feel like I strained my LCL slightly. Which to me is bad news.

I am pigeon toed (feet and legs naturally want to point inward) and I have always been terribly inflexible. Standing up I can only bend over and reach mid calf. Sitting down I can barely spread my legs past a 45 degree split. With me getting a lot more conscious of long term health, I am getting worried about my joints, especially because I feel like they are holding me back and maybe putting me at risk of injury.

I have to work out right after I get up in the morning. How can/should I start before my S&S training to protect my knees and hips and help increase permanent mobility?


About me: I'm 24 year old guy, 5' 11", 188 (I think around 170 is ideal for me), out of shape but getting back in. I lifted alot in highschool and never had any major injuries. I had a slight rhomboid tear about 8 years back and sprained my ankle when I was like 8. So nothing major. I am pigeon toed and. It flexible in my knees and hips.

Thanks for reading my WOT and replying!
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
@Isaac M, welcome to the StrongFirst forum.

Please take a video of your goblet squat, 45 degrees to the front for the camera. Post it somewhere, then post a link here.

Thanks.

-S-
 

jca17

Level 5 Valued Member
Hello and welcome! To start with, I think you have a safe looking squat there, and with some adjustments and improvements youll have a great squat.
First thing I think will help is to tense your abs more at the top. This will keep your spine in line from start to finish. Youll want to keep that tension throghout.

As for the pain, it doesn’t happen during the actual squat, right? Do not take this as the only advice since Im not a PT or doctor, but one thing you can check on your own is whether the muscle along the side of your thighs is sensitive to pressure. Do you have a foam roller? You can try rolling up and down the length of the outside thigh at about 45 degrees (so somewhere between a normal plank and side plank position).

Barring a sudden traumatic impact, it seems unlikely that you damaged lcl, espcecially if you dont even feel anything during the workout.

Again, Im not diagnosing anything, but theres kind of a checklist you can govtheough with pain from least expensive/least invadive solution to increasingly more difficult and expensive to fix injuries. Sometimes just some soft tissue work like self massage with foam roller or lacrosse ball takes care of it, but still consult a professional if its within your means. The spot you massage will often be “upstream” from where the pain is. So for outer knee, the bulge of muscle from about an inch up to halfway up the thigh can have triggerpoints/knots referring pain to outside knee.
Also, foam rolling inner thigh can help with your flexibility in opening your legs, and you may find an even more confortable squat stance when you have access to that range
 

Isaac M

Level 1 Valued Member
Hello and welcome! To start with, I think you have a safe looking squat there, and with some adjustments and improvements youll have a great squat.
First thing I think will help is to tense your abs more at the top. This will keep your spine in line from start to finish. Youll want to keep that tension throghout.

As for the pain, it doesn’t happen during the actual squat, right? Do not take this as the only advice since Im not a PT or doctor, but one thing you can check on your own is whether the muscle along the side of your thighs is sensitive to pressure. Do you have a foam roller? You can try rolling up and down the length of the outside thigh at about 45 degrees (so somewhere between a normal plank and side plank position).

Barring a sudden traumatic impact, it seems unlikely that you damaged lcl, espcecially if you dont even feel anything during the workout.

Again, Im not diagnosing anything, but theres kind of a checklist you can govtheough with pain from least expensive/least invadive solution to increasingly more difficult and expensive to fix injuries. Sometimes just some soft tissue work like self massage with foam roller or lacrosse ball takes care of it, but still consult a professional if its within your means. The spot you massage will often be “upstream” from where the pain is. So for outer knee, the bulge of muscle from about an inch up to halfway up the thigh can have triggerpoints/knots referring pain to outside knee.
Also, foam rolling inner thigh can help with your flexibility in opening your legs, and you may find an even more confortable squat stance when you have access to that range
Ok I'll try tensing my abs and see how that helps. Thanks for the tip!

I only get knee pain during the squat if I push my backside back to keep my knees from going over my toes. Or if my stance makes my knees cave. It's usually slight twinges of pain aftward. Just feels like I strained it slightly. It's doesn't prevent me from lifting though.

So my inner thigh is sensitive to pressure close to my groin area. Almost like where all of the tightness feels at when I try the splits and stuff.

So if I were to go out and get a foam roller. Am I looking to grab a smooth one or one of those "deep tissue" bumpy ones?
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
Just a couple thoughts.
First is that the discomfort you are feeling is liable to fade a bit as you become adapted to the work.

Second is that your form looks pretty good on the Goblet but I'd suggest pulling the KB in a bit tighter to your chest and keeping it there throughout the lift. In the video it looks like you are pushing it out from your body a bit. This really isn't a problem, but since you are having issues I'd avoid that for now.

Third, you might try just doing them with no load for a few. Their main justification is to loosen your hips and knees and get warmed up for the swing and TGU, so doing them unloaded is not really going to take much away, at least not initially.
 

Oscar

Level 6 Valued Member
I only get knee pain during the squat if I push my backside back to keep my knees from going over my toes.
I dont think that during the goblet squat is necessary or good to prevent the knees from going forward of the toes. In fact, I think knees forward of the toes is actually desirable, to bring the hips close to the heels and to improve ankle dorsiflexion. Take a look at Pavel from the book, his knees are way forward of the toes:

upload_2018-3-22_11-40-26.png
 

Sean M

Level 6 Valued Member
@Isaac M, welcome. All I can add is to keep at it, do the "prying" at the bottom (rotating left and right, and curling the bell up and down) - visualize your hips as a post in the ground that you are trying to wriggle free.

You could also try the (unweighted) face-the-wall variation where you stand close (1-3", or touching the wall if you can) to a wall and practice going below parallel while keeping the feet planted (balls of the feet don't come off the floor). Arms can be out to the side for balance.

I also train first thing in the morning and find rocking and some Flexible Steel mobility flows (such as this and this) help get me ready.

As you are new to S&S, don't skip or short-change the mobility work - it is an important foundation.
 

Steve W.

Level 6 Valued Member
I only get knee pain during the squat if I push my backside back to keep my knees from going over my toes.
I dont think that during the goblet squat is necessary or good to prevent the knees from going forward of the toes. In fact, I think knees forward of the toes is actually desirable, to bring the hips close to the heels and to improve ankle dorsiflexion.
+1.

I'm not going to speculate on a cause or cure for your knee pain, but there are two things I notice about your squat form.

One is that you sit BACK into the squat (more of a hinge pattern), instead of dropping your hips DOWN between your heels. This works okay down to about parallel, but to go lower you have to change your groove and squirm around to find more depth. Think about keeping your chest up and sitting down between your heels. Keep your weight balanced over your whole foot and don't worry a bit about your knees moving forward.

There are a lot of techniques that can help with squat mobility, but here's one to start with that I find can very effectively lead to increased depth. It's one that Brett Jones taught at an RKC cert in 2009, and I use it every time I do goblet squats, but I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere else:

Go down to your maximum depth and place your elbows on TOP of your knees (rather than inside, as prying is usually done). Push down with your elbows against the top your knees and try to lift your chest and extend your spine. Alternate the pushing down/extending with relaxing and you may find you can go A LOT lower than you started.

The second thing I notice about your squat is that your feet are nearly parallel. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, depending on individual anatomy and mobility, but it tends to impose a greater mobility demand than turning out the feet a little more. Experiment with your stance to find the most comfortable and natural width and amount of turnout.

Here's another move that may increase your toe touch and help with squat mobility:
You start by squatting all the way down, on the balls of your feet with your feet together, with hamstrings resting against calves and leaning forward with your chest against your thighs, basically a cannonball position. Make fists and place your knuckles on the floor just outside your feet. They can be even with your toes or a little in front. You can also do it with your feet farther apart (toes turned out as much as necessary) and your arms inside your thighs (as if you were preparing to do a frog stand).

Keeping your knuckles pressed against the floor, extend your legs as far as you can and roll back onto your whole foot. Keep pushing with your legs for about 30 seconds, keeping your knuckles pressed into the floor the whole time. Bend your legs and go back into a squat, then stand up.

Test your toe touch before and after and note any changes in the range of motion.

You can do this for multiple reps and throughout the day.

The idea is that your feet and hands are in the end position of a deep toe touch (beyond fingertips on the ground), although your body is all folded up so you can reach the ground. When you push with your legs, you won't be able to straighten them fully because you don't have the flexibility to do so in that position.

The force of your quads trying to straighten the legs puts tension on the hamstrings in a stretched position. When you release the stretch by squatting down again before standing up, the hamstrings relax.

It's just a tricky way of using a contract/relax contrast method, but the fact that the hands and feet are both fixed and supported in position seems to give it a more dramatic and immediate effect than most other stretches I've tried or used with others. I've had people go from barely being able to touch below knee level to touching their toes in one session using this drill.

My best guess is that your nervous system subconsciously feels safe in this position and allows the hamstrings to relax. Whereas in a lot of other stretches, the end range of the stretch feels subconsciously threatening and your nervous system resists allowing an increased range of motion.
 

jca17

Level 5 Valued Member
I only get knee pain during the squat if I push my backside back to keep my knees from going over my toes. Or if my stance makes my knees cave. It's usually slight twinges of pain aftward. Just feels like I strained it slightly. It's doesn't prevent me from lifting though.

So my inner thigh is sensitive to pressure close to my groin area. Almost like where all of the tightness feels at when I try the splits and stuff.
Ohhh, ok. So is it also the inside of your knees that feel pain? Either way, a foam roller can often help alleviate that "tight" feeling in inner thighs. I've used the plain old fashioned foam ones, but I also like the ones with a plastic core that tend to be a little harder. I would go with a flatter one (rather than the deep bumps) since I think this is going to be uncomfortable with how sensitive the muscles currently are.

Keep an eye on it, don't move through pain in those squats. If a slight adjustment makes it feel better, you can keep honing that groove, but if you keep getting the twinge for a few reps in a row, I would stop for the session. You can also lightly massage the area with your thumbs. Use your thumbs together for support and use your rocking body weight to massage so you don't wear out your fingers. Find a point thats sensitive and use a bearable (but still uncomfortable) pressure. Just push for like one inch strokes, 8-12 times. The goal isn't to massage it until its fixed. Sometimes that happens in just 10 strokes, but other times, you just gotta wait for the body to heal itself, with the massage just being a stimulus for that healing.

*These are do-it-yourself, noninvasive and free/inexpensive things you can do to see what's going on with the pain. Its not a diagnosis, and I recommend seeing a professional doc/pt if you can, and especially if the pain continues or grows after a few days of self massage.*
:)
 

Isaac M

Level 1 Valued Member
So I'd like to reply to everyone. But for time's sake... I will try some of the form tips suggested and see how it goes. I'm not sure where my idea of "no knees passed toed" came from. But I'll quit forcing things back. I will look into and try some of the stretches that were described.

I really appreciate everyone taking the time to reply and help me out!
 

Oscar

Level 6 Valued Member
I'm not sure where my idea of "no knees passed toed" came from.
This is how Pavel recommends to squat in The Naked Warrior (and maybe somewhere else?). But that's a squat for strength training, so completely different from the goblet squat which is more focused on mobility.
 

ali

Level 6 Valued Member
No doubt you are in the midst of overload, haha!.......try going a little wider and turn your feet out a bit.....see that pic of Pavel for example.
As @Steve W. states, Play around with foot placement angle to find your spot, what feels right for you, as in Pavel's pic above.
I only say this as I did goblets with a narrow stance and straight-ish feet but wider with angled feet is better for me, allowing me to find more space in the hips and a wider stance allows you a more direct route down ........it was probably Steve's tip when I had a very similar looking video analysis of my goblet form! Remember to pressurise going up.....being loose puts added stress on the knees
 

Isaac M

Level 1 Valued Member
All and all turning my feet out more and keeping my abs engaged has helped a lot! My squat feels stronger and the whole "prying" action makes more sense.

So there is a lot of good stuff here, but I am natorious for showing up and just "doing something" unless I have a plan. Can you all help me compile like 3 or 4 movements that would best warm up and unlock mobility in the lower body especially hips and knees?
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
@Isaac M, just do the goblet squat, 3-5 reps x 3-5 sets. If you would like something additional, look into the Cossack squat as taught in Super Joints and Relax Into Stretch. For the bent leg, it's like a goblet squat, but the other leg is straight and the ankle bent (pull your toes towards your knee).

-S-
 

offwidth

Level 9 Valued Member
@Isaac M
It doesn't need to be complicated or involved. The fewer moving parts the better. @Steve Freides is usually spot on with his advice, and this instance is no exception.
Goblet Squats by the book, and add Cossack Squats for some variety.
With respect to Super Joints and Relax Into Stretch... there are lots aof additional nuggets in there relating to mobility.
 

Ryan T

Level 5 Valued Member
Welcome to StrongFirst forums! Folks that are far more skilled than I have given you great feedback so I will tell you what works for me:
  • At the top, holding the bell close to your chest with the handle a couple inches than the line of your collar bones helps you maintain a proud chest and keeps the bell closer to you as well. Also offers a little more pec engagement (which I like!). This starting position seems to help me keep a proud chest as I sink down. Experiment.
  • You have some butt wink at the very bottom, but since your thoracic spine doesn't round it's not an unsafe position. As @Sean M said face the wall squats is a great way to pattern this. Personally butt wink was a mobility issue so for about a month, while patterning the movement, I would only go as far as when I started to have the butt wink and that was it. Experiment.
  • A general thing that I have learned and continue to learn is more of a "meditative" component of movement and training. At various points, I go "internal" to the part of my body and really center my attention there. This is true for all movements, but the TGU is the most powerful example of this for me. The goal is to remember the feeling and sensation of being there and as you consciously think about it, you will make minor corrections. Eventually, those corrections become a part of the pattern of movement. This is not a novel idea; this is aspect of training is implicit in most posts everywhere in the forum.
Overall, I think you're starting out great and all the best.
 

Isaac M

Level 1 Valued Member
All the critiques and advice has really helped! I gave myself a few days to heal and recover and started back in over the weekend. I've been having no more problems with lingering knee agitation due to doing the S&S program. Due to the prompts of some of you I was poking around on YouTube looking at warmups. I came across this video and have been doing something similar right before I start into the goblet squats. I really appreciate all of your time and thoughtful responses.

 
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