Wobbly knees on squats

Anyone have any tips on how to control or reduce knee movement on squats? At least anything more than "pay attention to your form." :-P

I find this happens to me on occasion, for some odd reason only in my right knee. And it concerns me because I know what can happen to people with wobbly legs in their squats - I'd rather not see how long it takes my meniscus or MCL to heal from a tear :-(

I wonder if it has something to do with my oddly shaped feet - for most folks, when they stand with their kneecaps pointed straight forward, their feet are angled off about 30 degrees from forward; mine go about 45 degrees, if not more (I was supposed to wear some kind of corrective shoes as a kid, but for some odd reason it never happened).

Also, might I avoid the whole thing simply by doing deadlifts? I haven't noticed any wobble when doing those, but then again, I haven't done them near as much....

Oh, yeah, specifics - I go down to rock bottom, and the wobble happens right when I get to parallel. It goes to either side, I haven't noticed a pattern of only going in or out. And it's usually an inch or so, it's not like my leg is buckling.

I'm not using really heavy weights (in relation to my 1RM, anyway), so I don't think it's because it's too heavy, it's just bad form, a bad habit I need to nip in the bud before it gets me into trouble. I've already noticed on the two days that the wobble was more pronounced (e.g., maybe a two inch wobble), the outside of my knee hurt (but only mildly) for a couple days afterward.

My right foot actually rotates out about 15 degrees further than my left, so I have like half the same issue you do :P Never noticed wobbling per se, but I've never looked.

I dunno Ted, same advice here that I'd give for anything: If it hurts, don't do it. Work with some light weights for a while with the goal of controlling the wobbling. If you can't do it and it's making you uncomfortable, just give em up. It's not a huge loss (and I'm as big a lover of squats as anyone). If deadlifts cause you less trouble and you like those, what the hell, ya know?

Does it hurt when your knee wobbles or after the session?

How far out to your feet point? How far apart are your feet?

Go for a bit wider then shoulder width or so.
Feet pointing out :
-left foot to 10
-right foot to 2

Go down slowly and go up fast as you can, keep your hips in under the bar as much as possible. When going up DRIVE YOUR HIPS IN FORWARDS as soon as you can.

Do this with just the bar and 40kg. Does it hurt then? Try 60Kg.

What reps and sets scheme are you using?

If you can do it on 60Kg and it doesn't hurt for say 6reps x 5sets and on the heavier weights it does it is a lack of form work. OR that your stablising muscles is your weak point and just isn't up to the task that the rest of your legs, glutes and back can do.

If this is the case you'll just have to build it back up. Nothing you can do really remedy this quickly.

Not really what you wanted to hear but it will work. Your knee wobbles about parallel because it is the most stressful part of the squat in relation to your knee.


Thanks for the tips, fellas.

HK - I usually have my feet shoulder width, I'll have to try a slightly wider base and get back to you. The soreness is never during the exercise, it's usually the next day when I wake up, and it lasts 2-3 days.

And I think you're definitely on to something with doing it slowly - to the best of my recollection, it has never happened when I was trying to lift slowly. Like a fool, I suppose, I was following some advice from a book that suggested going down slowly and then pushing up much faster - not quite explosively fast, but basically a decent attempt to do it with some speed. I'll have to try doing it slower, along with turning my feet out a bit more, then widening my stance, and then doing both feet and stance together to see how they affect me.

My routine - I've been trying a Pavel-style Bear - 1 set of 5 at 80% of my 1RM, rest 3 minutes, then drop 7-10% in weight and do 5 more, rest 2 minutes, then drop 7-10% more and do sets of 5 with 30-40 second rest periods until I feel like I'm entering danger territory (not quite failure, but it's coming quick!) - so far, that translates to about 7-8 sets total. It seems to be working everything equally, judging by how my quads, glutes, and inner thighs are all sore for a day afterward, while my lower back is never sore but it has a pretty serious burn when I'm done.

Oh, yeah, one more detail - I squat 3 times a week, 2 if for whatever reason my soreness seems to last longer than expected on any given day.

Try doing Pistols (1-legged squats), they help stablize the knee.

Interesting you should suggest that - I'm setting up a vacation trip in 2-3 weeks, and I won't have gym access, I had planned to do that as a substitute :-)

for later

Hey Ted,

If you have never done pistols before, I strongly suggest that you start by doing them onto a box and especially so given your "wobbling" problem.

I went straight into doing them with a full ROM when I was young and foolish and something went pop in my calf muscle and wasn't right for a couple of months afterwards.

This applies even if you have good numbers in any form of bilateral squat.

All the things you have observed about your body are indications of the muscle imbalances that exist. Your strength training is only making it worse. I definitely do not recommend pistols. You'll jack yourself up doing that. Your body is unilateral and doing such a strong unilateral exercises will only make it more unilateral.

By the way, the fact that you see most people toed out at about 30 degrees is also a sign of their imbalances. A person's feet are supposed to be point straight forward.

By the way, the fact that you see most people toed out at about 30 degrees is also a sign of their imbalances. A person's feet are supposed to be point straight forward.

Alas, my feet would only point forward if I sawed my tibias in half, then rotated my feet inward 45 degrees or so, then put a bunch of pins and screws in my tibias to re-set them that way ;-) Funny tangent - I once had a karate instructor tell me I should quit training because I couldn't throw a side kick with my heel higher than my toes for this reason.

I wonder if you're on to something, Bolo - this is my first serious attempt at weight training in a while, and while I've given thought to my old experiences with weights, I haven't thought about other exercises I used to do. Your post reminded me that back in my karate days, my left leg was much easier to kick with than my right, it was more flexible, etc. I could see my left leg being stronger than my right even now, and as such that might be why my right leg would give me a problem now when doing bilateral leg exercises. I'll have to test that theory with some individual leg exercises down the road.

Anyway, I tried my legs out yesterday, squatting the bar was fine, total control and no wobble or pain, then I put up 50% of my 1RM and still no wobble, but there was some mild discomfort in my right knee at the second half of the lift. I think I'll give my legs a rest for a few weeks just to be safe, let things heal up, and then start back very slowly. There's no pain at rest or during walking, but if I rotate my right foot outward (say like in a reverse heel hook), at the furthest point I can feel my knee starting to protest, so I'll hold off until that stops at the very least.

If you haven't weight trained in a while then don't do 80% of your 1RM for 5reps!

Work on volume and condition your muscles and joints so they can take the heavier loads!

I thoroughly recommenad 45-50% fo 12reps x 3sets. The loads are less and thus less stressful on you but you have plenty of volume.

Give yourself 4 weeks of no leg work and see how it feels?


I thoroughly recommenad 45-50% fo 12reps x 3sets. The loads are less and thus less stressful on you but you have plenty of volume.

Thanks for the input, HK - that's actually almost exactly what I did for the past ten weeks, I moved to 80% of 1RM for 5 reps to try something different. I have no problem with moving to lower weights and doing more reps - heck, I'm even considering doing bodyweight squats for triple digits if that avoids any damage ;-)

Give yourself 4 weeks of no leg work and see how it feels?

You read my mind - alas, I will be forced to join the ranks of guys who do nothing but bench press and curls :-P