Olympic Weightlifting

Knee Pain in Weightlifters

Knee Pain in Weightlifters

Knee pain is quite common in the spot of Olympic Weightlifting. Being an Olympic weightlifting coach and a manual therapist, I see a lot of injuries that could have been prevented.

In Olympic weightlifting, the athletes catch the barbell in a deep squat position with the knee fully (or close to) flexed. Many people say this is unsafe for the knee, but from my experience, I would say it’s the complete opposite.

I believe that when the knee is flexed to 90 degrees, it puts the most amount of stress on the knee joint. Breaking parallel (or even staying above parallel) is a lot more mechanically safe for the knee joint and distributes the force evenly along different structures of the knee.

On the other hand, I often see power lifters and they complain about a nagging, dull pain on the outside of the knee. This is because in a power lifting competitions, you are only required to break parallel oppose to squatting into a full, deep squat position.

Like I mentioned before, the vastus medialis is isolated in the first and last 10 – 15 degrees of flexion/extension. This is one of the main reasons why knee pain happens in the first place. Performing squats to parallel depth puts an enormous amount of stress on the knee and mainly isolates the vastus lateralis (outside of the quadricep).

If you compare the quadriceps of a Powerlifter to an Olympic Weightlifter, you will see a huge size difference between the inside head of the quadriceps.

From my clinical experience, I would say that I see a lot more power lifters than Olympic weightlifters with knee pain, and this is mainly due to the depth of the squat. Assuming you have no mobility issues, I would highly recommend squatting as deep as possible to keep the knees safe and healthy by isolating the vastus medialis.

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Manual Therapy for the Knee Joint

When working with lifters such as bodybuilders, power lifters and weightlifters, one of my favorite manual therapy techniques is to strip the quadriceps muscles.

If you’re a lifter, you probably spend a lot of time on working the leg muscles. When muscles become overworked, they develop excess tension and restrictions that could lead to problems in the future.

Stripping the quadriceps muscles is very beneficial because it relaxes the muscle, increases circulation, decreases restrictions and promotes balance between the stronger/weaker muscles.

In the video below, you can see me stripping one of my athlete’s quadriceps to loosen everything up for his upcoming weightlifting competition.

A video posted by James Lu (@lustrengththerapy) on


Knee pain is often seen in weightlifters, but can be avoided if you know how the knee works. Strengthening and lengthening the muscles that act upon the knee to correct muscle imbalances can alleviate the pain that you are experiencing.

Re-evaluating your depth and form in a squat will also play a huge role in knee joint safety and longevity. Squatting to a deeper depth will help isolate different muscles to help stabilize and strengthen the knee to prevent future injuries from occurring.

For more information on how to correct your knee pain, please visit our Sports Massage Therapy page.