Photography by Paul Buceta  |  Shot on location at Elite Performance Center

Few exercises come as close to building muscle (and feeling as bad ass) as the mighty squat. But for many long-time trainers, this classic move comes at a price: knee pain and irritation from old injuries, tendonitis or arthritis.

You may not realize it, but knee pain can be reduced, even avoided, by improving hip strength and mobility. When the hip lacks the proper mobility to perform exercises, especially movements that require a wide range of motion, the knee compensates by picking up the slack, resulting in improper motion and increased stress on the knee. Thus, in any lower body lift, flexibility of the muscles and joints surrounding the knee is critical.

So before you squat, warm up with these movements recommended by James Ho, DC, BHSc, Chiropractor at Athlete’s Care Sports Medicine Centers in Toronto.
Before your leg workout: Perform 15-20 reps of each of the following exercises:

Front to Back Leg Swing

Hold on to a bar or wall for balance and begin by swinging your leg back and forth, as high as it goes naturally. Continue swinging it a little higher, using a wider range of motion as it feels more comfortable.

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Sideways Leg Swing

Similar to the Front to Back Leg Swings, swing your leg across your body first then out to the side, up to hip level. Swing as high as you comfortably can, starting with lower kicks, then gradually increasing the range of motion.

Power Skips

Perform large, exaggerated skips on the spot; jump straight up, raising one knee to hip height and swinging the opposite arm at the same time. Continue swinging your arms and switching legs for all reps.

Lunge with Upper Body Rotation

Lunge with Upper Body Rotation

Action: Take a large step forward with your right foot, lowering into a deep lunge while simultaneously twisting your torso to the right. Hold for a moment, then push off your right foot to bring it back to meet the left. Repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep.

Scorpion Stretch

Action: Lie on your stomach with your feet together, forehead on the ground, and arms extended at to your sides to form a T. Squeezing your right glute, bend your right knee and lift your right leg as high as you can. Twist your hips, reaching your right foot over to touch the ground on the outside of your left leg. Keep your arms and chest on the floor.

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