I often suggest to my patients to perfect a ½ or even ¼ squat slowly without any pain prior to trying full (er) squat motions. When I say full squats, I am referring to no deeper than a 90 degree knee angle. These “partial” (1/4 to 1/2) squats still train the quadriceps without increasing forces especially under your kneecap (patella). Try to sit back as you partially squat to keep your knee behind your toes. Also guide your knee over 2nd toe. If this is pain free and you want to make the partial squat harder as follows:
1) Go slower: this will also improve your balance and core strength – both very important in running. For example try 4 seconds down and 2 seconds up.
2) Don’t fully straighten or lock out your leg/knee to avoid resting the muscles at the top of the motion.
3) Do more – work up to 30 repetitions or more on each side.
4) Progress to the drop squat i.e. see www.KeepingYouRunning.com – drop quat (exercise #3) for details to improve quickness and further help rehabilitate your knee.
Once you perfect your form over the next few weeks without pain, you may find that after doing the slower partial squats for a few weeks you can do squats closer to 90 degrees. At this point, I would mix in jumping/explosive squats from a knee depth/angle that is pain free.
Good luck and please let us know how it goes.
Aaron Case BSc DC
Active Release Technques (ART) Provider and Chiropractor in Kits
CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist)