Thigh pain after squats: is it good or bad? | (2023)

Thigh pain after squats: is it good or bad? | (1)

While soreness after squatting is to be expected, muscle soreness could indicate that there are some issues with your technique, which we'll detail later in this article.

But first, let's answer the question...

Why do your hamstrings hurt after squats?Hamstrings can become sore after a squat workout for three reasons: (1) DOMS (delayed muscle soreness), (2) fatigue, or (3) injury. Reviewing your squatting technique, the amount of work/volume you put in during your workout, and understanding the context of your other workouts can help you identify the reason for your muscle soreness.

Why do your hamstrings hurt after squats?

If you have sore hamstrings after a squat, it's due to one or more of the following:

  • You have Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
  • you have an injury
  • Your hamstrings are just tired

While the first two are important to consider, having sore hamstrings for the third reason (fatigue) could indicate muscle weakness or poor technique. I'll go into more detail on this below.


That oneAmerican College of Sports Medicineprovides a great definition of DOMS:

“Any type of activity that places unknown stress on the muscles can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This type of pain differs from acute pain, which is pain that develops during actual activity. Delayed muscle soreness usually begins to develop 12 to 24 hours after exercising and can produce the worst soreness 24 to 72 hours after exercising. 🇧🇷

Simply put, DOMS is just the feeling that your muscles are repairing and recovering from the training you put them through.

That's it.

It used to be thought that this was caused by the lactic acid flooding your muscles during exercise, but this has now been disproved. DOMS is simply the feeling of a muscle being used after a workout.

So if your last squat workout included something that could be defined as an "unknown load," setting ACSM opened the door for DOMS to join the party.

But don't confuse the term "unknown load" with just defining the weight of the load.

Of course, you can add more weight to bring your weight to something your body isn't used to, but you can also do this by increasing the reps in each set, the total number of sets you do, increasing or even changing the dynamics of the exercise, such as slowing down and exaggerating the lifts to keep your muscles engaged longer (i.e.,squat time).

The final element to consider is your current state.

While you may have lifted this load before for the same reps and sets, if you're away from it for more than a few weeks, this load can become absolutely "unaccustomed" to your circumstances.

Generally, the worst cases of DOMS occur in those who have never lifted weights before or those who have returned after a significant break. check my articlehow to get back up after a breakto minimize DOMS.

But what about the hamstrings specifically?

(Video) Knee pain and injury prevention when returning to exercise Pt.1 - Squats | Tim Keeley | Physio REHAB

Well, your hamstrings are part of your legs, and your legs do most of the work when you squat.

While your quadriceps are the main muscle we think of when we squat (which is especially activated at the bottom of the squat), your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back work to bring your hips up and forward as you finish each rep.

Read my full article onMuscles used in squatslearn more.

So the more squats you do later in the day, the more you're working your hamstrings, even though the exercise is a secondary muscle group. And that means they can get sore.


Here is my disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional. If you think you are injured, seek help from a licensed professional.

I can tell you that if you've had an injury, you probably felt it suddenly and most likely during training.

While DOMS sets in a day or two after exercise (hence the “delayed onset” part of the acronym), pain from an injury comes on suddenly or even immediately.

Think about your squat workout...

At any point during exercise, did you feel sudden pain in your thigh muscles?

Did the pain make it difficult or impossible to continue the exercises after the break?

If that's the case, you've likely suffered an injury and should seek medical advice.


Your pain could stem from the fact that you are relying on your hamstrings more than necessary when squatting and simply training them more than is necessary or ideal for squatting.

If you look at how the hamstrings work in the squat, they're just there as a secondary hip extensor to bring the hips forward for standing, orblock, the squat.

Your glutes are the main hip extensors, so even then your hamstrings really shouldn't be doing that much work.

If your hamstrings hurt after squatting, it could mean your glutes are weak and you're relying on other muscle groups (like your hamstrings) to do the work you want your glutes to do.

Even if your squatting technique is wrong (i.e. you areleaning too far forward), you may be using your hamstrings more than necessary and therefore putting unnecessary stress on them, making them worse than expected (I'll discuss this in more detail below).

In any of these cases, you are not experiencing DOMS when training your hamstrings, and you are certainly not injured, just relying on your hamstrings to do more than your body needs to train squats.

(Video) How to Get Rid of Sore Thighs

Check out our other sore muscle guides:

  • Quadriceps hurt after squats: is this good or bad?
  • Thigh pain after deadlift: is it good or bad?
  • Muscle Soreness After Deadlifts: Is It Good or Bad?
  • Butt pain after deadlift: is it good or bad?

Thigh pain after squats: is it good or bad? | (2)

Do you want to improve your squat technique?

Let one of our trainers help you get stronger.

Technique to implement if you want to reduce hamstring pain caused by squatting

Thigh pain after squats: is it good or bad? | (3)

Now you might not be freaked out by the news that your hamstrings are being overhauled, but it might have you checking your form and seeing what you can do to improve your technique. I bet you will find more benefits than just reducing hamstring pain.

form validation

Make a video of your side squat technique. Adjust the camera so that it's roughly between your knees and hips so you can see straight from the side while monitoring your form.

In an ideal squat, you begin the movement by bending your knees and pushing your hips back to get them out of the way and allow you to squat. As you stand up, your hips move forward again to align with your knees and torso, bringing you back to an upright position.

When you think about your squats, don't just think about moving the barbell/your body up and down, but also think about what's moving forward and what's moving backward.

Now, as you look at your squat, notice how much your hips pull back on the way down.

Pushing them back too far leaves more range of motion that they have to cover to get back up when you want to stand up straight. Your hamstrings are part of the muscle group responsible for bringing your hips back, so this could be a clear indicator that you're using them too much.

Second, look at your torso and the extent to which your chest flexes forward as you descend.

One way your body tries to bring your torso back is to bring your hips back. So if you fall forward in the squat and manage to straighten it out, another possibility could be that you are putting more strain on your hamstrings while squatting.

(Video) Fix Your Pinching Hip Pain With Squats

Which squat variations can still make your hamstrings sore?

Thigh pain after squats: is it good or bad? | (4)

There are two squat variations that can hit the hamstrings the hardest:

  • Good Morning
  • good morning squat

It's not a long list, I know.

But my advice is to avoid these variations in your workout if you want to reduce the muscle soreness that squatting causes.

Remember, one of the reasons you get sore hamstrings when squatting is not because they are weak and you need to work your hamstrings harder.

It's probably because your glutes are a little weaker and your hamstrings are compensating for this weaker muscle group.

What to Do When Your Hamstrings Hurt After Squats (6 Things to Consider)

Here are my 6 tips if you want to reduce hamstring muscle pain:

  • Activate your glutes
  • Foam roller on hamstrings
  • Avoid the "Good Morning Squat"
  • Build stronger glutes
  • distribute your volume
  • Adjust your training frequency

Activate your glutes

Given that the glutes are the other muscle group that must be working to lock in your squats, focus on activating your glutes. You can do this by doing glute-specific exercises, such as B. a single leg glute bridge.

You can use these warm-ups to create that mind-muscle connection to make sure your glutes don't get lazy when you start squatting.

read my wholeSquat warm-up routine.

Foam roller on hamstrings

On the other hand, you can use foam to wrap your hamstrings to relax them.

By engaging your glutes with the advice above and then relaxing your hamstrings, you can keep the workload on the right muscle group (the glutes) to avoid the fatigue and soreness you're feeling.

My recommendation is to spend 1-2 minutes stretching your hamstrings with a foam roller or lacrosse ball.

Avoid the "Good Morning Squat"

Performing a technically correct squat requires your hips and barbell to move in unison.

Some people will struggle with their form, making their squats seem like more of a good morning. Your hips will rise faster than the bottom position bar and your torso will be parallel to the floor.

Since the good morning squat overuses the hamstrings, by avoiding or correcting this flaw in your technique, you can reduce the amount of stress and strain placed on the hamstrings.

If you are facing this problem then I strongly recommend you to read my articleHow to correct the squat good morning.

Build stronger glutes

Not only should you set aside time before your squat workout to make sure your glutes are engaged, but you can (and should) strengthen them yourself.

(Video) Upper Thigh/ Leg Pain; From Pinched Femoral Nerve or Meralgie Paresthetica? Self-Test & Fix.

After your main squat work or during another lower-body workout, make time to do a dedicated glute workout.

The glute exercises that will directly help strengthen your squats are:

Thigh pain after squats: is it good or bad? | (5)
  • Deadlifts romenos (RDLs)
  • hip thrusts
  • block trains
  • high box squat

I've written complete instructions on each of these exercises, so be sure to read them.

With stronger glutes, they do the work you need to do when you squat, so your hamstrings don't have to pick up the slack and have to do more than they should.

distribute your volume

When we talk about the "unknown weight" and how it can cause pain, you have to remember that one way to increase that weight is to add more sets and reps.

If you think this is the cause of your pain, try spreading it out over more sets instead of trying to do sets with more reps.

These higher rep sets are usually linked to more muscle soreness, so try to address these unless your program specifically calls for high rep sets.

For example, instead of starting with 3 sets of 5 reps in week 1 and progressing to 6, 7, and 8 reps in subsequent weeks, try increasing sets to 4 sets of 5 reps, 5 sets of 5 reps, and 6 sets of 6 reps. repetitions.

Adjust your training frequency

Another way to spread your work out is to train squats into more than a single workout.

The idea here is to do the same amount of work in the training week but in 2-3 workouts instead of 1 workout.

Fewer squats in a single day can reduce overall muscle soreness because the hamstrings don't get as tired after a workout. Taking a rest day between squat workouts allows your hamstrings to fully recover before starting your next workout.

This only works if you have the opportunity to exercise several times a week, but if you can, I highly recommend giving it a try to see if it can reduce your overall thigh pain from squatting.

learn more abouthow many times a week should you squat.

Recap: Hamstring Pain After Squats

Here's a quick checklist to go through:

  • What kind of pain is it?Check out this resource to determine if you have DOMS, an injury, or just extra hamstring fatigue.
  • Was the pain intentional?Have you focused on a squat variation or accessory that puts more emphasis on the hamstrings?
  • Check your technique.Check out our breakdown of his technique above, watch the video and honestly determine if your form needs fixing.
  • Stay mobile.If nothing else, just keep moving. Your hamstrings will benefit from the blood flow and heat from activity and mobility, even if you're just running or doing low-intensity lower-body exercise.

Can you still train when your hamstrings hurt from squatting?

Thigh pain after squats: is it good or bad? | (6)

As long as you aren't injured, you can continue training your hamstrings after a squat session that left them more sore than usual.

But I advise you to be careful with training each muscle if it already hurts. Take extra time to warm up and stretch. Remember that your sore muscle may not have full strength capacity. So adjust your load and intensity so you don't overwhelm your current circumstances.

Just because you can reach a certain weight when rested doesn't mean you can do the same a few days later when you're sore. Adjust accordingly and you should still get a great workout.

(Video) How to Squat Safely and Correctly with a Back Injury | Feat. Tim Keeley | No.71 | Physio REHAB

What to read next:

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About the author

Thigh pain after squats: is it good or bad? | (7)

Adam Gardner is a proud resident of Utah, where he lives with his wife and two children. He has competed in weightlifting in the USPA and APF since 2016. For the past three years, he and his wife, Merrili, have been training entry-level weightlifters to learn the fundamentals of weightlifting and compete in their first weightlifting competitions.


Is it good if your thighs hurt after squats? ›

If yesterday's workout is making your muscles scream today, take it as a good sign. You most likely have "delayed onset muscle soreness" (DOMS), and it means you worked hard enough to create tiny tears in your muscle fibers.

Is it normal for quads to hurt after squats? ›

Quads on fire after right after squats? That's pretty normal. The burning sensation you feel mid-workout when you're fatiguing is the result of lactic acid, says Scott Sailor, President, National Athletic Trainers' Association. Luckily, “it dissipates out of the muscles pretty quickly,” Sailor says.

Is pain after squats good? ›

When done properly, squats should help prevent back pain, because you're helping to strengthen the muscles you need to do so many run-of-the-mill movements. If, however, your back aches after doing squats, that's a sign that something is probably off in your form.

How do I get rid of thigh pain after squats? ›

Use an ice pack wrapped in a soft muslin or cotton cloth and apply it to the leg to ease soreness. Do not use it for more than 15 minutes at a time. You can use this cold therapy 3-4 times a day.

What muscles should hurt after squats? ›

Good squats build the thigh muscles evenly. The day after squatting you should note that your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and adductors(the muscles of your groin/inner thigh) are all sore.

Should I rest if my thighs are sore? ›

If you continue your usual exercise regimen even when you're sore, you're not giving your muscles enough time to heal. In fact, pushing yourself during a bout of soreness can eventually lead to an overuse injury. Overall, you're at risk of causing harm to your body by not resting.

Should I stop doing squats if my legs hurt? ›

"Working out when sore is okay as long as it isn't affecting your movement to the point where it's causing you to compensate and do something in a way that's unsafe," says Dr. Hedt. "Muscle soreness can be a deterrent to exercising, but it's temporary and the more you exercise, the less you should feel it.

How do you know if you're squatting wrong? ›

Initiate the movement from the hip, not the knee

A common mistake people make while doing squats is to begin the movement from the knee rather than the hip. This generates maximum strain on the wrong muscles (the quadriceps instead of the glutes) while also increasing the risk of knee injury.

How do I know if I'm squatting correctly? ›

You know you're doing a good squat when you can stand back up from the bottom of a squat position without having to lean forward and use momentum to get up. You can squat, touch your butt to the box, and then stand back up without having to shift your weight around! KEEP THAT BUTT BACK!

Should I skip a workout if I'm sore? ›

Rest is needed in order for the body to repair the damage (however small) that has occurred.” Pushing through soreness and exercising, instead of giving your body adequate rest, can be detrimental in a few ways. First, your body may take longer rest periods in order to heal, says Marcolin.

Why does my thighs hurt after working out? ›

"Muscle soreness occurs because muscle and the connective tissue around it get damaged during exercise," explains Dr. Hedt. "This is completely normal and nothing to worry about, though. In fact, it's needed for muscle growth, since muscle is built back stronger during this repair process."

How long should you rest after squats? ›

You could ensure that you get enough rest between sets by resting 10 minutes between them. But if you're doing three of the major lifts (e.g., squat, bench, and deadlift) for three sets of five, that means you'd be resting for 90 minutes during your session.

Does soreness mean muscle growth? ›

Muscle soreness is related to muscle damage, which can promote, but is not required for, muscle growth. In a nutshell, unless your goal is to feel sore, then you don't need to be sore after every workout.

What is the fastest way to heal a thigh muscle? ›

  1. Rest. Take a break from the activity that caused the strain. ...
  2. Ice. Use cold packs for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. ...
  3. Compression. To prevent additional swelling, lightly wrap the injured area in a soft bandage or ace wrap.
  4. Elevation.

How sore is too sore? ›

Soreness is considered normal if it occurs between 24-72 hours after a workout, and if it does not prevent you from completing normal daily activities. If it lasts longer than this, or is so intense that it prevents you from functioning normally, it could be a sign of significant damage.

Should you feel squats in your thighs? ›

When you do squats, you're supposed to feel the strain in your legs. If you're feeling pain in the lower back, you're probably doing it wrong. This means that you are putting the weight and work into your lower back muscles instead of your glutes and quadriceps. Pay attention when you squat.

Are your hamstrings supposed to be sore after squats? ›

While soreness can be expected after squatting, hamstring soreness may indicate that there are some issues with your technique, which we'll break down in detail later in this article.

How should I rest after squats? ›

"It is so important to stretch right after working out — because the moment you work out muscles, the body produces lactic acid," Amato says. This is what causes your muscles to feel so sore and tired, she says. Stretching, however, helps to get rid of that lactic acid and also helps relax the muscles.

How long does it take for sore thighs to heal? ›

Sore muscles after exercise

It can affect people of all fitness levels, particularly after trying a new activity or pushing yourself a bit harder than usual. Usually your muscles will stop aching in 2 to 5 days and you won't need any medical attention. You should be able to ease symptoms yourself.

How long should you rest a thigh strain? ›

As a general rule, grade one thigh strains should be rested from sporting activity for about 3 weeks, and grade two thigh strains for about 4 to 6 weeks. In the case of a complete rupture the thigh muscle will have to be repaired surgically and the rehabilitation afterwards will take about 3 months.

How long does a sore thigh take to heal? ›

In many cases, new pain or a flare-up of long-standing thigh problems should begin to settle within 6 weeks without the need to see a healthcare professional.

Is DOMS a good thing? ›

The good news is that it usually only lasts a couple of days and, while it may not feel like it at the time, that sore, achy stiffness is actually a good thing. DOMS is a sign your body is adapting to exercise and getting fitter.

Do you need to go to failure on squats? ›

You really should never go to failure when squatting. The only time I think it's ok to fail a squat is when shooting for a new 1 rep max and in that case you'll be pretty fresh, should have a spotter and your form will be tight.

Is it better to do squats fast or slow? ›

Slow and fast squats are both beneficial, but your squat speed will depend on your experience level and your goals. Fast squats are better for athletes in power sports who need to improve their explosiveness while slow squats are better for perfecting squat technique, increasing hypertrophy, and building strength.

Why you shouldn't squeeze when squatting? ›

“A squat should finish with your ribs stacked over your hips. Focusing too much on squeezing your glutes can create a pelvic tuck that pushes your hips too far forwards,” explains strength and conditioning coach Pennie Varvarides. That can lead to pain or injury as you'll be overloading the spine.

Is 225 a decent squat? ›

No matter what comes afterward, 225 in the squat or deadlift is a respectable milestone for any non-powerlifter, amateur athlete, or weekend warrior. A 200-plus deadlift is also a tough but realistic goal for most fit women. I've known many who've already achieved it, and many more who can.

How many months does it take to see results from squats? ›

Without weights, the more squats, the better. If you complete three sets of 12 reps three times a week alongside cardio, you should start to see results after two to three weeks. The 30 Day Squat Challenge is perfect for beginners.

What not to do when squatting? ›

To perform a proper squat, you must avoid certain mistakes that will do more harm than good.
  1. Rising With Your Butt First. ...
  2. Angling Your Knees Inward. ...
  3. Moving Your Knees Too Far Forward When They Bend. ...
  4. Not Keeping Your Back Straight. ...
  5. Not Squatting Deep Enough.
Jun 30, 2022

What drinks help sore muscles? ›

Drink at least 16 ounces of water or healthy drinks, such as coconut water, green or black tea, and chocolate milk. Or you can choose a low-sugar sports drink. These drinks contain electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, that can prevent and relieve muscle cramping.

How can I speed up my muscle recovery? ›

How to Speed Up Your Recovery After a Tough Workout
  1. Drink a lot of water. Hydrating after a workout is key to recovery. ...
  2. Get enough sleep. Getting proper rest is easily one of the most effective ways to recover from any form or degree of physical exertion. ...
  3. Eat nutritious food. ...
  4. Massage.

How do you relieve sore thigh muscles? ›

To stretch the back of your thigh, lie on your back and lift one leg towards your chest. Place your hands behind your knee. Gently pull your leg towards your chest - you should feel a stretch in the back of your sore thigh. Hold for up to 10 seconds then return your leg to the bed.

Should you push through sore muscles? ›

“Pushing through sharp, acute pain could be causing more damage than good taking away the initial benefit of exercise,” Batterton explains. “If your soreness turns into pain or pushes you past your comfort level, it is time to scale back.

How many times a week should I squat to see results? ›

According to trainers, doing squats 2-3 times a week and performing five to six repetitions at a time, or, doing around 150 squats per week should help you do the job and reach your fitness goals. If you do this and follow this regime religiously, you can start to see the results in four to six weeks.

Should I drink water after squats? ›

During a workout, the body loses a lot of fluids through sweating and leads to dehydration. So, it is imperative that we consume an adequate amount of water to replenish the lost fluids in the body after the vigorous exercises.

How many rest days for powerlifting? ›

Making sure you have at least 2-3 rest days per week is ideal for maximum recovery and increased strength. Remember, it's not just how hard you train but how well you recover!

Is it good if your thighs hurt after a workout? ›

"Muscle soreness occurs because both muscle and the connective tissue around it get damaged during exercise," explains Dr. Hedt. "This is completely normal and, for the most part, nothing to worry about. In fact, this is how muscle gets stronger since it builds back a little bit better each time."

Should I feel squats in my thighs? ›

When you're doing squats, you should feel both your glutes and quads working, as well as your abs and low back. A balanced squat works everything, and working everything means you'll be able to do more and get stronger without getting hurt because the effort is shared.

Do squats burn thigh fat? ›

Besides working your core, squats also help target major muscle groups in the leg including the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. That said, not only do they help burn and shrink your thigh fat, they also help tighten your butt.

Are squats good for thighs? ›

Bodyweight squats, which is squatting using your own bodyweight as resistance, burn calories, strengthen your leg muscles, and tone your thighs. Plus, you can do them anywhere, anytime. Ghazarians recommends starting with 25 bodyweight squats, two times per day (50 total).

What helps with thigh pain after working out? ›

How to relieve sore muscles after a workout
  • Get moving. Believe it or not, one of the best ways to reduce muscle soreness is to get them moving. ...
  • Be sure to warm up. ...
  • Progress slowly into a new exercise program. ...
  • Soak in a salt bath. ...
  • Take a pain reliever. ...
  • Make time for recovery. ...
  • Try a split-day routine.
Sep 8, 2021

How do you know if your squats are working? ›

You know you're doing a good squat when you can stand back up from the bottom of a squat position without having to lean forward and use momentum to get up. You can squat, touch your butt to the box, and then stand back up without having to shift your weight around! KEEP THAT BUTT BACK!

Do squats grow glutes or thighs? ›

Squats work all of the glute muscles in one movement. When you strategically recruit and tax these muscles, you can trigger hypertrophy (or muscle size growth). So, yes, squats can help you build bigger glutes.

What burns thigh fat fast? ›

Here are 7 exercises to reduce fat from the thighs:
  1. Squats. Try doing these exercises and feel the difference! ...
  2. Lunges. Hold that lunge for firmer glutes. ...
  3. Burpees. Burpees is the baap of all weight loss exercises. ...
  4. Fly jumping jacks. Jumping jacks work well to stay in shape. ...
  5. Leg lift. ...
  6. Butterfly stretch. ...
  7. Plank.
May 24, 2022

Can too many squats make your thighs bigger? ›

Squats will hit multiple muscles at once and (in most cases) give you a fantastic looking butt– which is the desired fitness goal for most girls. But, doing a high volume of squats (especially with heavy weights) will definitely increase the size of your legs (quads and hamstrings).

Which squats are best for thighs? ›

Sumo squats come with a ton of benefits, including convenience and affordability since you can perform them anywhere, with or without weights. Plus, they're one of the best lower body exercises for targeting the inner thigh muscles.

Do and don'ts of squats? ›

Common mistakes to avoid while doing squats
  • Never skip the warm up.
  • Initiate the movement from the hip, not the knee.
  • Knees should not cross the toe.
  • Always do a complete squat, never a partial one.
  • Avoid butt wink.
  • Don't obsess over your toes.
  • The 'always exhale on exertion' rule doesn't apply here.
Sep 15, 2020

Should I avoid squats? ›

Fitness experts agree that there's no reason to avoid squats if you're performing them correctly, but proper alignment and execution are key. If you're not doing squats correctly, you could easily feel knee pain or get injured, so make sure to perfect your form and technique.


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