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Answer: The popping that you hear can be caused by a variety of factors, but usually it is simply tendons rubbing over bony ridges in the joint and is not harmful, says Marty Jaramillo, founder of the I.C.E. Sports Health Group at the Sports Club/LA in New York City.
It's pain, rather than popping noises, that should alert you to possible injury. To make sure that you're not putting your knees at risk when you squat, initiate the move by bending at the hips and keeping your knees in line with your toes (don't collapse in) and your body weight over your heels (don't let your knees move past your toes), says Jaramillo.
Originally published in Fitness magazine, April 2006.