The squat is an exercise that, in one motion, can work nearly every muscle in the lower half of the body. From quadriceps to thighs and hips to even the hamstrings, gluteal muscles and the myriad of muscles in the lower back, it is considered by many to be a vital exercise in strengthening the lower body and increasing muscle mass, simply because of the incredible amounts of muscle groups that it works at the same time. When done properly, the squat can also strengthen tendons, ligaments and even the bones of the lower body.
How to do a Squat?
Because of how you position the bar across your back and hold it, it can also strengthen the shoulders and arms, and the balance necessary can help build up core strength in the trunk area and the abdominal region. One of the three core lifts in the sport of powerlifting, along with the deadlift and the bench press, it is considered a key exercise in recreational lifting as well as sports and athletic training.
As is the case with all lifts, proper form is the key to prevent injuries, and the squat could have detrimental effects on both the knees and the back. But does squatting really hurt your knees when done with the proper technique? Many experts have their opinions on the matter.
According to Men’s Health Magazine, the proper squat form should not hurt your knees, and the majority of people that say that it does have an improper form that can be corrected to give you the full benefit of the exercise without the possibility of knee injury. People will often lose their balance and squat so far down that their heels come off the ground, thus increasing the strain on the knee and the chance of an injury.
The myth of telling athletes that their knees have to go past their toes is what contributes to most of the injuries and pain. A recommended method of learning to squat properly is the box squat; placing a box behind you that will tell you when you hit the proper position so as not to drop down too low. The article gives step by step instructions on the way to find out what height of box you need.
An article on Bodybuilding.com written by Dr. David Ryan echoes the Men’s Health statements that proper technique is the key to maximize the benefits of the exercise without pain in your knees. One thing that he talks about as very important is balance. With a large weight across your back, you can very easily lose your balance and have a serious injury, so proper form and practice is essential to success.
Livestrong.com mentions the importance of proper form but also brings a new piece of information to light; that being the issue of arthritis that can contribute to knee pain while squatting. Weak thighs can contribute to arthritis in the knees, so daily squatting can help to strengthen your legs and knees to actually prevent the development of arthritis in the knee.
Doug Dupont of Breakingmuscle.com reports that the increase in the weight of the lift as well as the deeper the lift goes can contribute to knee pain during squatting.
An article on The Huffington Post goes into more depth about the importance of proper form, but mentions the fact that not going deep enough can be detrimental to your knee health as well. The natural body motion for a human being is to squat down just below parallel, or 90 degrees, to get the full benefit to all the muscles.
Going too shallow removes the quadriceps, the large leg muscles that help to protect the knee, from the equation. One important thing that the author mentions is that the proper squat is not a knees-dependent movement, since the action and the lift comes mainly from the hips and not the knees.
The most important pieces of information that can be gleaned from the articles is the importance of proper form, something that is important in every lifting motion, but most especially important in the squat with how many muscles are involved and due to the fact that if even the slightest thing is out of sync or off-kilter, the possibility for serious joint injury increases dramatically.
Taking everything into account, before embarking on a squat regiment it is of the utmost importance to learn the proper form and technique for the lift and to increase the weight and motion of it gradually to build up the muscles that surround and protect the knees to help maintain proper form and proper knee health. Always make sure to consult a trainer as to the proper way to perform the lift to maximize the benefits of it for the body and decrease the possibility of injury.