The squat is one of the most commonly used exercises for strengthening the lower body. It is excellent for training the muscles of the buttocks and thighs. It is the quintessential hip extension exercise & hip extension is the foundation of all good human movement. Powerful, controlled hip extension is necessary and nearly sufficient for elite athleticism. Necessary, in that, without powerful, controlled hip extension you are not functioning anywhere near your potential. Sufficient, in the sense that the majority with the capacity to explosively open the hip, could run, jump, throw and punch with impressive force.
Why do we need to be able to squat?
The squat is essential to one’s well-being. The squat can both improve your athleticism and maintain correct function at the knees, hips & back which will benefit you now and later in life. It will play a major role in whether you can climb the stairs with or without ease when the tender ages of 70 and above arrive. Additionally, the squat is used fundamentally in tasks throughout your day. The bottom position is nature’s intended sitting position, and the rise from the bottom to the stand is the biomechanically sound method by which we stand up. How hard would everyday life be if we were unable to stand properly from the toilet, or had difficulty getting up off of the floor? All by which the squat technique is used.
What damage can a bad squat do?
It is entirely possible to injure yourself squatting with bad form, just as easy as injuring your back when twisting and bending, picking up your shopping. The key to staying injury-free is lifting with a CORRECT FORM! The majority of injuries that arise from squatting come from a combination of things:
- poor warm-up
- losing tension in the midline
- lifting too heavy compromising stability
- allowing your knees to adduct inwards
- allowing the chest to collapse and the neck to bend forwards
- poor mobility leading to alterations in movement
Is squatting bad for my knees?
It is common knowledge amongst the uneducated mind that if you have bad knees, avoid squatting. In most cases, this is totally WRONG!!! Not only is the squat not detrimental to the knees, but it is also the ideal exercise to rehabilitate and fix so many acute & chronic problems that arise here. For instance, many people suffer from patellofemoral pain (pain around the knee cap). The patella (knee cap) is dynamically controlled and stabilised mostly by the quadriceps (thigh) muscle and if the quadriceps are weak and imbalanced, then there is a high probability that dysfunction at the patellofemoral joint will occur. On the other hand, squatting can help strengthen the quadriceps and stabilise the knee because it is the best exercise to activate this group of muscles. This can help avoid loading in specific areas of the knee.
If you do not squat, your knees are less healthy regardless of how free of pain or discomfort you are. With that being said, it is extremely easy to bring the squat to a level of safety, matched by walking.
How to maintain a good squat
There are numerous amounts of cues identified for a perfect squat. It is essential that these top 5 cues are adhered to:
1. Never surrender your lumbar curve (keep a straight back)
2. Keep your midsection tight and activated
3. Squat back onto your heels (this will help prevent your knees from going over your toes)
4. Keep your head looking slightly above parallel
5. Don’t let your knees roll inside the foot
The squat is one of the best exercises you can perform. Squatting will make you stronger, more explosive, more stable and much less likely to injure specific joints such as the knee and hip. If you don’t squat, then start! If you are already squatting, then squat often and always make sure your form is over the weight!
BSc Hons Sports Therapy