Squats vs. Your knees
Isn’t squatting bad for your knees? Well that depends on your squat. Like everything in fitness, the how and why is often more important than the what. I personally don’t feel it is possible to constrain principles of fitness to a set of absolutes and it is certainly more profitable to focus on intent over just about everything else. So about squats.
Squats are one of the most natural and basic compound movements not just as an exercise but as an activity of daily living. Observe the ability of a small child to reach down to get their favorite toy. Very rarely will you witness them bend forward with knees straight while straining their back to perform the lift. No, they instinctively drop into a full squat with minimal effort or reservation and pop right back up pain free. As we get older we do this less and less and slowly suffer a decrease in our available range of motion (especially the hips). By the time someone is old enough to seek me out as a coach they have significant joint and soft tissue restrictions and I have my work cut out for me. I want to address what in my experience have been the two most common questions on squats and offer a little insight.
- Do squats tear up your knees?: A healthy knee joint is a very robust structure and can handle tremendous amounts of loading without adverse effects, the problem is when the force is applied from the wrong direction and injury or excessive wear begins to result. A squat done properly will actually improve the integrity of the knee joint and prevent future injury.
- Are Half squats safer?: This depends, if you have mobility deficits that do not permit a proper squat through full range, then certainly. However if you plan on training under any significant amount of resistance, half squats can put you in dangerous territory– heres why. Every joint has a position in which there is maximum joint stability and maximum joint laxity. For the knee, the greatest joint laxity occurs right around 90 degrees of flexion. That means if you only squat to 90* under a heavy weight, you are changing direction and increase the torque exponentially in a range where the joint is least stable and the most prone to injury. Learn to squat through full range before adding significant resistance and your knees will thank you.
Not everyone needs or wants to have a several hundred pound back squat but everyone who is able owes it to themselves to learn to squat better and safer. Please leave a comment below with questions. I want to expand on the topic and help you all step into the squat rack with confidence and mastery.