Squats are a very misunderstood exercise. The thought that they cause injury has been tossed around since the 1950’s. It is rumored that the squats’ reputation went south after the US Army banned them in the 1960’s. The army had performed a test concluding that squats caused knee injuries. What they didn’t explain was that their testing was done on paratroopers who were constantly diving out of planes smashing their legs to the ground. Not a very level-headed test. Regardless of how the rumor began, the word was out and bashing of squats had begun. The truth of the matter is that squats are a phenomenal exercise. Those that get hurt while performing squats are not doing them correctly.
Since the infamous Army ban, research has proven otherwise – in fact, just about the polar opposite in regards to squats. Squats are recommended for rehab now. Owen Anderson of Sports Performance Bulletin states:
“The ‘squat’ is one of the most popular strengthening exercises carried out by individuals in the athletic and injury-rehabilitation communities – and for good reason. When they squat, athletes and people recovering from injuries flex their hips, knees, and ankles simultaneously, thus activating all the key muscles in the legs,…… both strengthen and enhance the coordination of all these muscle groups.”
So, instead of causing injury, these squats actually do the opposite – they strengthen.
No matter who you ask, the biggest and most important point of the squats exercise is form and posture. If these aren’t correct, yes, you could injure yourself – which is the case with any exercise you do. With squats, every aspect of your posture and form needs to be right. Here is a rundown of the correct form for squats:
1) Feet are to be slightly wider than your hips but not past the shoulders.
2) Your knees and toes need to be facing the same direction. Some are comfortable with everything facing forward. You may be more comfortable with your toes in a slightly outward position. This is fine as long as your knees are in line with your toes.
3) Tighten your abs and keep chin up (at least parallel with the ground).
4) Bend and lower, pushing your weight to your heels with your feet flat and stable.
5) Lower down, exhale, back straight, until your legs are parallel to the floor – keep knees behind toes – not in front of them. Please note, for those of you not at a beginning stage, using a bar or hand weights, you can lower below parallel once you have become comfortable with the parallel position.
6) Raise up in a controlled manner, inhaling as you rise.
(Those using a machine, the body positions are still the same.)
It cannot be stressed enough that the actual squatting position is a natural one for our bodies, so working out from this position is not some strange or abnormal place to work from. ANYONE CAN DO SQUATS. It is all about position, posture and form. Adding weight should not be done until the form is perfected. Following these rules will keep you from injury and the benefit of a fabulous all body workout will be yours.