Today I want to tackle one of the biggest exercise myths in the world today.
Deep squats wreck your knees
While the growth of Crossfit and Weightlifting sports have helped to dispel this myth, there are still lots of people that come into my office who are afraid of doing squats because they think that it will degenerate their knees. On top of that, there are legions of trainers in big corporate gyms that perpetuate this myth by having their clients do partial or half-squats, and telling people about the dangers of a full squat.
Fortunately, this concept has been studied with great depth so we can actually get real answers that are backed by the scientific literature.
Analysis of Load on the knee joint and vertebral column with changes in squatting depth and weight load. Hartmann H, Wirth K, Klusemann M.
The authors combed through 2 years of squat studies and found 164 articles that assessed squat depth. What were the results?
- Going below parallel had the lowest amount of sheer forces on the knee soft tissues
- Squatting to 90 degrees had the highest amount of compressive forces
- Putting heavier loads on the bar with a half/quarter squat is likely doing more damage than a max full squat.
- Concerns about deep squats are unfounded in healthy knees.
How does that happen?
When you squat to full depth, the weight gets dispersed to other body parts. Namely the areas you want to get stronger like your glute and quad muscles.
This doesn’t mean that partial squats don’t serve a purpose. There is some evidence that suggests that incorporating partial squats in parts of your training may help improve your 1 rep max. Link to abstract
Gradual Progression is Key
Here’s the thing about squatting, and really just about any exercise.
If you can’t achieve full range of motion with control, then don’t put weight on the bar.
I’m not a super stickler about perfect form. I think perfect form is partially dependent on the anatomical predispositions of the athlete.
I am a stickler about someone’s ability to control their body through full range of motion.
Before doing any sort of squat with a weight on your back, you should be able to do this:
Successful exercise is about mastering a movement with control, then adding a little bit more weight over time.
That’s what leads to useful strength. That’s what allows for resistence to injury. That’s what allows for recovery from injury. That’s what allows for steady improvement over time.
There are very few truly crappy exercise. There are tons of garbage strategies, or lack of strategy towards tackling exercise. Knowing the difference can make all the difference in the world.