Jesse Lewis, PT, DPT, OCS
Squats are one of the most fundamental movements in any exercise program. They are also a part of your daily life, whether you know it or not. Just like any popular movement in fitness, there are a lot of truths and a lot of myths about squats. This article will try and remove some of the fear and bust some of the most common myths about squats so you can feel better about getting into the gym and working on that leg and core strength.
Squats are bad for your knees/hips/back
It’s common to hear that squats are bad for your knees or that squats shouldn’t be done because they’re not safe. The next time you go to sit in a chair, try to do it without squatting. Or try lifting something heavy from the floor without only using your back. Spoiler alert, you can’t do it. Squatting is one of the most basic movements of everyday life. If squatting was bad for your knees, we would all have constant knee pain. Squats are not any worse for your knees than lunges, step ups, running or any other leg exercise. They are also one of the best exercises to build strength. So the benefits far outweigh the risks. Do more squats!
Don’t go full depth
This is another tip you’ve probably heard at some point. The thinking behind this one is if you don’t go full depth with your squat then you decrease your risk of injury. The good news is you don’t have to be worried about making sure you stop at a certain depth. There is nothing wrong with squatting past hip level with heavy weight. You will actually get a lot of benefit from squatting deeper as you will get more muscular activation and work your muscles and joints through more range of motion. If you haven’t been squatting through full depth, don’t just keep your same weight that you’ve been using and try to go further. Lower the weight and work on getting through full range of motion. Then build the weight back up.
Feet should be hip width apart and toes forward
This is probably the most common myth out there about squats. You’ve probably been told by a trainer or coach or read online that you should start your squat with feet hip width apart and toes pointing forward. That might be true for some people, but it’s not true for everyone. Your squat stance is based on your hip anatomy and bone structure and everyone will be different. You might be more comfortable toed out, or feet a little wider than hips, or even one foot toed out and the other toed in. The key is that you should be squatting in a comfortable stance for you. Forcing yourself into a position that isn’t comfortable is going to increase your risk of injury. Most of the time this is due to your bony anatomy and not something you should worry about. Occasionally it could be because of muscular tightness or weakness. If you’re not sure if your stance is the right one for you, there are some easy tests that a physical therapist can perform on you that can check what your stance should be. Just make sure you work with a physical therapist that is familiar with your type of exercise.