Squats are not bad for your knees
For years, many physicians claimed that bodybuilding and especially squats were bad for the knee joint. Although many orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors and sports physicians today even recommend weight training to achieve general physical fitness, to counteract and prevent postural damage, increase bone density, there are still a few doctors, often old-school general practitioners, not specialists, who strongly advise against this sport because of its “vulnerability to injury”.
The current world record squat in the IPF is at 505 kg. Even assuming that the record holder works with knee bandages and perhaps possesses particularly good genetics, he would not even be able to walk if squats are so unhealthy. However, if he has healthy knees even in these extreme conditions, then the normal athlete should at least be able to safely perform squats with a third or quarter of this particular weight. By the way, according to a study published in 1994 by the “Journal of Strength Conditioning Research”, weight training / powerlifting lags far behind football, athletics and basketball in terms of the amount of injury exercised per exercise hour.
However, squats are only as healthy as the technique with which an athlete performs them. A common mistake, for example, is to put a board under the heels to compensate for lack of flexibility in the calf or ankle area. In the long term, however, this can also lead to overstretching and thus to a patellar tendon syndrome, such as an excessive displacement of the knees over the toes when lowering the weight. Here, before performing heavy squats, first of all the necessary flexibility should be provided. Proper warmup with light cardio, extensive mobility drills and dynamic stretching should be done in order to avoid these mistakes.
It is just as wrong as it is dangerous to make only half or quarter squats out of the unfounded fear of injury in deep squats where the thigh does not reach parallel to the ground. Although there is no danger in overextension of ligaments, there is a much higher compression effect on the knee joint while half squatting. This can lead to cartilage damage, even more, since by bypassing the weakest section of deep squats (which would be in the “hole” of the movement) a much higher weight can be moved.
- When squatting, make sure you have the flexibility you need.
- Always go at least parallel to the floor.
- Do not act like a spring in the lower part of the movement to move more weight with momentum, and
- Do not put a board under your feet.
- In addition, a shoulder-wide stance and a neutral spine (straight back) lead to success.
These are the most important principles for injury-free squats.
IPF world records: http://www.powerlifting-ipf.com/championships/records.html
Squat study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23821469