People get injured from doing squats every day. A newsflash, hundreds of kilos on your back as you crouch down and stand up again isn’t risk free. Let’s just get it out of the way first and admit that squats have caused knee injuries. However, let’s get some perspective on this situation.
Very few people stop driving cars because accidents happen every day, and in the same way, squats shouldn’t be blacklisted just because people can get injured.
Why do people get injured?
Taking the car illustration again, an accident is more likely to occur when a driver is not fully paying attention. This is the same with squats. Any compound, heavy weight lifting movement has the potential to go horribly wrong. The reason that many people can squat for years and not have their knees completely destroyed is that they pay close attention to their form.
What are some of the most common mistakes that people make when squatting?
When a person begins to train they often lack the proper flexibility to be able to execute a squat flawlessly. What happens very frequently is that when a person lowers themselves into squat, their weight tips forward onto their toes. This in turn places the weight more directly onto the knees, and has the potential to cause some problems.
The reason that this happens is foot, hamstring and hip mobility issues. Hence, when starting out on your squat journey, it is important to give proper attention to mobility work. Use the DeFranco Agile 8 as a great place to start.
As a beginner, it is natural that you will have muscular imbalances, and probably not enough strength in other parts of your body. Weak abs or a weak back can cause you to lose the stability that is required to keep your entire body in place. If, for instance the abs become fatigued and give out, the result can be a rounding of the back, with more strain placed on the lower back and in turn the knees.
This highlights the importance of not using more weight than you are ready to use. View your training as long term, you won’t prove anything by squatting more than you are ready to.
The proper form of a squat requires you to keep your knees in a strict position. It should feel like you are pushing your knees outwards. This usually gives a sensation of a stretch in the inner thigh. However, it is probably the most common error that trainees make by letting their knees “collapse” inwards. If done regularly, and with an increasingly heavy weight, it could spell disaster for your knees.
Making sure that your knees are not wobbling all over the place like Bambi on ice can really improve your chances of remaining injury free.
Too much isolation
In the training diet of many beginners is a heavy emphasis on isolation work. To start your training with a disproportionate amount of isolation work isn’t always going to crossover onto your ability to execute a squat well.
This is by no means an attempt to delegitimise the benefits of the leg press or other machines; however, the motion of a squat is a different animal to the leg press. Thus, if your body is only used to the motion of machines, then when it is squatting time, a strong focus on nailing squat form should be present.
Do not assume that just because you can leg press 100kg for 50 reps you can do the same in the squat rack.
Take home points
The bottom line is that squats are bad for your knees if you do them incorrectly. The cure therefore is to take a strong scientific approach to your training, making sure that you are keeping a strict eye on your form at all times. Never sacrifice your form to chase heavier weights. Keep the form strict, and the weights will get heavier over time.
Practice your form, stretch plenty and always improve.
- If you are new to squatting, start with the goblet squat. Focus on keeping the knees pushed outwards.
- Move on to light back squats. Focus on learning the movement, not lifting heavy
- Focus on your mobility, knees, ankles, hips, back.
- Increase the weight you use very slowly.
- Warm up plenty before starting a squat session.