I AM SHARING THIS TO SAVE YOUR BODY FROM DESTRUCTIVE MOVEMENTS WHILE USING PROPER PROGRESSION
Jeff ‘Maddog’ Madden, 2005 champions Texas Longhorns strength and conditioning coach, once said,
“Down the road, in a gym far away
A young man was heard to say
“No matter what I do, my legs won’t grow!”
He tried leg extensions, leg curls, leg presses too
Trying to cheat, these sissy workouts he’d do!
From the corner of the gym where the big guys train
Through a cloud of chalk and the midst of pain
Where the big iron rides high, and threatens lives
Where the noise is made with big forty-fives
A deep voice bellowed as he wrapped his knees
A very big man with legs like trees
Laughing as he snatched another plate from the stack
Chalked his hands and monstrous back
Said, “Boy, stop lying and don’t say you’ve forgotten!
Trouble with you is you ain’t been SQUATTIN’!”
To all the weightlifters, bodybuilders, athletes, fitness and health enthusiasts, and the average Joe wondering ‘Is it safe to squat deep?’ The squat is the king of all exercises and should be treated like it, so squat deep into the throne, quit squatting above 90 degrees, and never question if you are going too deep for your body to handle again!
There are many reasons to squat deep. Some of which include that squats prevent and aid in the recovery of an injury, research studies have proven that there is no added harm or danger in performing the squat past 90 degrees, and squatting deeper is safer because of the force distribution and anatomical and physiological adaptations occurring in the body at the time of the squat.
I am a personal trainer, certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and I have a personal connection to the controversy behind squat depth. While the subject is up for constant debate, I believe that the deeper the better. With proper execution and progression, one can see many strength gains and health benefits to performing a deep squat. The problem lies within the individual, not the exercise itself. One must perform a deep squat to reap the full benefits, however, one must work their way up to performing a deep squat, especially when considering adding weight. While we know many people look towards the squat in fear, there is no need to. The squat can improve your performance while preventing and rehabilitating past injuries. As a trainer, I have been educated on topics like this and it is necessary for blood to flow to areas where there is pain or limited range of motion or any discomfort because blood flow is necessary for our joints, ligaments, and muscles to repair and perform properly. The best thing we can do is prevent these types of issues by conditioning our muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones. Our bodies are built to respond to the demands placed on it. There is Wolff’s Law which explains our bones ability to rebuild and restructure itself to be able to withstand the force of the loads placed on it. So, if one gradually increases their range of motion or load, the body will adapt. Similarly, Davis’s Law discusses the ability of the muscle to change its length relationship with the demands being placed on it (shortening with extra loads, lengthening with a stretch or eccentric movement). The belief that squatting past parallel will cause you more damage than good is a misinterpretation of the body’s response and mechanisms to the demands it is placed under. Squatting to 90 degrees or past parallel delivers results in the most beneficial way and the only thing unsafe about this or any exercise is placing your body under demands it is not conditioned for yet. Squatting deep is harmless, safer, and extremely beneficial when executed properly.
To begin with, squats are used to prevent and rehabilitate injuries. The American College of Sports Medicine notes, “In athletes rehabilitating injured knees, closed-chain exercises such as the squat are currently used because in the squat, the hamstrings co-contract with other leg muscles to increase the stability of the knee, thus putting less stress on the anterior cruciate ligament.” This closed kinetic chain movement allows a person to be stable in one place for the whole duration of the exercise. Because the squat provides stability, those who lack the complete ability to perform exercises which require a lot of movement, can assume a safe position and squat, focusing on their muscles contracting and healing. The ligament referred to is literally right in the middle of the knee, so if you can imagine where your thigh bone connects with your leg bone, as though you are visualizing what is holding the knee joint together, that is the ACL. The squat allows the athlete, or anyone rehabilitating to train the muscles surrounding this ligament, and all of the ligaments in the knee. The muscles surrounding the joint need to be made stronger in order to prevent future injuries and help to heal this one. Not only will the blood flow be beneficial but one will be able to build the strength of the muscles surrounding it to absorb and reduce the force of loads on the body in the future. Ultimately what is happening is the muscle is being trained to be strong enough to handle loads, contract when they are on the body, and reduce the force by shortening the muscle and carrying the weight so the supporting ligaments and joints do not have to. Recall Wolff and Davis’s Laws. Of course it is always important to remember that the technique of the squat is key and should be learned with supervision and in progression to prepare and strengthen the body. Continued by the United States National Library of Medicine on Public Med, “The deep squat presents an effective training exercise for protection against injuries and strengthening of the lower extremity.” The squat is proven to help in preventing and repairing injuries. It is a movement used to gain strength and stability in the surrounding muscles and provide these strength gains as protection to the joints and ligaments surrounding the knee.
In addition to injury prevention and healing, the squat is a compound movement which engages multiple muscles at one time and has been shown to be safer and more effective when performed at 90 degrees or lower. There are many people who would advise against deep flexion during a squat in order to reduce the amount of force on the knee-joints. However, it is important to consider the wrapping effect, body adaptations, and contact between the hamstring and the calf, which occurs or can occur during the movement. Further explained by the United States National Library of Medicine on Public Med and their research in discovering if the half or quarter squat is safer than the deep squat, they report, “Concerns about degenerative changes of the tendofemoral complex and the apparent higher risk for chondromalacia, osteoarthritis, and osteochondritis in deep squats are unfounded. With the same load configuration as in the deep squat, half and quarter squat training with comparatively supra-maximal loads will favour degenerative changes in the knee joints and spinal joints in the long term.” This means that their research found the half and quarter squats to be more dangerous than the fuller flexion squats. In my experience and studies, one can note that a muscle has to be engaged to do the work and in this case push the weight back up. However, people who perform squats to a degree less than 90 are only pushing the weight up through the joints, tendons, and ligaments. The performance of squats to a degree less than 90 does not allow the muscle to fully engage and contract. But, if a person transfers the force of the load to the muscle through engaging it with mind muscle connection as well as an actual generation of the structure by going to 90 degrees or further, then the muscle will be responsible for taking the force off of the surrounding joints. When the muscle is not engaged then that is when there is more risk to the surrounding structures. This is why research found the lesser flexion squat to prove more dangerous than the full flexion squat.
To continue, the true elimination of concern with the squat comes with proper form and technique. Given the anatomical and physiological aspects of the ligaments and force distribution, the only thing to be concerned about is ones form. The true danger in any exercise lies within ones form, ability, and conditioning, as previously mentioned. While some may blame the exercise itself, the only danger the squat brings us is the danger of improper execution, which is completely in our control. The squat is harmless if and only if we can execute it properly. ExRx’s Kinesiology archive reports, “The primary danger to (the) knee occurs when tissues of (the) calf and thigh press together, altering (the) center of rotation back to (the) contact area creating a dislocation effect.” This means the person is allowing their weight and any added weight to sit on their body rather than transferring the force into the muscles to hold and support the load. Basically the knee is put in a dangerous position when the person performing the squat is relaxed instead of engaged. When one allows themselves to fully sit into the motion, disengaging the muscles, then all of the force sits on the body without any support other than the joints where the force is being placed, the knees. The reason knees can suffer from a squat is because of the failure to contract and engage the muscles to support the load.
Lastly, there is a lot happening inside of our bodies during a squat that many are not aware of. Many people would suggest that the squat is still dangerous and can cause serious instability and damage to the knee. In truth, studies have reported that no instability results from the execution of deep squats in an exercise program. One of the studies used age- matched controls, power lifters, and weight lifters to measure the displacement of the tibia in relation to the femur. The instrument used would measure both the front and the back of the knee. During the 8 week study, each subject implemented different squat depths and the results showed no increase in instability in association with the squat depths. Therefore, the deep squat does not have a negative impact on the knee stability (ACSM). In terms of the science behind each degree of the squat, the National Academy of Sports Medicine analyzes what is going on inside the knee and each ligament involved. The ACL or Anterior Cruciate Ligaments, experience a strain and pressure beginning when the knee bends 15 degrees. The largest amount of force to the front of the ligament is experienced when the knee reaches 30 degrees. However, the evidence shows that once the knee reaches a bend of 60 degrees, the shear forces begin to completely dissipate. Meanwhile, the PCL, or the Posterior Cruciate Ligaments, feel the forces at 30 degrees and then even greater at 60 degrees, but once the knee reaches 90 degrees, the force has diminished. To clarify, the anterior ligaments are located towards the front of the knee while the posterior are located towards the back of the knee. This study shows that the ligaments experience relief and a reduction in force or load on them when the knees bend more and more. As the flexion increases, the load on the muscle increases and the concentration of the pressure is transferred to the muscle rather than the ligaments. One can distribute the load to the muscles the deeper they squat. Without squatting deep, the ligaments will experience great forces and be the only working structures in supporting and pushing the weight.
Furthermore, the deep squat is proven safer, more effective, and useful in preventing and rehabilitating injuries. Through the understanding of the anatomy and physiology behind the squat, one can see that the greater the flexion, the greater the tension on the muscle and the less stress on the ligaments. Studies measuring the different ligaments show that the deep squat does not cause added instability within the knee. The most dangerous thing about the squat is the factor within our control which is form. While the exercise itself is not dangerous, a person can create greater risk when executing the exercise improperly like bouncing at the bottom through the disengagement of the muscles and the distribution of force to the ligaments. It is important to progress when squatting rather than denying the deep squat altogether. As demonstrated, the deep squat is not only beneficial for health and strength gains, it is better and safer than the half or quarter squat. Always remember what Jeff ‘Maddog’ Madden said, “Boy, stop lying and don’t say you’ve forgotten! Trouble with you is you ain’t been SQUATTIN’!”
American College of Sports Medicine. "Safety of the Squat Exercise." (n.d.): n. pag. Web. Oct.-Nov. 2015.
Comana, Fabio, MA, MS, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, NASM Faculty. "Diving Deeper into the Squat: Common Misconceptions." NASM Blog. NASM, 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
ExRX.net. "Squat Analysis." Squat Analysis. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
McCombs, Chris. "80 Badass Quotes About Training." Chris Mccombs. N.p., 25 June 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Med, Pub. "Result Filters." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
|Celeste Rains-Turk; Celestial_Fit International and Building More than Just a Body||