Knee pain is a common complaint in patients. One of the questions we often have to answer is: are squats bad for your knees?
This question often comes after somebody has been talking to their doctor or their trainer…or the butcher, maybe the mechanic, perhaps even the guy down the street! Obviously these people feel like they are authorities on the topic, and the advice given to them is that squats are bad for your knees. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
On the contrary, squats aren’t bad for your knees, squats are a fantastic exercise for your knees and are often a prescribed exercise we give. In fact, when squats are performed safely and using the correct technique, they can improve your knee health.
How to Squat Properly
If you’re new to squatting or have previously had an injury, it’s always a good idea to have an expert check your technique. The key to getting the benefits of squatting come from performing the movement with good technique. (1)
Set yourself up with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width, with your toes slightly pointed out. Your entire foot should be making contact with the ground and your big toes should be pressed firmly into the floor.
Keeping your chest up tall, proceed to sit straight down so that your bum drops back and down – imagine you are trying to sit down onto a chair. This should be done slowly and under control.
Hold a slight pause at the bottom without losing your chest position. Your torso should be upright, your spine straight, and your hips flexed to about 45 degrees (give or take).
From here, push your feet into the ground until you are back at your starting position.
There are three essential factors to consider when understanding why, contrary to mainstream advice, squats are beneficial for knee health:
- Squats need to be performed correctly. They need to utilise the maximum amount of muscle mass through the greatest effective range of motion.
- When done correctly, they maintain the strength balance between the major groups of muscles that create the most force on the knee joint.
- When done correctly, they are actually a hip drive movement, not a knee dominant movement. The loading on the knee joint itself is minimal.
12 Major Benefits of Doing Squats (2)
- Squats Help Build Muscle.
They don’t just help you achieve incredible looking, toned legs, they promote body-wide muscle building by creating an anabolic (muscle building) environment in the body. They work your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, abdominal muscles, lower back and your butt too. Not many exercises can claim to recruit so many muscles at the same time!
- Squats Burn Calories Fast.
Because they help you build muscle, you’ll become more efficient at burning calories so you can get to that slimmer physique faster. Add weights to your squats, and you’ll burn the calories even quicker.
- Squats Help Improve Flexibility.
Improving your flexibility should be part of any well-rounded workout training plan. Our muscles, tendons and ligaments become less elastic with age, so doing all we can to slow down this process is a good idea. Squatting regularly will see you ‘limber’ up and become more flexible as the exercise involves bending and stretching the leg muscles.
- Squats Help with Mobility and Balance.
Strong legs are essential for staying mobile as you get older, and that’s where squats come in. Not only do they develop leg strength, but they also work out your core stabilising muscles. These muscles help you maintain balance, while also improving the communication between your brain and your muscle groups, which helps prevent falls.
- Squats Help Strengthen Your Lungs and Heart.
The effort required to squat helps strengthen your cardiac muscles and improve your lung capacity, especially once you start adding weights.
- Squats Can Help Prevent Injuries.
Most athletic and workout injuries involve weak ligaments, connective tissues and stabiliser muscles (muscles that aren’t directly involved in a movement but work to keep you steady so that your primary muscles can do their job). Squats help to strengthen these supportive tissues, which can mean the difference between an injury or not. Remember, though, the technique is paramount when performing any exercise – including squats – to avoid injury.
- Squats Can Maintain & Improve Your Joints.
As squatting engages your hips, knees and ankles at the same time, the load not only helps build muscle but also improves joint health and joint strength.
- Squatting Keeps Bones Strong.
As squatting is a load-bearing exercise, it helps with overall strength which is excellent for younger people and older people who may have a low bone density. The strengthening will, therefore, help with injury prevention.
- Improves Your Speed and your Ability to Jump.
Due to improved strength in your body’s lower extremities, the ability to produce power is improved. As a result, your acceleration and jumping ability is improved.
- Postural Improvements.
With improved core strength and leg strength, your posture will also benefit. This is because posture is influenced by muscles in your front and back, which work together. Be sure to combine squatting with stretching and mobilising exercises.
- Squats Improve Digestion and Circulation.
An overlooked benefit of doing squats relates to circulation and digestion. The speed in which fluids travel through your body is improved when exercising your leg muscles, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to travel through your body’s organs. This includes improvements to small intestine efficiency.
- Improve Your Daily Life & Physical Abilities.
With all of these improvements, daily tasks such as getting up from a seated position or lifting objects will become more comfortable, which is especially important later in life.
To find out more about squatting and how to improve your body, make an appointment to see an Exercise Physiologist at Revitalize Exercise Physiology + Pilates.