Performing a Proper Squat

The squat is often criticized for causing knee pain or for leading to injury. However, when performed correctly squats can actually decrease knee pain and reduce the risk of injury. A study performed in the 1960s claimed that squats frequently led to knee pain. However, the American College of Sports Medicine claims that the study was biased. All of the subjects used were parachutists who frequently were exposed to high impact landings which can over stretch knee ligaments. Joint laxity and pain could therefore be contributed to their landings rather than the squats being performed. Squats can actually decrease joint laxity and knee pain by strengthening the quadriceps muscle and other knee stabilizers. Squats will lead to lower extremity strength gains which in turn will increase speed and agility. According to a study done by Radin, muscles actually provide most of the shock-absorption for joints. Therefore, strengthening leg muscles will help absorb the high loads placed on the knee joints. This is important in decreasing risk for osteoporosis or for preventing further complications in a person who already has knee pain due to arthritis.

Although squats can be extremely beneficial, it is essential that they are performed with proper technique. First, the feet should be a little wider than shoulder width with the toes slightly pointed outward. The downward phase should be performed by bending at the hips and knees. The trunk should stay erect throughout the entire motion with shoulders back and chest out. At no point should your low back be arched forward nor should you look down during the motion. Weight should be distributed through the middle of the foot. The lifter should NOT place most of the weight through the balls of the feet. Pretend you are sitting down in a chair. This motion will allow you to activate the glutes and hamstrings which is essential in correctly performing the squat. Continue to lower hips until the tops of the thighs are parallel with the floor. The knees should not extend past the end of the toes. During the upward phase, the trunk should still stay erect. Make sure the knees stay aligned and do not turn inward or outward. Allowing the knees to turn in or out is a common source of pain during squats. Continue to rise up until the knees are extended. Correct breathing is also important during a squat. You should inhale during the downward phase and exhale while pushing up.

There is a strong correlation between squatting form and flexibility. The muscles of the posterior chain (calves, hamstrings, glutes, and back extensors) all pull on each other indirectly. When squatting downward, the hips are moving into a flexed position which stretches the glutes and hamstrings. The lower the squat the greater the stretch. The back muscles act to keep your trunk upright and keep you from leaning too far forward. If you feel that you are unable to keep your back erect during a squat, you can squat with a stability ball behind you. This is shown in a picture below. Before adding more weight during squatting or before performing a deeper squat, it is important to ensure that you have the proper flexibility so that technique is not compromised during the motion.

 

 


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Posted by on March 22, 2013. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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