2/27/12

The "down low" on squats

What is the classic statement we hear from people talking about doing squats?
  1. Don't go too deep you'll hurt your knees
  2. Don't let your toes go past your knees
  3. Or the situational, "girls can't squat like boys."
Im gonna call all of these rumors out and go ahead and cite my sources for the readers benefit.
The theory that deep squats heighten injury risk can be traced to studies conducted by Karl Klein at the University of Texas. Using a self-developed measuring device, Klein (1961) concluded that squatting below parallel has a detrimental effect on ligamentous stability and should therefore be discouraged. Soon thereafter, the AMA came out with a position statement cautioning against the performance of deep knee exercises because of their potential for severe injury to the internal and supporting structures of the knee joint. 
That is where all of this fairy tale of bad knees comes from and how our high school coaches learned it and decided to pass it on like a nasty disease.
In fact, there is some evidence that those who perform deep squats have increased stability of the knee joint. In a study using a knee ligament arthrometer to test nine measures knee stability, Chandler, et al. (1989) found that male powerlifters, many of them elite class, demonstrated significantly tighter joint capsules on anterior drawer compared to controls. Moreover, both the powerlifters as well as a group of competitive weight lifters were significantly tighter on the quadriceps active drawer.
There are many other studies that go hand in hand in agreeing with this. In lamens terms power lifters who go BELOW PARALELL and even to PARALELL have a tighter and more stable and safe knee capsule. You go deep your knee will hold up better in out of weight room situations. What are other benefits of going deep? Plenty of studies show that going heavy and deep activate the 3 hamstring muscle: bicep femoris; semitendinosus; semimembranosus. It also better activates the Vastus Lateralus and Vastus Medialus which are in the Quad (when you see quad think 4 because its made of 4 muscles) *YAY WE'RE LEARNING! Anyway deeper squats lead to better muscle mass gains.

As for the knees over toes This belief originated from a study that is more than 30 years old (1978 Duke University study that found maintaining a vertical lower leg as much as possible reduced shearing forces on the knee during a squat). In 2003, University of Memphis research confirmed that knee stress increased by 28% when the knees were allowed to move past the toes while performing a squat. However, hip stress increased nearly 1,000% when forward movement of the knee was restricted. Even though the stress is added, by doint heavy deep squats our knees should already be more sturdy, and as for the benefits to consequence 28% seems minimal when compared to 1000!! Our hips are the source of power in our lower body, to restrict and damage that is beyond the worst idea for lifting.
Girls, do squats because
  1. anatomically the diference is not in the legs, i think we know where it is...
  2. a more explosive and leg strong person is said to live a longer more efficient life
Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

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About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.