Once fitness star Jane Fonda said ‘no pain no gain,’ we all were here trying to kill ourselves for these rad gainz. But I am here to tell you that SOMETIMES the pain part doesn’t ever go away. Months later. Years later. Or even decades later. Our bodies are fragile, and need to be treated with more care.
Squats are actually really dangerous.
BUT with that being said, squats are a vital addition to your workout routine. And contrary to popular belief, they are good for much much more than that Kardashian physique; though that is a bonus. Squats are a basic movement that is incorporated in your everyday life for anything from lifting your son to trying to find that last Cheeto you dropped in the floor. Squats are fundamental to the development of fitness.
So let me decode the recipe to a safe squat:
Your back should be at neutral spine at ALL TIMES for the duration of the squat. Never should it leave this position until your weight is safely racked and you’re bending over to grab a sip of that lemon lime Gatorade (Definitely is the best flavor, fight me).
So what even is this neutral spine crap? Neutral spine is just as its name entails; when your spine is at a neutral position. If you were to stand up against a wall with only your butt and shoulders touching it, this would be when your back is at neutral spine. Shoulders rolled back with good posture, but no over extension of the spine curvature. For the extent of your squat, it is imperative that your back does not leave this stance.
Seeing as back pain does plague a large majority of exercise enthusiasts, I have included an article about exercises to reduce back pain in the link below.
Most women especially struggle with the knee concept, mostly because they are naturally a little bow legged. Fight the urge ladies! Push those knees out to be perfectly parallel with your feet, straight out in front of you. No funky extensions to the side either.
Also, the knees should fit directly above the feet. It is common for both women and men to push the knees past the feet, but it is critical that the knees are kept directly above the feet as to save our knees. We all still want to be able to scale staircases past the age fifty am i right?
Give this link a read for further ACL injury prevention.
For most people, hitting that full squat extension is impossible for one reason; ankle mobility. Basically that means how far forward one can bend before it is necessary for the heels to pop off the floor and weight transfers to the toes. The goal for the squat is to keep your full weight on the CENTER of your feet the full extension; not the toes, and not backwards on the heels. The ankles should be positioned shoulder width apart and completely on the ground.
To improve ankle flexibility, practice squatting full depth and taking the heels as close to the ground as possible. The more often this stretch is done the more effective.
The link below expounds on the ways to stay safe from injury while lifting weights.
I can’t tell you how many gym rats have come up to me at the gym and informed me that my squat wasn’t low enough. Sure, when it comes to squats lower is better. HOWEVER full butt-on-the-floor depth is not for everybody. You should go as low as you can until:
- The heel lifts off the floor
- The weight becomes off of the center of the feet
- Neutral spine cannot be maintained
- Pelvis begins to curve under
If ANY of these events occur, you know its time to bring it back up. You can go tell that gym rat to watch his own form. Go correct his form maybe. Whatever you fell so inclined to do. Just know that it is not necessary to go all the way to the floor every single time, don’t hurt yourself!
This included link gives more detail about gaining spine mobility in order to get that squat lower to the ground.
The biggest concern with squats is keeping yourself safe. If something is hurting unnaturally, take a break. Lighten your load! Don’t let your ego take over or karma will come back and hit you with some hard patella tendinitis. But with that being said, don’t let the rumors scare you away from adding squats into your workout routine. Not only do they improve physique, but they make everyday life a thousand times easier.