1. Is Squatting Bad For Me? My Doctor Said So.
There are far too many occasions where I’ve heard people saying things like,
“I have bad knees so I can’t squat.”
“My doctor told me I could never squat again.”
“I shouldn’t squat below parallel as advised by my physical therapist.”
“I might injure my back if I squat.” Blah blah blah blah
To cut it short, “Is squatting really safe?”
Simply, the answer is IT DEPENDS. How so?
We have been squatting since the beginning of time. The history of evolution says so. And even as tiny cute humans (babies), we have learned how to properly squat naturally and effortlessly. Now, the right question should be: WHY NOT?
Ever heard of Ontogenetics? It’s the study of an organism’s origin and development throughout its lifespan. Our genes, the environment we live in and our developmental programming changes over time.
When we get older, our bones grow differently and it may be not at the same rate/time. Our muscles develop in various ways depending on how we use them daily. Culture also plays a big role in affecting how we move. In India and other Asian countries, squatting down fully is pretty normal even for the elderly. This is why squatting deep is sometimes called a “third-world squat.”
In the meantime, our world changes as well. If we compare decade by decade, technology greatly impacts the way we live. Before there were no chairs or shoes or work; or even hover boards for that matter. Thus, the interaction between all of these affects how we move – how we squat.
But before anything else, what is really a squat? It is one of the most complex yet most foundational movements in our lives. The most common misconception about squatting is that it is a leg exercise only. It was not called the king of all exercises for nothing. Squats are a compound movement that uses your entire body – literally from head to toe.
Now, let me give you a picture of what really happens when we squat (deep) IDEALLY.
As I’ve said earlier, it works out almost everything. It increases your hip extension torque. In turn, improving your lower extremity range of motion as you squat deeper. The hips get to pick up more load than the knees and ankles. Studies show that as we squat lower, the activity of the gluts increases. Therefore, it leads to developing strength of your quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus muscles. Squat also requires lumbopelvic stabilization. With increasing depth, the firing activation of the spinal muscles, rectus femoris and the core muscles are amplified.
A study made by Bloomquist et. al. (2013) compared shallow squats and deep squats based on different variables. There showed to be a greater thigh muscle development with deep squat. Results from other recent researches also suggest that squatting deep promotes a better post-activation potentiation. It just means there is more force production which leads to a greater jump height, impulse, flight times and peak power.
Since it requires so much muscle work, it is safe to say that squats help improve our bone density. The pull of the muscles stimulates our bone to grow especially when you add resistance (load). It prevents osteoporosis as well as osteoarthritis. The more that we don’t squat fully, the joint will never remain healthy when it does not move all throughout its range of motion.
At the same time, squatting activates our somatosensory system – from our muscles, joints, tendons, bones to our nerves, spinal cord and the brain – which is very important in improving balance.
Not just that, squatting also can also aid in digestion. What happens when we squat fully is the thighs put pressure on our (ascending and descending) colon. This further stimulates peristalsis causing digestive muscles to move. In a full squat, the rectum straightens out and collects the feces. Until such a time that it is full, it causes nerve impulses to the brain allowing the anus to relax. Fecal expulsion is then made easy.
Back to my question, WHY NOT (SQUAT)? As I’ve learned from evidence-based practice and other movement specialists, this stuck to my mind:
Squatting is not bad for you, how you squat is.
The way we squat depends on how we live our life. An individual who spends all day sitting, wearing high heels, eats unhealthy food or haven’t moved since the time when they had to take that P.E subject will definitely be bad at squats. Never expect for them to properly squat in a full range in an instant.
If you are that person, it does not mean you should give up and not try at all. All it means is that you need to look at your physical limitations and adapted structures at present. Then, think about the ones you can address, change and manage.
You can ask help and guidance from movement specialists especially for the elderly and those who have movement issues such as mobility, stability, bone problems or neuromuscular conditions. Most doctors and PTs (not all) don’t even lift or exercise regularly. They don’t understand the strength training, mental focus and in-depth biomechanics even the pride that comes with squatting. Just make sure to seek professionals who have been doing it for quite some time now and know what they’re talking about.
Squatting is a skill. A skill can always be learned.
Unlock a new skill and start squatting.
By: Trixia Mae C. Bacani | RockTape Certified Professional. Mulligan Concept Practitioner. Certified Trigger Point Performance Practitioner. Certified Dorn Method Practitioner. Licensed Physiotherapist. Movement Specialist.