Have you ever heard that “Squats are bad for your knees?”  Let’s bust that myth RIGHT NOW because it is FALSE!

Where did this come from?

First of all – there are NO studies to support this statement.  Zero.  None.  There are a number of studies that look at the loading forces on the knee through various squat depths, however, none of them conclude that squatting is “bad for the knees”.  This is just one of the studies I found.  

“Contrary to commonly voiced concern, deep squats do not contribute increased risk of injury to passive tissues.”

Source – Analysis of the load on the knee joint and vertebral column with changes in squatting depth and weight load.

There is some talk about a Dr. Karl Klein who back in the 50’s looked at the rising knee injuries in college football players.  He concluded that deep squats were what was causing the issues.  Hmmmm….could it have been maybe that players played both offense AND defense?  This story then got picked up by Sports Illustrated after he released his findings in 1961.  Then the American Medical Association came out with their position stand on squat – stating that squats were bad for your knees and should be avoided.  

 

Ugh…so stupid.

And that folks…was the early death of squatting.  Thanks to Dr. Klein, SI and the AMA we, as trainers, had to listen to our clients tell us how bad squats were for your knees..for the  next 50 years.  All this was based on NO SCIENTIFIC STUDY.  That’s an important point to remember.  

Squats aren’t bad of your knees…the way you are doing them is bad for your knees.

Saying squats are bad for your knees is such a silly thing when you think about it.  Every time you get out of a chair/take a dump/get out of your car – that’s a squat.  As human beings we were MADE to squat!

From an evolutionary perspective – if we couldn’t squat, we wouldn’t have been very good hunters.  Ever try hiding standing up?  Also…did you know that the first firing position initially taught to rifleman in the military was to fire from a deep squat?  That’s right!!!  It’s much easier for you to drop down into a squat position and get back up into a run then it is to lay all the way down on the ground, sight, fire, then get up.  Maybe not in hunting a deer, but certainly in a fire fight against an enemy.

The reason this was taken out was because people were complaining of knee pain.  I’ve worked for the military, they don’t just throw out an idea and hope it works.  This was a position that was used for hundreds of years that had to be changed in the mid 20th century due to people sitting more and not having good mobility and/or strength to perform this task.

Then you have the biomechanics perspective – our knee joint is a hinge joint, it’s made to go from a full straightened position to a fully flexed position.  Black, red, brown, white no matter your skin color, we are all built the EXACT SAME WAY.  So, explain to me why entire continents of people can squat ass to grass (that means all the way down in fitness talk) with no pain?  Often times when I throw this out to people, the answer I get the most of is – “because they do it often.”  

Exactly.

Where does the problem lie?

The problem that arises when people try and squat, i.e. the reason why people’s knees hurt when they squat is three fold:

  1. Their form sucks.
  2. They have poor mobility in their ankles and hips which leads to their knees getting beat up.
  3. They have an underlying pathology of pain like arthritis (even if you have arthritis you can still squat safely and effectively) or a torn meniscus or something along those lines

Bad form folks. Don’t be like Jonny “I don’t know Squats”.

That’s it for part one.  In part we will go over the two different ways to squat as well as how to fix tight ankles and hips AND when you seriously just shouldn’t squat.

 

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Ben Dearman
Hi, my name is Ben. I am a cancer survivor, blogger, educator and coach. It’s my passion to educate people on health and fitness. The current state of the field is unacceptable to me – overly complicated with too much conflicting information. It’s my goal to help people be as healthy as possible while spending the least amount of time working on it. Work smarter, not harder! In 2016 he was diagnosed with Cancer which cause him to radically change his views on health, fitness and lifestyle.
Ben Dearman

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