Squatting for exercise: Is it good for everyone?
Read time: 8 minutes – Squat for Exercise
Author: The Ottawa Health Team
Who should practice their squat?
The answer to this is simple. Everyone!
It’s something that you are doing already, but perhaps there is room for improvement. Do you have pain in the knees, lower back, or when you get up from a chair? Do your knees ache with stairs? If you answered yes to any of these, you could probably benefit from practicing your squats! Pain when using the knee is a sign of joint irritation, and can occur for many reasons.
One of the most common causes of knee pain is osteoarthritis, specially as we get older. Guess what is the best therapy to help alleviate pain from arthritis of the knee joint? Exercise! With a proper exercise program, you should be able to build more muscle around your knee joints, which will protect the joint as you remain active.
If that isn’t convincing enough already, let’s talk about what a squat is.
What is a squat?
Squatting can be performed anywhere, you don’t need a gym membership to have a good squat. Being able to squat simply means being able to go from a standing position to a sitting position in a controlled manner. It’s a movement we do every single day when getting out of bed, sitting on the toilet, getting into and out of your car, and many other situations.
A proper squat should allow movement and coordination with minimal risk of injury. The best squat utilizes the appropriate joints for movement while stabilizing the joints that shouldn’t move too much.
The joints of the body
A joint is when two bones come together; this is where movement occurs. Your body has hundreds of joints, but they don’t all look or function the same. The following are two examples of very different joints.
- Hinging joints: function like a door hinge. They allow movement back and forth in the same plane of movement Your knees are good examples of hinges.
- Ball-and-socket: allow movement forward, backwards, sides, and rotation. These are regions where we typically have more movement than other regions. Your shoulders and hips have ball and socket joints.
Different joints have different functions
Have you ever wondered why we can move certain ways in certain parts of the body, but feel very limited in others? For example, the joints in the middle of your fingers are hinges, which is why you cant bend them from side to side.
Certain parts of your body should be mobile, but others should be relatively stable! Joints such as hinges, don’t like to move in any other direction except forward and back, which is how all hinges work.
Most knee injuries occur when someone gets hit from the side. This is because the knee joint was not made in a way to sustain forces coming from the side. This type of impact can easily damage the tendons, ligaments, or cartilage that keeps the knee stable in place.
So, how should a squat be performed?
Let me break it down region by region:
- Ankles: there should be movement through the ankles, this is a ball and socket joint. Movement should occur with your leg bending forward towards your toes.
- The knees should only move as a hinge moves. Your knees should bend in the same direction that your toes are pointing. This joint should remain stable with minimal shaking and side bending.
- The hips are ball and socket joints. This is where the majority of the movement should occur.
- The lumbar spine should remain stable! The lower back should remain straight or in a neutral position. One good way to maintain a stable lumbar spine is by bracing your abdomen. Stay turned for the next blog to learn more about this topic.
Why should I consider learning this?
It’s something you learned how to do as a baby, but our ability to perform a good squat changes based on our lifestyle. There are many reasons that can affect our ability to squat, some being:
- Sedentary behavior
- Insufficient mobility or flexibility
- Lack of strength
- Poor coordination and balance
- Muscle tightness
- Limitations due to pain
- Faulty technique
- Lack of practice
If any of these apply to you, don’t loose hope! A proper assessment may include evaluating your joint mobility, tissue flexibility, or any underlying injuries. The benefits of squatting are endless.
If you are interested in learning more about other health benefits to squatting and weight training exercises, you can read this article by WedMD.
Where can I squat, or go for more help?
The great thing about this exercise/movement is that it can be done anywhere. You don’t need any equipment, but they can be used to make it either easier or harder, depending on your current capabilities and how the equipment is set up. Strength training is one of the best medicines to prevent conditions such as osteoporosis and muscular atrophy. If you are squatting with weight for the first time, see an expert before putting weight on your back.
Learning to Squat – the right way!
The team at Ottawa Health: Performance and Rehabilitation have extensive backgrounds in powerlifting. They are equipped with exercise training devices to facilitate the learning experience!
One of our most unique pieces of equipment is our belt-squatting machine. This is one of the best and safest devices to use when learning how to squat, or rehabilitating your back.