Many people come into the Fitness Center and tell us they cannot squat because it’s bad for their knees, their doctor told them not to, or it hurts. What they may not know is that they may be squatting incorrectly. The squat is a great exercise to strengthen knee flexors and extensors, and may even help with knee problems.
Squats are a resistance exercise that can be done in many different forms from back squats with a barbell on the shoulders, to a single leg squat. The best way to properly perform any variant of a squat is to, well, squat. Body weight squats should be perfected before performing it with added resistance. So, what is a squat exactly? According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) a squat is “…where the individual starts in a standing position… and bends the knees to squat down until the thighs are parallel with the floor.”
When performed correctly, from a biomechanics standpoint, a squat with thighs parallel to the floor or deeper will target your hamstrings, glutes (buttocks), your core (back and abs), calves, quadriceps and more. The deeper the squat the more the muscle force will come from your hamstrings, which will put less torque on your knee. The less deep a squat (anything above parallel), the more the quadriceps will be activated, causing more torque on the knee. It’s best to get to parallel, if not deeper, to ensure that you are using your hamstrings to pull you back up, and to have less forces acting on the knee.
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