Squatting is a functional human movement. You squat whenever you sit or stand from the couch, toilet, or work chair. Multiple variations are used in fitness programs. Squatting is a component of several Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit exercises, such as thrusters, squat cleans, and squat snatches. Squats can improve athletic performance, especially jump distance and height.
There are a lot of misconceptions about squats, mostly from fear-inducing healthcare providers and a lack of knowledge. We have had enough evidence surface to debunk some of the myths out there, but not everyone has this information.
Here are 4 of the most common myths about squatting that I hear regularly:
1. Your knees should not go past your toes.
This is an old school way of thinking. Restricting the mobility in your ankle will cause unwanted consequences up the chain.
2. Squatting below parallel is bad for your knees.
Deep squats are in fact safe for most people. The notion that you should restrict your squats to parallel or less than parallel to reduce risk of injury is not supported by evidence. There are certain circumstances that would lead me to restrict one’s squat depth, such as recent knee surgery or intolerance to a deep squat due to pain. Limb length also plays a role in the depth at which someone can squat properly.
Not only is it safe to squat past 90 degrees, but it is more advantageous to do so. Deep squats are more effective in protecting against injuries, developing lower extremity strength, producing muscle hypertrophy, and improving jumping performance.
3. Your feet must point forward.
Based on individual anatomy, not everybody’s foot positioning and stance width will be the same. Different characteristics such as femur length and rotation during the squat can have a huge impact on the performance of the squat.
Typically, we see about 0-15 degrees of outward rotation of the feet in our athletes. That doesn’t mean that you must fall within that range. Some testing and trial-and-error may be necessary to figure out what the best position is for you.
4. Head position doesn’t matter.
Head position can have a trickle-down effect on our squatting patterns. Looking down while squatting affects trunk position by resulting in increased hip bend. A forward/upward gaze results in a more upright trunk.