What the Squat??


“Squats are bad for my knees”. You know what, every time I hear this I get quite frustrated. It’s a wives tale, a myth, a common statement that has been thrown around all too flippantly. A statement that should be thrown out with last weeks news. It’s like a dagger in my little Physio heart. Let’s dissect this idea a little more.


As a patient with knee pain, almost always will your Physio want to see you preform a squat. It’s a functional, everyday movement that is essential in us accessing our environment. From moving between sitting and standing, to picking items of the floor, to lifting our children, getting into and out of cars and even walking up and down stairs. All of these tasks are based around the squat movement pattern, a pattern which you had as a child and often lose as an adult. So our first question is – have you earned the right to squat (do you have adequate mobility in your hips and legs) and then how well do you complete the movement? Quite often our clients are a bit weary of doing the movement because of pain or they fear the movement will do them damage. This is completely understandable and if this is you make sure your Physio is aware. But just because it’s painful now, doesn’t mean it will always be painful and like all exercises, an exercise with an incorrect technique can lead to injury. However, Physio can teach you the best and safest way to move.


Squats come in many shapes and forms. We have box squats, goblet squats, back squats, wall squats, TRX squats, front squats, hack squats, Spanish squats, sit to stands, single leg squats, pistols, we can do unloaded squats on a reformer and I’m sure there’s even more. Each of the above squats has a slightly different bias just in the technique itself. But then again, this leads to the next variation – Technique and depth. Each person has been developed with a slight variation in their anatomy and hence this may change how the squat is performed. For example, the angle of our hip joints can differ as can the length of our thigh bones. So now all of a sudden – can we tarnish all of these variations of squats with the same brush and say that they are bad for our knees?


It’s our job as your Physio to find the right squat variation for you and to teach you the correct movement pattern. You may not have yet earned the right to squat and so through our hands on techniques we can work to give you the required mobility and only then will we prescribe the correct variation of squat for you! We can break down this complex movement and help you put the pieces of the puzzle together. At this point I’m sure some of you still think it’s easier to just avoid squatting but to be honest, the benefits are too hard to overlook. For a start, it’s a compound movement meaning multiple joints and muscles are being utilized throughout the movement. Because of this, this simple exercise (once you get the hang of it), when correctly done can strengthen the gluteals, quadriceps and hamstring muscles along with the anterior core muscles and spinal extensors all at once. It is used in both rehabilitation programs and gym programs to assist in strength, flexibility and used correctly can also assist in weight loss as well as athletic performance. This is the power of the exercise – with so many tweaks and variations, it is an essential part of any gym program.


If this blog resonates with you, I would strongly encourage you to come and speak to us in person. Allow us to help you to get back to doing your normal day to day tasks with as little pain as possible. Allow us to help you to reach your performance goals. We pride ourselves here at Ellenbrook Physiotherapy on being able to hear your concerns and work with you to improve your health and wellbeing as best we can.


Ciara Conway


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