To Squat or Not to Squat?
The following information is based on a study from the University of Alberta & Explosive Strength Athletics in Irvine, CA. “Squat Exercise Progression”, Strength and Conditioning Journal, V33, #2, April 2011
Squatting exercises are popular in exercise for both athletic and nonathletic groups to increase upper and lower leg muscle strength and power. It is one of the most foundational movements of the human body that you need; ie. think sitting down and getting up from chairs. This is why every class has some form of the squat included which trains neurological and neuromuscular connections to move as naturally as your body was designed to do – for life.
Unfortunately many individuals tend to incorporate patterns that put too much stress in one area or joint. They may unintentionally emphasize either knee or hip extensor musculature which also affects the loading of the bone and soft tissue instead of spreading the load through the entire lower limbs. Improper technique can greatly minimize the benefits of the exercise. Performing squats correctly will also stimulate the appropriate muscles and subtle tweaks can greatly influence the muscular demands as well as the neurological system.
Some people fear squatting low or have been doing it wrong for so long that incorrect movement feels good. Squatting until the thigh touches the calf demonstrates no negative effect on knee joint laxity and possibly increase knee joint ligamentous stability because this activates a knee extensor torque which reduces the quadriceps tendon and patellar ligament forces. Perhaps restricting the full range of motion may just be adding more force into the knee, so use the barre in class to assist you if needed. Or if that thought still makes you nervous, why not sit in the Studio Fitness Bungee, like you would a swing, and let the natural bounce movement release your tension.
The appearance of poor flexibility may be related to motor learning which explains why an individual may have better performance on the next session. Athletes often learn and demonstrate consistent performance after just a few repetitions. If proper foot and knee alignment is maintained, optimal technique usually follows automatically. A narrow stance squat performed through a full range of motion will distribute the loading across the lower extremity joints and musculature, thus can be recommended for most individuals. Some resistance is needed to activate the appropriate musculature and encourage proper technique. This allows the muscle-tendon unit to lengthen for inflexible folks. So is your modified squat just keeping you in a weaker state?
If you are feeling uncertain about your form, please let me know so we can continue to improve your fully functioning body that keeps you moving in ways that makes you happy and strong. Squatting is a movement that you want your body to continue doing well for a long, long time to come. So when you were told not to squat, did they perhaps mean not to squat poorly?