There is an ongoing debate regarding how to complete the squat safely and effectively.
Even though it is a staple movement in exercise programming, clients often have concerns when it comes to deep squats and how it affects knee stability. Contrary to popular belief, the full squat is not detrimental to knee health when done properly. Research suggests it can actually improve knee integrity. Here are some noteworthy facts to disprove the popular myths associated with deep squats.
- Training Connective Tissue: During strength training there are more adaptations occurring than simply at the muscle level. We also observe increased strength in the connective tissues of the knee. As the ligaments surrounding the knee become more stable, so does the knee joint as a whole. This is especially important for athletes participating in sports that have a higher incidence of knee injuries.
- Stress at 90 Degrees: A 2013 study from Hartmann displays that with full squats, you’ll experience less stress on the knee joint and have less risk of injury than with partials because the highest compressive force on the knee occurs at 90-degree flexion angle. As you squat lower, compressive forces will decrease due to back of the leg coming into contact with the calf.
- Muscle Activation: Increased muscle activation will accelerate results, helping you get stronger faster. EMG readings show as squat depth increases the muscles of the posterior chain are forced to work harder. This suggests full squats contribute significantly to muscular development in the lower body, helping you get the most out of your training.
These factors display that full squats contribute to knee health while simultaneously accelerating strength development.
However, with an increased range of motion lighter loads should be used initially. It is also important to control the descent portion of the movement if you are not used to full squats. Wolfgang Unsoeld suggests heel-elevated squats for beginners to assist with mobility. This is especially helpful if ankle mobility is the limiting factor.