The Truth Shall Set You Free…
The Squat is one of the best exercises you can do not just for your legs but your entire body.
It is often referred to as “The King of Exercises”.
You will be hard pressed to find anyone who did not get great results from proper Squatting.
But other than the Bench Press, the Squat has its own share of detractors.
Here are 5 myths that refuse to leave the Squat rack in peace…
Myth #1: You Don’t Need To Squat To Build Good Legs
Trainers who discourage Squatting say there are safer alternatives to working your legs that give better results.
The usual “Exhibit A” is the 45 degree Leg Press which is basically a plate loaded sled.
The 45 degree Leg Press will help you build a good pair of legs. But if you want a great pair of legs, you must Squat!
The 45 degree Leg Press is an ego booster. Trainers prefer it over the Squat because you can load it up with hundreds of kilos and impress everyone in the gym.
Here’s the thing: trainers who load up the 45 degree Leg Press with ten 20 kilo plates per side probably can’t even do full, butt-to-floor Squats with two 20 kilo plates per side!
Even with the adjustable seat back, the range of motion of the Leg Press will not compare with the Squat.
Second, the Squat requires balance and stability which brings even the smaller, less visible muscles to play.
Ever hear of the Sartorius muscle? You’ll see it when you Squat.
Finally, the Squat will make you work. A set of full range Squats with one 20 kilo plate per side will make you work harder than Leg Pressing ten 20 kilo plates per side and bringing it down only a quarter of the way!
Myth #2: A Full Squat Will Wreck Your Knees
People who develop bad knees will attribute the condition to full squatting. Several studies have been done since the 1960s to dispel this myth yet it keeps coming back.
Your knees have an average flexion of 140 degrees. So why should you Squat to a knee flexion of only 90 degrees?
Research on ordinary people and athletes has conclusively shown that those who Squat between 110 degrees and 140 degrees have fewer knee problems than those who Squat 90 degrees or less!
When you do a full Squat, your large gluteus muscles, hamstrings and calves help distribute the pressure at the bottom position from your knees.
As you press your heels through the floor, the gluteus muscles and hamstrings contract and support the knees as it transitions to full extension.
On the other hand, if you stop at 90 degrees, all of the pressure and shearing forces will be on your knees.
So ditch this rumor, face your fears and Squat until the crease of your hips is below your knees.
Myth #3: Keep Your Knees Behind Your Feet
Trainers will regularly correct your form in the Squat if they see your knees tracking over your feet. Effective and safe Squatting is all about adopting natural movement.
How do you walk? What is the position of your knee when you run or jump?
During these activities, you may not notice it, but your knees naturally track over your feet. Notice the position of your knees when you’re standing up from a chair.
The position of your knee in relation to your feet involves different factors. What type of Squat are you doing?
If you’re doing a Front Squat, it is natural for the knees to track over your knees. Otherwise, you may find yourself pinned on the floor with a barbell on your neck.
Other types of Squats such as the Bulgarian Split Squat will place your knees past your feet.
Your natural biomechanics will also determine if your knees will track over your feet. If you have long femurs then expect your knees to extend past your feet unlike a Squatter with short femurs.
The important thing to remember is to Squat according to what comes naturally to you. If your knees go past your feet, don’t sweat it. Your knees can take it.
Myth #4: Low Bar Squat Is Better Than High Bar Squat
The difference between a Low Bar Squat and a High Bar Squat can be measured in a few centimeters but it could mean a significant difference in terms of total kilos lifted.
A Low Bar Squat has the bar positioned on your upper shoulders, right below your traps. A High Bar Squat has the bar positioned on the traps.
Because of the lower position of the bar, a Low Bar Squat has your body angled forward compared to the more upright High Bar Squat.
The forward angle of the Low Bar Squat allows you to lift more weight because it distributes the load between your thighs, lower back, gluteus muscles and hamstring muscles.
With the High Bar Squat, the thighs carry the brunt of the load. The distance travelled is also comparatively shorter.
But is Squatting more weight necessarily better?
In the end, the type of Squat you use will depend on your goals. If you want more quadriceps development, you should opt for the High Bar Squat.
If you goal is to develop more hip and leg strength, emphasise the Low Bar Squat in your training.
Myth #5: Squatting Is Bad For The Back
Do you know why people use lifting belts? The reason is to support the lower back but not according to how most people believe lifting belts work.
A lifting belt supports the lower back by giving your abdominals resistance to push against. It makes the abdominals contract harder to stabilise the lower back.
Squatting does the same thing for your lower back. With a barbell on your back, you have to contract your abdominals very hard to maintain the correct angle throughout the entire exercise.
You have to imagine pulling your upper abdominals toward your ribcage and pushing your navel toward your spine to achieve a tight midsection.
When you are Squatting the abdominals ensure the stability of the lower back.
Thus by engaging the abdominals, Squatting strengthens your lower back not weaken it.
People who complain of lower back pain from Squatting probably got it from one of 2 things:
1. Poor Form
2. Using Too Much Weight
The Squat is a difficult exercise and that is why it produces the greatest results for your leg development.
There is no other leg exercise that comes close to the Squat in terms of building strength, power, mobility and flexibility for your lower body.