Also known as the king of leg exercises, squats are one of my favourite compound exercises and they are one of the most primitive movement patterns known to man. A deep bodyweight squat is an innate position that all babies possess. Before the modern advent of #deathbysitting, us humans would naturally rest in a low squat position and perform activities such as eating, resting, praying, foraging and, let’s say it, also going to the toilet. However, as technology advances and we become more sedentary, fewer people are able to perform a full squat gracefully, let alone rest in it.
This comes down to “use it or lose it”. Every joint in our body is surrounded by synovial fluid which is produced as a result of movement and compression of that joint. The synovial fluid acts as the oil in our body that provides nutrition to the cartilage, but the body won’t produce it unless a joint is used though its full range of motion.
You might be asking yourself why is it important that we master this position, if it no longer comes natural to us? Squatting is incredibly functional as there are elements of its movement pattern that are engrained in many of our daily activities. These include standing up from a chair, climbing the stairs, tying our shoe laces or lifting a box off the floor without damaging your back. If we improve our squat, then we will be able to perform all these daily activities at ease avoiding us falling into our car seat without control or having to thrust our bodyweight forwards to get up from a seated position.
Now I would like to ask you to go for a wonder round your gym and see if you can spot anyone who is performing deep squats. I bet you will struggle to find many people that are. So why are we not training them if they are such a fundamental movement? The answer I hear all the time is that deep squats are bad for your knees: WRONG!
In fact, deep squats actually increase knee stability. Most of the connective tissue in the knee is made up of two ligaments: the anterior and posterior cruciate ligament. Studies have shown that the forces inside the ACL and PCL decrease the more the knee is bent, meaning the deeper you squat, the less pressure is applied inside the knees. A deep squat will also help engage your hips, quads and hamstrings to a greater extent. Obviously you won’t be hitting the same weight as if you were only squatting to parallel but we are talking about health here, not ego.
Just think, stopping an exercise like a squat mid-way will actually put more stress on the knee joint as all the braking force you need to halt your descend is converging in your knees. Plus by not training a full squat your are limiting your flexibility and you will never be able to assume the primal squat position which should come naturally to all of us. However, if you currently find it difficult to lower into a squat without lifting your heels or falling backwards, don’t be disheartened because the good news is, if practiced daily, this position comes back to most people.
For some guidance on what the best stretches increase your squat depth check out the YouTube video by Strength Clinic by clicking HERE.