After being involved in resistance training for over 30 years it always surprises me to see a large number of people demonstrating very poor technique when squatting and what’s even more frightening is the number of instructors allowing clients not only to squat with poor technique but encouraging them to use heavy weights. This not only rapidly increases the risk of injury but also compounds the underlying issues such as poor flexibility, poor mobility and muscle imbalance.
When poor mobility is present in a joint and excessive weight is added, this multiplies the wear on the joint as it is now forced through a movement in which it already struggled to move. This lack of mobility reduces the amount of synovial fluid which the joint receives and thus increases friction, shearing and wear in the joint.
Squatting is one of the most fundamental movements in sport, exercise and life; it can have a very positive impact on any of these areas, but done incorrectly, with poor biomechanics or with a load that is too heavy can lead to serious and long term injuries. Documented injuries from squatting include muscle and ligamentous sprains, ruptured intervertebral discs, spondy-lolysis. Poor joint mobility can lead to greater forward lean and thus increased spinal shear.
It is almost impossible for the average lay person to have the knowledge and skills required to assess their own ability to squat and so you depend on your instructor or trainer to guide you in the right direction and to ensure you achieve your goals and most importantly come to no harm.
So how do you know your instructor has the knowledge and skill to do this? One way is to observe your instructors own technique and if it’s poor it’s probably best not to put too much faith in them. The other thing to do is to squat in front of mirror and make sure your ankle, knees and hips always remain in line. When you squat always feel your body weight in your heels and not in your toes. Don’t allow your knees to go over your toes and keep you head up at all times.
If you want to squat correctly you need to have good ankle and hip mobility, good flexibility in your calf, hamstrings, glutes and back. If you have issues in any of these areas it is very important that these are addressed especially if you are adding weights to your squats. Squats are a great exercise for developing overall strength as long as it is done correctly; done incorrectly and especially with heavy weight is a guarantee of injury and possibly irreversible damage.