Dispelling Common Myths About Squats

Have you ever been told not to let your knees travel past your toes when squatting, or to never go past parallel with your upper thighs? Did you ever question your trainer’s instructions or did you simply comply? Quite often trainers give clients advice regarding squat technique without valid scientific research or facts to back their opinions. In this article, I will dispel the prevailing myths surrounding the squat. The following is a list of the most common myths you may have heard and probably never questioned.

Myth #1 – Never Squat Below Parallel

With the proper amount of mobility and stability, squats can be performed below parallel, so long as technique is not compromised. Research has shown that deep squatting does not harm the ligaments in the knee. As a matter of fact, deep squatting has been shown to increase the stability of the knee. However, if you have been previously injured and have a lack of mobility, please consult a fitness coach at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy.

Myth #2 – Knees Should Never Go Past the Toes

Knees can naturally move past the toes if an individual has a more vertical torso. People with a vertical torso find that there is an angle decrease at the hip joint, and an angle increase at the ankle and knee joints, which can cause the knees to move past the toes. Research has shown that healthy individuals with adequate mobility are at little risk of knee injury if the knees move past the toes. Critically, this type of squatting is not recommended for individuals with knee problems; going past the toes can place too much torque on injured knees. It’s a similar situation for those who have lower back issues and want to low bar back squat, it’s not recommended for them because they can place too much torque on the lumbar vertebrae.

Myth #3 – Arch Your Back When You Squat

Many trainers will often coach their clients to stick their chest out and arch their back while descending into a squat. This will inevitably cause a “butt wink” or “hip tuck” near the bottom of the squat placing extreme compressive forces on the discs of the lumbar vertebrae. It is best to keep the abdominals tight and maintain a neutral spine throughout the full range of motion.

Myth #4 – Keep Your Feet Facing Forward

Having a slight toe turnout of no more than 30? is fine for most people. This allows the head of the femur to have more freedom of movement in the hip socket. It also allows those individuals with poor ankle dorsiflexion mobility to squat deeper.

Myth #5 – Anyone Can Squat Low

The truth is that not everyone has the right genetics to squat low in perfect form, it is all about what works for you. Also, anyone with a current or previous injury to his or her ankle, hip, or thoracic spine should seek advice from a fitness coach before attempting to deep squat.

Myth #6 – Looking Up When Ascending from the Bottom of a Squat

All exercises should be done with a neutral spine. When it comes to squatting, the chin should be tucked in, and the eyes should be focused forward. Looking up loads excessive weight on the cervical and thoracic spine, and should be avoided.

There are many opinions out there from trainers on how one should squat. Hopefully, I have debunked many of the myths you may have heard, and that this article has helped guide you to perform the squat in a safe and effective manner. In the third and final article of the squat series I will teach you how to squat correctly, and if you are still having difficulty getting parallel in good form, I will show you some effective progressions to help get you there. Alternatively, if you prefer one-on-one guidance from a fitness coach, come visit one of our FAST locations to work with one of our awesome strength & conditioning coaches.

David Flanigan

BS, MA, CSCS | Surprise

Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training (FAST) is empowered by Foothills Therapy Partners (FTP).