Let me tell you something about squat. There are so many myths going around about this great exercise. These stupid non-reality-based myths seems to be never dying. I truly think squat should be celebrated, not dreaded. It does wonders to your butt and legs, works your core and your back and strengthens your will. Squat is surely one of the most difficult but results producing moves there is. So what about all the myths that scare you away from squatting? Let’s put the record straight and get you back in the squat rack.
Are squats bad for your knees?
The opposite! Squats improve your knee stability and actually reduce the risk of knee injury in the future by strengthening it. But you have to do them right! Never bounce or relax your muscles in the bottom position. You pause at the bottom but always keep your muscles under tension. If you relax them when you are down your knee joint opens up slightly and your connective tissue is exposed to stress slightly higher than its tensile strength. That’s not good and you could injure your knees. Always maintain your muscle contraction.
Are squats bad for your back?
Again – as long as you do them right – no, they are not bad for your back. Make sure the centre of mass of the bar is not far from your centre of gravity. This means – try not to lean forward too much when squatting. This itself protects your lower back. When you squat, imagine there is a chair behind you and you are going to sit on that chair. Keep your lower back slightly arched as if trying to sit. Your hands should be tucked in, with the elbows behind the bar – this will help you to keep your torso in upright position during the lift. Also don’t forget that squat is big muscle group exercise. You don’t only work your legs and butt; you train your back and torso too. That is why your core muscles should be activated as well. That means, unless you lift really heavy weights, its better to squat without the belt. Use your sense. If you are already doing heavy sets, then use the belt, but always include couple of sets in your warm up, that you will do without the belt. This is important for strengthening your core muscles and being able to squat and lift in real life, when you don’t really have the belt as an option. I know, the belt looks cool, but don’t forget why you are in the gym. You did not come there to look cool, you came to get strong. And using the belt when squatting 50 kg won’t really help you to make it happen.
Can squats damage your heart?
When you are squatting your blood pressure will temporarily raise, but as with anything else, the body will adapt to this stress by simply growing your heart stronger. So no, squat will not damage your heart. Obviously, if you suffer from any heart or blood pressure problems, you must consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Will squats widen your hips?
No. One of the prime movers when squatting is gluteus maximus. When gluteus maximus develops, it grows back, not to the sides. So no, you wont end up looking like a mailbox. But you will get strong and rounded butt for sure.
Your squat should be nice and deep. You should at least get parallel with the floor. Squatting bellow the parallel has additional benefit of significantly increased activation of the gluteal muscles. The deeper you squat, the greater the glute activation. If you only do partial squats, then you can only achieve partial results.
There is always a chance you can get hurt when you squat, or exercise in general. But the benefits of exercising are much greater than the disadvantages. You can be sure, however, that when you squat correctly, your chance of injury will be very, very slim. There are many variations of squats. Whichever you choose, make sure you squat within your limits, progress conservatively, adding weight slowly and with sense. This will allow your body to adapt and recover. This unfortunately is the most ignored fact of all. It is important to understand that your body will adapt to the demands placed upon it, as long as you don’t exceed its current ability or its capacity for recovery. Only this way you can get stronger without risking unnecessary injury. Think of each squatting session as an opportunity to practice the squat, rather than a chance to show off how much weight you can lift. Leave your ego behind the gym’s door.