Why Full Squats Save Your Knees

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    Feb 22, 2014 8:34 PM GMT
    A pretty good primer

    http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/02/21/forget-what-youve-heard-4-reasons-why-full-squats-save-your-knees/

    The idea that below-parallel squats are bad for the knees is complete nonsense that for some reason will not go away. This mythology is mindlessly repeated by orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, registered nurses, personal trainers, dieticians, sportscasters, librarians, lunch-room monitors, and many other people in positions of authority with no actual knowledge of the topic and no basis in fact for their opinion.

    I have been teaching the below-parallel squat for 37 years, and have taught hundreds of thousands of people — in my gym, through my books and videos, and in my seminars — to safely perform the most important exercise in the entire catalog of resistance training. Yet here in 2014, well into the 21st century, we still hear completely uninformed people — who have had ample opportunity to educate themselves yet have failed to do so — advise against performing squats under the assumption that they look scary or hard and are therefore “bad for the knees.”
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    Feb 23, 2014 12:32 AM GMT
    Although I usually do full squats, I don't know that I would agree with the author's premise that orthopedic surgeons, doctors, physical therapists, nurses, etc. don't know what they are talking about. I think I would be more inclined to believe the broad range of medical professionals before I go with a personal trainer.
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    Feb 23, 2014 3:33 AM GMT
    Ive been a trainer for over 25 years. My perception is that like everything, everyone needs discernment and education about proper form and a system of training thats best for them. I go to the floor on squats each time I train legs and always get annoyed at generalized condemnation from medical professionals. I always qualify the proper range of motion for each person that asks for an opinion.
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    Feb 23, 2014 4:06 AM GMT
    I love how the premise, "We have been squatting for hundreds of thousands of years" is supposed to apply to squatting with 250lbs dangling from your shoulder. It's like saying that since you can hurl a rock at a target all day, it's perfectly safe to do the same thing with a 50lbs kettle bell.
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    Feb 23, 2014 5:27 AM GMT
    MuchMoreThanMuscle saidOne exercise that does mess up my knees is leg extensions. I learned (from a very good physical therapist) shortly after experiencing knee problems that they are one of the worst exercises for knees. I can't do them.

    I've only had minor knee problems in the past so I've continued with these but have exercised caution, rarely going heavier than 50lbs and never beyond 75. (I avoid lockout but try to squeeze/flex the quads at the upper contraction.) What's a good quad substitute for leg extensions?
  • dc415

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    Feb 23, 2014 7:55 AM GMT
    FLgator saidAlthough I usually do full squats, I don't know that I would agree with the author's premise that orthopedic surgeons, doctors, physical therapists, nurses, etc. don't know what they are talking about. I think I would be more inclined to believe the broad range of medical professionals before I go with a personal trainer.


    When it comes to exercise? No, most of them don't... doctors are basically trained to keep you from dying, not to keep you in top shape for exercise.

    (Alhough, I think most personal trainers don't know what they're talking about either, especially the kids working as personal trainers at the big commercial gyms...)
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    Feb 23, 2014 7:28 PM GMT
    MuchMoreThanMuscle said
    eagermuscle said
    MuchMoreThanMuscle saidOne exercise that does mess up my knees is leg extensions. I learned (from a very good physical therapist) shortly after experiencing knee problems that they are one of the worst exercises for knees. I can't do them.

    I've only had minor knee problems in the past so I've continued with these but have exercised caution, rarely going heavier than 50lbs and never beyond 75. (I avoid lockout but try to squeeze/flex the quads at the upper contraction.) What's a good quad substitute for leg extensions?


    I am not sure if there really is and applicable substitute for leg extensions. I pretty much stick to pressing movements and squatting movements for legs.

    Well, it's working for ya sugar.
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    Feb 24, 2014 4:00 AM GMT
    I am a personal trainer with a background in athletic training (injury rehab and prevention). I lobbied hard against my gym's purchase of a knee extension machine but lost to a determined board member. I have never put a client on that and rarely use the leg press or hamstring curl (unless a client is doing circuit training around the universal machine). But all my clients do squats and lunges. Some can only do partials and some I have do "Kitchen Sink Squats" but no one who trains with me escapes squats or lunges.
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    Feb 24, 2014 5:06 AM GMT
    Graduating PT student here. A lot of the older generations of PTs may say that below parallel squats are detrimental to the knees. And that IS an appropriate statement when it comes to some of the patient populations general PTs may encounter. You don't want to have an elderly patient with osteoarthritis, osteopenia, and generally deconditioned do those kinds of things. However, PTs that work in the sports settings or orthopedic settings definitely won't hesitate making you do a deep squat depending on what your injury is. ACL repair + deep squats? Sure, only if you want to get cut open again.

    If form is good, deep squats are biomechanically sound (to an extent) and help to recruit more posterior chain muscle fibers. Issues arise when your knees are so far past your toes, the resultant force on the patellofemoral joint exceeds that which can be compensated for because of the increased external lever arm. Not to mention the resulting systematic malalignment that can happen further up in the lumbar area because of that. However, I will have to say "ass to grass" isn't really necessary... Especially if you don't have the range/flexibility and end up rounding your lumbar/low back.

    Now, leg/knee extension machines are not so good. The resulting torque on the knee joint (which has an evolute pattern of rotation) gets pretty beat up with heavy loads on that machine. Tendons and ligaments get strained too much.

    Squats and variations on squats, lunges all good for quads. Squats: try narrowing your stance a little more to hit the quads more. Do front squats if you want. Lots of different variations. Take shorter steps for your lunges to hit quads more, or lengthen them to involve more glutes. Or perform reverse lunges to hit them differently again.

    So, for that page that was posted (which I had read previously before), the author is catering to specific audiences.
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    Feb 24, 2014 5:49 AM GMT
    yoursweetguy saidGraduating PT student here.

    I would be curious to know what other common exercises you recommend avoiding. Certain movements seem to beat the hell out of my shoulders. (Actually, only my left shoulder.)
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    Feb 24, 2014 8:41 PM GMT
    MuchMoreThanMuscle said^


    Former personal trainer here.

    The one exercise that I have learned that is vulnerable for shoulders is the behind the neck presses with an Olympic bar loaded with heavy. Physical therapists have warned me against this one and recommended doing it in front only.

    If you haven't already, you should get your shoulder medically diagnosed by an appropriate professional to determine if it is structural or muscular. Then you can create the proper course of training to strengthen your shoulder.

    Also I have heard of some people claim that the barbell upright row for shoulders can create impingement and bursitis. I haven't done those for years.

    I may not have all the terms correct, but the upright military press gives me trouble. I have to use the one with a slight incline, and at very low weight.

    I also find that tricep pushdowns make something snap in my shoulder, but only when I do them with palms facing up. I have no strength at all when doing this exercise. Can only put on about 40 lbs.
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    Feb 24, 2014 9:00 PM GMT
    I have problems with my legs so going ass to grass is out of the question unless its super light weight maybe
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    Feb 24, 2014 9:58 PM GMT
    shortbutsweet said
    yoursweetguy saidGraduating PT student here.

    I would be curious to know what other common exercises you recommend avoiding. Certain movements seem to beat the hell out of my shoulders. (Actually, only my left shoulder.)


    I would also avoid the pec deck machine. Most of them are poorly designed such that you bring upper arm to parallel to the floor and bend elbow to 90 degrees as you grab the handles by your head (externally rotate the humerus and open up the shoulder) then you apply force. This is the same thing you would do if you wanted to cut up a whole chicken--pop the joints open.

    Upright rows to the chin are not good as Adrien said since they can cause impingement. I instruct clients to stop when weights are even with nipples or upper arm is parallel to the floor.

    For the seated military press, try sitting backwards on a preacher curl bench. The back of the pad where you place your arms should hit at just the right spot below the shoulder blades to give you support.
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    Feb 26, 2014 6:29 AM GMT
    Anomalous1 said
    shortbutsweet said
    yoursweetguy saidGraduating PT student here.

    I would be curious to know what other common exercises you recommend avoiding. Certain movements seem to beat the hell out of my shoulders. (Actually, only my left shoulder.)


    I would also avoid the pec deck machine. Most of them are poorly designed such that you bring upper arm to parallel to the floor and bend elbow to 90 degrees as you grab the handles by your head (externally rotate the humerus and open up the shoulder) then you apply force. This is the same thing you would do if you wanted to cut up a whole chicken--pop the joints open.

    Upright rows to the chin are not good as Adrien said since they can cause impingement. I instruct clients to stop when weights are even with nipples or upper arm is parallel to the floor.

    For the seated military press, try sitting backwards on a preacher curl bench. The back of the pad where you place your arms should hit at just the right spot below the shoulder blades to give you support.

    Yep, that's how the pec deck is designed at my gym. I used to do it with the starting position all the way back, but now I do it with arms straight to the side.

    I'm happy with the compliments I get on my chest, so I'll need an alternative. icon_wink.gif
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    Feb 26, 2014 8:24 AM GMT
    When I first started out, I complained about the 90-degree bent elbow pectoral fly, as well as the 90-degree shoulder raise machine, as being painful: I would feel something pop/click in my shoulder joint when I did these, so I've avoided these machines. The motion felt very unnatural. I'm relieved to hear that it wasn't my imagination.

    People often say that the machines are "safer." Granted, some free weight exercises can be a bit scary to do, but just because a machine has limited degrees of freedom doesn't necessarily make it safer to use.
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    Feb 27, 2014 5:47 AM GMT
    shortbutsweet said
    Anomalous1 said
    shortbutsweet said
    yoursweetguy saidGraduating PT student here.

    I would be curious to know what other common exercises you recommend avoiding. Certain movements seem to beat the hell out of my shoulders. (Actually, only my left shoulder.)


    I would also avoid the pec deck machine. Most of them are poorly designed such that you bring upper arm to parallel to the floor and bend elbow to 90 degrees as you grab the handles by your head (externally rotate the humerus and open up the shoulder) then you apply force. This is the same thing you would do if you wanted to cut up a whole chicken--pop the joints open.

    Upright rows to the chin are not good as Adrien said since they can cause impingement. I instruct clients to stop when weights are even with nipples or upper arm is parallel to the floor.

    For the seated military press, try sitting backwards on a preacher curl bench. The back of the pad where you place your arms should hit at just the right spot below the shoulder blades to give you support.

    Yep, that's how the pec deck is designed at my gym. I used to do it with the starting position all the way back, but now I do it with arms straight to the side.

    I'm happy with the compliments I get on my chest, so I'll need an alternative. icon_wink.gif


    Exercises to be wary of if you already have shoulder pain:

    -Upright rows: the internal rotation of the upper arm coupled with abduction can irritate the supraspinatus (the muscle that gets impinged). This can be worsened by poor form, heavy weight, and the shape of the acromion (the bony point of your shoulder).
    -Dumbbell lateral raises with a neutral supination/pronation of the forearms(palms facing each other): Try a supinated grip. This is usually because the neutral forearm position predisposes the shoulder joint into internal rotation again because of torque moments caused by the weights. The supinated positions help to prevent that internal rotation further up the chain at the shoulder joint (impingement).
    -Machine flyes or pec dec: overstretches the anterior capsule (the ligaments, tendons surrounding the front of the joint giving it the little amount of stability it already has) and weakens the posterior shoulder muscles. Better alternative: cable crossovers.
    -Shrugs with barbell: try shrugs with dumbbells at your side. Prevents rotation of the shoulder joint (again into internal rotation) during the upper trap workout and mid delt activation.
    -Rowing with elevated/shrugged shoulders: depress and squeeze those shoulder blades first before initiating movement. Rowing with elevated shoulders stresses anterior capsule, targets the wrong muscles, and strains one of the rotator cuff muscles.
    -Bench pressing with upper arms at 90 degrees or greater from the torso (guillotine press): Great for muscles building, bad for shoulders, especially shoulders that move too much already or are weak.

    Some other stuff: smith machine squats (poor barbell trajectory), wrist curls/exts (grip strength should be built with all your compound exercises already), machine back extension (esp if you already have back pain and tend to round your back with the movements), etc.

    General rule with doing upper body exercises: squeeze those shoulder blades down and in before initiating the movement and make sure your chin doesn't jut out with every rep. This provides more stability during the movement, and you'll feel your muscles work more.

    Disclaimer: I'm not saying these exercises are bad for everybody. They are definitely not good for people with shoulder pain, so they should be avoided or at least minimized in workouts. Everyone is different and these exercises may actually be your favorites and don't give you any problems. Multiple factors need to be considered: weightlifting experience, previous injuries, current pathologies, muscle imbalance/weaknesses, morphologic differences (bone/joint differences), etc.

    That was long...
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    Feb 27, 2014 6:54 AM GMT
    Exactly my final set is 300+ I couldn't go that low, plus my hips feel weird already
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    Feb 27, 2014 9:42 PM GMT
    yoursweetguy saidThat was long...

    . . . but very helpful. Thank you.
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    Feb 28, 2014 3:59 AM GMT
    shortbutsweet said
    yoursweetguy saidThat was long...

    . . . but very helpful. Thank you.


    Hahah, no problem!