Squating Myths and Legends

Squating, I feel, is a lift that is viewed with suspicion. I don’t really understand why: it may be the horrific videos of squats gone wrong or simply the idea of standing under hundreds of kilos, but whatever it is its giving squats a bad name. So I decided that I would clear squats name and reinstate it as the gym staple it really deserves.

The first evil of squatting is the fact that it crushes your spine and stunts your growth. I’m guessing that this myth originates from the fact that bearing heavy loads on your back will compress your spine. The truth is a little more complicated than that- you see bones called vertebrae make up your spine. But the vertebrae themselves aren’t made of solid bone, instead they are made of an intricate branch like structure known as trabecular bones. In fairness these trabecular bones can suffer micro fractures when subjected to enormous loads like our good friend Ray Williams…

Image result for ray williams squat
Heavyweight power lifter Ray Williams performing a World Record 438KG squat

But like muscles, these micro fractures repair and rebuild to form a thicker bone. Therefore forming a stronger back. For example powerlifters like Ray Williams have some of the densest bones ever seen in humans  but this can only be achieved by proper programming and proper rest.

They second is damage it does to your knees. Many people think that if you squat deep then you are in danger of tearing your ACL ( a major ligament running behind the patella or knee cap). This isn’t true because while squatting a huge amount of compression between the tibia and femur is created essentially stabilising the joint. When ACL damage can occur is during the first four inches of a squat where the angle of the knee is around 15-30 degrees, the rest of the squat has been found to exert little to no pressure on the ACL with the most being only 25% of what is needed to tear the ligament. Another part of the knee that is supposedly damaged by squatting is the meniscus disks. These almost act as bumper pads between the tibia and femur and the thought was that by squatting heavy you could wear these out and suffer an early onset of arthritis. You would be right in thinking that they do sustain a lot of force while squatting but if you use a clever program with days of light, medium and heavy weights then no increased risk will be experienced.

Squatting also apparently causes damage to your trachea normally occurring during front squatting. Often people find that they struggle to breath or they feel light headed while the bar is resting in the starting position for a front squat. This just isn’t true, everyone can hold their breath for a few seconds and not get dizzy. Instead it could be because the bar is compressing the carotid arteries that feed the brain. Cut off these, feel dizzy. To avoid this raise your shoulders and sit your head back from the bar. If it isn’t an issue with the carotid arteries then it is vagal nerve stimulation. This happens when you held your breath and strain like you would in a hard lift- causing a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate and in turn dizziness.

Well there you have it squatting… not nearly as bad as you once thought. If you don’t squat as part of your training regime then I strongly recommend you do  and I hope that this has been a bit of confidence to introduce it. Any questions them email or DM me.


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