Are Squats Bad for Your Knees?
By Coach Hunter Bennett
Is squatting bad for your knees?
A rumor that refuses to die. But why does it exist in the first place? And is there any truth behind it?
Hint: probably not…
If you have been training in the gym for any amount of time, you would have heard that squats are bad for your knees.
This is based on the suggestion that as you drop into a squat, your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL for short) is placed under stress — and that this stress can lead to damage.
*cough cough* bullshit *cough*
Research has shown that the force placed on your ACL actually decreases the more your knee is bent.
You know, like how it bends when you squat…
Just to be clear, you obviously place some load on the rest of your knee when you squat.
I mean, there will be an increase in stress on your meniscus, cartilage, and tendons. But his force tops out when you reach 90 degrees of knee flexion — which is right about where your thighs become parallel to the ground.
But this is not a lot of knee flexion. In fact, it is about the same amount you would get walking up stairs.
If squatting is bad for your knees, so is walking up stairs… which is obviously not the case.
What About Squatting Heavy Ass Weights?
OK, but surely squatting with a loaded barbell on your back is different, right?
Well, kind of — but not in a bad way.
It should come as no surprise that the more weight you squat, the more you load your knee joint.
But this is not a bad thing — hell, I would argue it is a very good thing.
Like the muscles in your legs, the other tissues in your knee (i.e. cartilage, tendons, and meniscus) also adapt and become stronger. In this manner, as you get stronger, they get stronger.
This means that squatting can improve knee joint health and reduce the risk of knee injuries from occurring.
The big caveat here is that your squat technique needs to be solid — and if your technique is trash, your risk of injury is going to increase substantially.
Which leads us to our next point quite nicely…
Solid Squat Technique
Obviously a perfect squat is going to look a little different from person to person. However, there are a few key things that should remain the same.
- A nice neutral spine.
- Your chest stays up nice and tall.
- Your entire foot (toes, heel, and the ball) maintains contact with the ground.
- You load into the hips and the knees
Just a note — some people have long legs — this means that for them to break parallel in the squat, their knees must move past their toes.
Which is absolutely FINE.
In fact, there is no research to suggest that having your knees come past your toes will cause an injury — which makes sense if you think about it.
If your knees couldn’t travel over your toes, you would not be able to walk.
Which is obviously something you need to do. Moreover, if you need to access this position daily — why not get stronger in that position?
Are Squats Bad for Your Knees? Final Points
The next time someone tells you squatting is bad for your knees, feel free to disregard anything that comes out of their mouth — and don’t hesitate to let them know that it is actually good for your knees.
You know, for the sake of #science.