“Knees out”, “Keep your heels down”, “Chest up”. These are just a few of the cues you would have heard from your coach while squatting. We all know we should be doing these things and I believe it’s important to also know why?! It’s not your coach being pedantic, there is good reason behind it. In fact, how you move and the positions you adopt throughout the day have a direct impact on your health.
Squats are one of the most primitive, fundamental and functional components of your being. After all, the bottom position of the squat is nature’s intended sitting posture. When performed correctly, squats have a very beneficial effect on the body! However when performed incorrectly the consequences are not good.
When a squat is performed properly your femur (the thigh bone) and your tibia (shin bone) align in the same angle. When your knees cave in the femur internally rotates, the result is that the angle on the femur is now opposite to the angle of the tibia. This is a problem because firstly it places greater stress on the ligaments of your knee and secondly the most powerful muscles in your body, the glutes, are no longer activated. Over time you end up with an imbalance in muscular strength, which also causes greater stress on the knee (as well as compromising the health of your back).
Squatting on your toes is also bad. When you allow your heels to come off the floor your shins tilt forward more than normal. This increases the lever arm of the knee extensors (quadriceps). It also causes you to shift your weight forward resulting in a loss of power from the posterior chain (muscle which are designed to handle the load). The result is an increase in forces to the soft tissue within the knee joint and a less stable position.
Squats don’t just exist in the gym. Every time you sit down, get up, go to the toilet, crouch down to pick something off the floor you are squatting.
Now imagine what happens if you’re performing your hundred plus squats a day with bad technique.
Something else to consider is that squatting with bad form has transferable consequences. Meaning, if your knees are caving inward or you’re coming up onto your toes or you’re losing lumbar curvature, chances are good that you will exhibit these same faults during loaded, dynamic movements, such as box jumps, broad jumps, Clean and Jerks, Snatches etc.