Ask a PT: Are squats bad for my knees?

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Featured Physical Therapist:
Travis Barefoot, PT, DPT 

Q: Are squats bad for my knees?

A: “The short answer: no. The long answer: squats and squat variations are an incredibly useful exercise to supplement any individual’s training toward improving race times, building muscle, and improving total well-being.

There is a common misconception that performing squats with weights are damaging to the hips, knees and back. Another gym myth is that squatting below parallel (where the crease of the hip is below the top of the knee joint) is especially harmful and should be avoided in training. However, research shows that squatting with a full range of motion increases hip extension torque with performance of deeper squats, meaning that as you squat lower the hips end up taking on more force than the knees or ankles. It has also been found that full-depth squats increase glute, erector spinae, and rectus femoris activation compared to partial squats. In other words, if you perform squats to full-depth it will decrease the related stress to your knees and increase muscle activation in the major muscle groups of your lower extremities and back.

Squats aren’t just all about adding muscle; this exercise can become a staple for cyclists or runners looking to take their training to the next level. A 2010 study showed that cyclists that performed maximal effort squat training for 8 weeks improved their cycling economy, and increased time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic power among competitive road cyclists.

There are some important exceptions and careful considerations to keep in mind when thinking about adding full-body squats to your routine; individuals with pre-existing back and knee injuries should first be examined by a licensed professional that is capable of safely guiding you through the mechanics of a proper squat. Our PT Solutions physical therapists and Body Solutions personal trainers are certified biomechanical experts that can give a proper analysis of how you can begin implementing squat training into your routine to improve your athletic performance.”

Ask a PT is a monthly blog feature where physical therapists at PT Solutions Physical Therapy give their professional input on a popular patient question. Do you have a question that you’d like answered? Leave us a comment below!


About the PT 

Travis Barefoot is the clinic director of PT Solutions Roswell. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise & Sport Science, and Emory University with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Travis has over 10 years of weight training experience and has 7 years of coaching and personal training experience. Travis has an athletic background in powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, rugby, track and field, and wrestling.