Article Review: Brad Schoenfeld, MSc and Mary Williams, MA, Exercise Science Department, CUNY Lehman College, Bronx, New York; and Athletic Training Education Program, Texas A&M University-Corpus Cristi, Corpus Christi, Texas. Are deep squats a Safe and Viable Exercise? National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Volume 34, Number 2. April 2012.
This Article from the NSCA’s Journal in their Point/Counterpoint section discusses the benefits and risks of performing deep squats. A deep squat is considered to be when the knee joint bends beyond 90 degrees and the femur (thigh) is below parallel to the ground. Based upon their review of literature deep squatting was not found to be detrimental to individuals with normal, healthy knees. The benefit discussed was that it provides greater muscular activation, greater functional motion and improves athletic performance.
On the flip side to this, other authors argue that deep squats with high knee flexion angles can predispose an individual to osteoarthritic changes, specifically in the cartilage behind the patella. They also argued that muscular activity does not significantly increase compared to squatting to a position where the thigh is parallel to the floor.
From a physical therapy standpoint, both of the above viewpoints are considered when creating individualized exercise programs for our clients. In general, it is not recommended for squats to be so deep that the muscles about the knee, hip and ankle are placed in an inefficient position. If a person squats to complete flexion of the hip, ankle and knee, muscular efficiency is reduced and forces are shifted to the joint cartilage, ligaments, and soft tissues about the knee.
If however, an individual’s work situation or sport performance dictates the need to squat fully, the goal in physical therapy will be to restore and maintain the body’s ability to tolerate these positions safely and functionally. If underlying joint problems are present, modifications to these positions may be necessary to avoid further stress and strain to tissues or a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon may be advised.
When in doubt, ask your physical therapist.
– Derek VanderRoest, PTA
– Laura Markey, PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT