Squatting is bad for you...right?

Our senior physiotherapist and cross fitter Emily Gadd explores the controversial topic of squatting. She explores some common myths and gives advice regarding technique and health benefits of the squat.

· August 8, 2018

Squatting is bad for you...right?

So squatting is bad for you...Right??

Have you ever been told not to squat, It's bad for your knees? Or don’t let your knees go over your toes, that’s bad too right?

So I’m here to get you thinking about those statements, why they aren’t always true, and why in the western world we should be squatting more!

Now I understand that there is a wealth of information out there and it can be confusing what is right and what is wrong. What I’m not saying here is that everyone should loading 100kg onto a barbell and be pain free. However, squatting a little more often can be a great way to increase flexibility, strength, bowel health, birthing benefits, performance enhancement and many more.  

Did you know that squatting was and is still used as a natural way to empty the bowels in Asia? If any of you have visited countries on that side of the world or been back-packing you’ll be familiar with the routine.

In the western world we take comfort a little more seriously however there are a number of health benefits that can be gained for going back to basics – I won’t go into that here as its not my ‘bag’ but if you are interested visit - https://www.teachingnomad.com/discover-more/nomad-blog/item/257-asian-squat-toilet-vs-western-sit-toilet-the-down-and-dirty

What is more my bag is looking at the squat and addressing anatomical ‘issues’ to help people be more FUNCTIONAL – yup, being able to do a little bit more around the house, garden, in the gym or at work. You don’t have to be an athlete! Let’s take a minute to appreciate the picture on the left – good old Arnie. Look at the degree of bend in all his joints, his nice upright torso and good shoulder position, Now you try it …. 

Hard right? So most of us nowadays have a comparatively sedentary lifestyle to our predecessors which doesn’t require us to challenge the tissue in our bodies they way it likes. ‘But my doctor told me not to squat its bad for my knees?’. Well I’ve got some good news, that’s not correct, there is truth in at different depth of squat different structures within the knee have higher loads placed upon them (Hartmann 2013, Schoenfield 2010). This is also true at the hip (Fry et al 2003) and you don’t hear people saying squatting is bad for the hips do you?

Now I should mention that if you have a known pathology or perhaps some niggling pain then it probably isn’t sensible to start working on your bottom squat position like Arnie here, instead what you need to do is chat to one of use about this, get it on the road to recovery and then we can enhance your function through squatting! Squatting is widely becoming a valued and accepted method of resistance training providing you can master a good technique, that’s where we come in – contact LMC Physiotherapy if you have any concerns.

Now that we have agreed that squatting isn’t bad for us lets have a little think about the old saying ‘knee don’t go past your toes’, well I for one have very long femurs, exceptionally long actually and this means that if I were to not let my knees pass my toes I would fold in half like an accordion and get absolutely no benefits excepts perhaps a good look at the floor in front of me.

So by the very nature of my anatomy I MUST send my knees forward, this requires good ankle mobility. This brings us nicely round to the fact that we are all built differently, very differently and what works for me might not work for you, if you have short femurs you can squat quite differently as you would if you had a deep hip socket in comparison to someone with a shallow hip socket and the list goes on.

So remember, if you are being told something and it hurts or doesn’t feel good (barring the fact that its just hard work!) then get a second opinion or try out some different things.

You may also hear things like ‘toes pointing forward’ or ‘feet shoulder width apart’, again with both of these where is no squat recipe book that we can go by however there are general rules we can follow to make life easier for ourselves. My top tips if you are looking to get a bit more knowledge on squatting:

  • If you have a lower limb or back injury and its impacting on this then contact us at LMC Physiotherapy
  • Toes should point somewhere from forward to 45°
  • In general feet ‘sort of’ shoulder width, if this is ‘pinching’ your hips you may need to adjust this.
  • Say Goodbye to your toes! Don’t be afraid of not seeing them in a squat.
  • Imagine you are ‘sitting down’ this gives you roughly the right muscle patterning and gets your bottom out behind you.
  • Its not all about the knees, sometimes the restriction is coming from your feet and ankle or you hips which prevents the force to be driven elsewhere and causes pain.
  • Try to avoid self-diagnosing as this can be a minefield! Book an appointment with a qualified and HCPC registered Physiotherapist. We are specialist Physio's in Rugby - you can read about our services here or book an appointment here.


Thanks for reading,


Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
Sports Massage Association

About Us

LMC Physiotherapy is a modern and forward-thinking physiotherapy clinic in Rugby, Warwickshire. Our aim is to get you back to doing the things you love.

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13c The Green, Bilton Rugby CV22 7LZ Clinic 41, 41 Brentwood Avenue, Finham, Coventry, CV3 6AS

01788 331570