The Art of Squatting

Squats are a cornerstone of any fitness regimen, often hailed as the "main exercise" in the gym. This full-body exercise is renowned for its ability to engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. However, is it an exercise suitable for everyone? This post delves into the intricacies of squatting, shedding light on the considerations that need to be made before incorporating it into your workout routine.

Positioning the Barbell

The journey to a successful squat begins with the correct positioning of the barbell. Ideally, the barbell should rest on the upper part of the trapezius muscle. To maintain this position without excessive effort, one needs good flexibility in the internal rotators of the shoulder, including the pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, and subscapularis.

Any tightness in these muscles can stress the shoulder joint and lead to compensatory hyperlordosis, a condition characterized by an excessive inward curve at the lumbar level. Therefore, it is beneficial to assess these muscles and engage in stretching exercises if needed. This preliminary step ensures the barbell is correctly positioned on the shoulders, preventing any lumbar compensation.

Performing the Squat

Once the barbell is correctly positioned, the actual exercise begins. The eccentric phase of the squat involves knee flexion and pelvic anteversion, both of which should occur simultaneously.

An image showing the correct squat execution

During knee flexion, the kneecap should align with the center of the foot. However, maintaining this alignment is challenging for individuals with varus or valgus knees. Therefore, those with misalignment at the knee level should exercise caution when performing squats.

Moreover, the inability to antevert and retrovert the pelvis can lead to significant compression of the intervertebral discs. In such cases, initial work to mobilize the pelvis may help manage the execution of the exercise better.

Heel Engagement: A Crucial Detail

Another crucial aspect of squatting is the ability to keep the heel on the ground during the descent phase. Tightness in the soleus or gastrocnemius muscles can cause the heel to lift, and using a shim under the heel will only shift the problem to the knee level, without addressing the root cause.

Squatting: A Double-Edged Sword

While squats are an excellent exercise due to their ability to recruit multiple muscles, they are not without risks. Therefore, it is essential to assess the mobility of the muscles involved in squatting. If necessary, a targeted stretching program can be implemented for those muscles that exhibit significant tightness.


In conclusion, it is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all exercise. Each individual has a unique postural and joint reality that must be considered when choosing exercises. The goal should always be to maximize benefits while minimizing risks. Therefore, it's not about finding the "perfect" or "best" exercise, but rather, the most suitable exercise for the individual.

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