Squat exercises are highly effective, as they strengthen the back and core muscles, helping the prevention of injury. They can be done anywhere with or without equipment like weights and resistance bands and can be part of an aerobic workout. Squatting requires following proper form and posture. Using the improper form, adding too much weight too soon, overdoing it without enough recovery time can cause soreness, back pain, and injury. Having muscle soreness after performing squats is expected; however, if symptoms like chronic soreness, tingling, numbness, or sharp aches that come and go, begin to appear, it is recommended to consult a medical trainer, chiropractor, doctor, or spine specialist to evaluate the symptoms, and if necessary develop a treatment plan, as well as a prevention plan to continue exercising safely.
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Squatting is a highly beneficial form of exercise. Athletes, trainers, coaches, and individuals just staying healthy use the technique as a part of their training and workouts. This is because squatting increases core muscle strength, increasing body power. Squat exercises benefits include:
- Improved strength and a range of motion allow the body to move flawlessly in various directions with minimal effort.
Increased Core Strength
- All major muscles work together during a squat.
- This increases muscle stabilization, maintains body balance, increasing core strength.
- Squats work all leg muscles simultaneously, synchronizing the body.
- This increases body stability decreasing the risk of injury.
Back Pain and Potential Injury
The spine is exposed and unprotected during a squat. This is where back pain and injury can happen. Potential causes include:
- Not warming up/priming muscles properly.
- Tight muscles and a limited range of motion.
- Improper form and squatting technique.
- Adding weight or loading too soon.
- Weak core muscles.
- Incorrect or improper footwear with inadequate arch support.
- Weak ankle muscles are not used to the weight and shift, causing misalignment and awkward positioning.
- Previous injuries to the lower back can cause a flare-up to the area and potentially worsen.
Ways to troubleshoot and prevent back pain during squat exercises.
- Using a proper and effective warmup will ensure that the body is ready for the workout stress.
- Priming each muscle is recommended. This could be:
- Starting with glute work.
- Then planks to activate the core.
- Finish off with stretching and range of motion exercises.
- A personal trainer can assist in creating a customized workout routine.
- The feet should always face forward to protect the hips and knees when beginning a squat.
- If the feet face at an angle, the form can be impacted, leading to back pain or collapsing arches.
- Maintaining a straight-ahead or upward gaze, which increases center awareness during squat exercises, can prevent the body from leaning forward and placing stress on the spine.
- Only squat as far as possible, making sure to feel in control and maintain the form.
- Squatting too deep can cause muscle strain leading to pain.
- Focus on form, as it is more important than depth.
- Ankle mobility and stability are essential to balance and control.
- If the ankle is compromised, the feet could lift off the floor, forcing the body to compensate, leading to strain and potential injuries.
- Only squat as far as ankle stability allows.
- Ankle flexibility exercises will help improve squat form.
- Choose the correct squat variation.
- Goblet or front squats can be easier for beginners.
- Barbell back squats are more advanced and, if done incorrectly, can cause injury.
A chiropractor or physical therapist will be able to evaluate spinal health, exercise form, and advise if there is an issue.
Achieve Health and Fitness Goals By Doing What You Enjoy
Don’t engage in workouts or fitness programs that make you miserable. Do workouts/activities that you enjoy and have fun doing. Exercise for the love of the body, keeping it healthy and in shape, not because there is a feeling of obligation.
- Try and experiment with different workouts/physical activities to see and feel what works for you.
- Individuals who don’t like lifting weights try using resistance bands or bodyweight exercises.
- The same goes for nutrition. Don’t base diet and supplement choices on misperceptions about health.
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Clark, Dave R et al. “Muscle activation in the loaded free barbell squat: a brief review.” Journal of strength and conditioning research vol. 26,4 (2012): 1169-78. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31822d533d
Cortell-Tormo, Juan M et al. “Effects of functional resistance training on fitness and quality of life in females with chronic nonspecific low-back pain.” Journal of back and musculoskeletal rehabilitation vol. 31,1 (2018): 95-105. doi:10.3233/BMR-169684
Donnelly, David V et al. “The effect of the direction of gaze on the kinematics of the squat exercise.” Journal of strength and conditioning research vol. 20,1 (2006): 145-50. doi:10.1519/R-16434.1
Zawadka, Magdalena et al. “Altered squat movement pattern in patients with chronic low back pain.” Annals of agricultural and environmental medicine: AAEM vol. 28,1 (2021): 158-162. doi:10.26444/aaem/117708
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