Injuries and the squat
There are various injuries associated with the squat and some types of injuries more common among heavy squatters. Read on to find out more about squat safety and injury prevention when squatting.
Risks associated with the squat
The squat should be performed with comfortably placed feet and a reasonably wide posture. Placing the feet too close together can cause undue pressure on the knees. Squat safety is increased through proper foot placement as it improves balance.
75% of injuries involving the squat are caused during the start or finish of the exercise, when taking the bar off its hooks or returning it to the squat rack. Always pay close attention at the start and finish of the squat as a lapse of concentration could result in injury.
Be careful never to slouch or relax the back while squatting. Strong muscle tension should be maintained at all times and the movement should be fluid and controlled.
The abdominals should also always be tight and engaged as they help support the lower back throughout the exercise.
Squat safety precautions
For proper squat safety, you should always have a spotter available in case you need help during the lift.
Be sure to maintain a smooth and controlled motion throughout the descent and ascent, keeping firm muscle tension in the legs, back and abdomen.
Keeping good muscle tension and always staying concentrated on your lift will also help increase squat safety.
Squat rack / Smith machine / Power cage
You can use a Smith machine for extra safety when performing squats. The Smith machine consists of a rack with a suspended barbell which moves up and down on runners.
The cage will catch the barbell if you are unable to support it as you stand up. This is particularly useful for increasing squat safety if you don’t have spotters.
The safety pins should be put at the right height to enable you to perform the full range of the squat movement but they should always be high enough to catch the weight and stop it from falling on you if you cannot support it.
The use of a squat rack or Smith machine eliminates the need for a spotter and provides a further level of squat safety.
However, it is advisable to try using free weights if possible, as a squat rack stops you from needing to balance yourself and your stabilising muscles will not be strengthened as a result.
The Smith machine is slightly controversial as some think it provides an unnatural squat. If you use a Smith machine, it is best to do free squats sometimes too.
Performing a variety of different squats helps to build stronger muscles as well as providing more interest to your weight lifting routine.
Weight Lifting Belt
A weight lifting belt can be used to support the torso, especially the lower back, during a lift. This can often be beneficial to squat safety.
However, it is best not to rely on a lifting belt when you are practising your lifts, as this will give you an artificial aid in supporting the bar and your own muscles will not develop as quickly or as well.
It is best to save the belt for competitions or for doing low rep, high weight lifts. Those with weak backs might also benefit from using a weight lifting belt in order to support their back if they want to lift heavy, until they develop more strength in their lower back (erector spinae).
Belts should be used only occasionally if you want to develop the strongest back you can.
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