Vivian Grisogono


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Benefits: The full squat strengthens the front-thigh muscles in conjunction with other leg muscles.
Doing the squat on your toes avoids excess pressure on the front of the knee in the kneecap joint. The muscles work concentrically under your bodyweight against gravity as you straighten your legs. The great value of this exercise is in the reverse movement, when the muscles have to pay out and lengthen with control, against the effect of gravity. This is called eccentric muscle activity. It keeps or makes the legs strong for activities like going up and down stairs, climbing ladders, climbing, hiking and hill running. Bending the knees fully under your bodyweight provides lubrication for the soft cartilages (menisci), keeping them healthy and ensuring that your knees are properly pliable. In the full squat position, the very back parts of the inner cartilages (menisci) are lubricated with the knee's synovial fluid.
If you lose the ability to squat, your knees suffer increased loading pressure over a more limited part of the joint surfaces, which can lead to degenerative changes, or osteoarthritis. Being able to crouch down is important for protecting the back whenever you have to reach down to the floor, especially if you have to pick objects up or put them down. Squatting slowly, with control, trains the front-thigh muscles eccentrically, and so is a protective exercise which helps walking, especially down stairs or slopes, as well as running and skiing.
Position: Stand with your feet slightly apart, arms straight in front of you with palms down. Always stand close to a support in case you overbalance.
Movements: Go up on your toes with your knees straight, bend your knees with control to squat down as far as you comfort ably can, keeping your heels off the floor. Then come up to straighten your knees. Lock your knees once you are standing upright, then relax the muscles completely.
Repetitions and frequency: 3-10 times, 1-2 times a day
Progression: When the exercise is easy, you can hold weights in your hands to increase the load.
Note: Avoid pain. If the full squat is painful, try squatting only a little way at first, if you can do it without pain. It may be more comfortable to squat down quickly at first, but for good muscle training the downward movement should be done more slowly. You can check your speed by counting, for instance go down to a count of between 6 and 10 seconds, come up to a count of 1-3. Stay on your toes throughout the movement. Make sure your knees bend symmetrically, especially in the full squat position. Keep your back as straight as possible. If you can, hold your arms straight out in front of you. You can place your hands on your hips or thighs if you feel safer doing so. If you find it difficult to balance, steady yourself, perhaps by placing your hands on a strong piece of furniture. Keep your shoulders as relaxed as possible.
After injury: It is important to try to regain the ability to squat down after any hip, knee or ankle injury, if at all possible. You need to regain this movement before resuming active sports, especially those which involve running, crouching or jumping, for instance in squash or field hockey.
More in this category: « STRAIGHT-LEG RAISE