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The squat is the most mistrusted, complicated exercise you will see in a gym this side of CrossFit. You hinge at just about every possible joint in your body during a squat — ankles, knees, hips, elbows and shoulders all helping in the movement. Never mind the core stability and spine position required. Intimidated yet? You should be. You should also do them. They’re possibly the best exercise in existence. The following are some of the most frequent complaints regarding squats, and I’ve helpfully included some advice on how to solve them.
4) Chronic lower back pain
Millions of Americans suffer from chronic lower back pain. Make no doubt about it, when you squat with a heavy load on your back, pulling your butt out and arching your lumbar is going to put pressure on it. Doing this with constant lower back pain is only going to make it worse. What should you do instead? This is an easy one: go to a chiropractor. Get your back pain sorted with professional help. Then get your butt in the gym and squat.
3) It hurts to have the bar on my back
In the honor of discretion and honesty — I suffered from this one myself. I even used the (gasp!) pad on the bar at one point. Don’t tell anyone, please. They may kick me out of my gym! With that out of the way, this is a common problem. To put it frankly, my traps were not developed enough to comfortably cover my spine while squatting. I avoided them because of that. Instead, I did shrugs, farmer walks, and seated rows to build the traps up until I could form a comfortable shelf across my spine for the bar to rest on. Then I started squatting.
2) Bad Knees
Knee damage is cited as one of the main reasons to avoid squats. “It tears them up!” they say. “You won’t be able to walk when you’re 50!” echo some gym bunnies. It’s all true, actually — if you do them incorrectly. Everyone’s body is a bit different, and as such each person’s mechanics are going to vary. So, instead of doing squats like the really, really big guy you saw, fix the form for your body. Widen your stance, move the bar half an inch down. Use the cue of spreading the floor with your feet and keep your shins vertical. Keep tweaking it until you find something comfortable for you.
1) I just can’t do them
Well, that’s a great reason, isn’t it? I’m surprised at how often I’m confronted with this answer. There usually isn’t much convincing otherwise in these situations — so here are a few alternatives to squatting. The leg press will do well in replacing the quad-activation. Throw in a few sets of Romanian Deadlifts for your posterior chain and back activation and you’ve essentially replicated the squat. Downside is, you have to do twice as many exercises to accomplish the same thing.
In short — squats are one of the best exercises to do. They activate so much of the body’s musculature that it’s stupid and inefficient not to do them. There are limiting factors, but they can all be corrected and squats occur. Get out there and put those weights on your back. Lets get it!