Do deep squats cause knee damage?

We’ve all heard people say that deep squats are bad for your knees, yet we all know many people that do it and have seemingly no trouble.  So what’s the deal? Do the people who suggest not squatting deep know something we don’t, or do we actually know something they don’t?

This research paper is a meta-analysis of 164 articles.  The goal was to determine if squats with less knee flexion (quarter and half squats) are safer on the tissues and structures surrounding the knee than deep squats.  

The authors looked at the theory that deep squatting can cause:

  • degenerative changes of the tendofemoral complex,
  • chondromalacia,
  • osteoarthritis,
  • and osteochondritis

All of those claims were unfounded!

In fact, they found that with increasing knee flexion, there is lower compressive forces on the knee and that the menisci, cartilage, ligaments, and bones respond to increased forces with an anabolic process similar to the way our muscles do, thus strengthening them and making them less susceptible to injury.

It seems then, that not only do deep squats not cause damage to your knees, but that not squatting deep may actually be bad for your knees.  Of course, you must only squat as deep and as heavy as your form and mobility allows.  But with proper technique and mobility, it appears not squatting deep is harmful to your knee health.

Original Research:

Hartmann H, Wirth K, Klusemann M. (2013). Analysis of the load on the knee joint and vertebral column with changes in squatting depth and weight load. Sports Med. 2013 Oct;43(10):993-1008.

Make sure you’re all caught up on the research! Read our last article summary HERE.

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