Deep Squats and “Master Instructors”

deep back squat Thomas Kurz

Deep back squat

I just received your Stretching Express DVD, and it looks very interesting. However, I have heard for ages that deep squats, where the thigh goes past parallel to the floor, are bad for the joints (in particular the knee joint). Is this a problem or an old wives’ tale, and more recent scientific evidence has proved that it’s fine [to do deep squats]?

I know from your Stretching Scientifically books (I’ve had three editions) that you wouldn’t recommend an exercise based purely on “this is the way we used to do it in Eastern Europe X decades ago.”

I look forward to your answer. I used to be able to do the splits when I was younger. I then had a few years out of exercise and am looking forward to regaining my flexibility with your method, if I can get some reassurance it won’t ruin my joints. I’ll also then get my students doing it (I’m a taekwondo master instructor).


First, a correction:

My recently published DVD is titled Flexibility Express, not Stretching Express.

Flexibility Express DVD

Here is a quote from my article “Martial Arts and the Squat” that answers your question:

“You may have heard the myth that deep squats (legs bent until hamstrings make contact with the calves) destabilize the knees. It is not true. Deep squats with weights improve knee stability provided that the feet are placed so there is no lateral rotation in the knees (Tipton et al. 1975). Further, those same people who speak nonsense about the danger of deep squatting advise partial squatting—that is, until the thighs are parallel to the floor—as a healthy alternative. The trouble is that at this angle between the thigh and the shin, patellofemoral stress peaks for both eccentric and concentric muscle contractions (Huberti and Hayes 1984). If you do partial squats, you spend more time at this angle than if you do deep squats. This is because when doing deep squats, momentum carries you through that peak-stress angle, so you spend less time at it.”

If you’d thought of it, you could have done a few repetitions of the partial and deep squat each, seen which one makes your knees hurt more, and then you would have known what to think of those claims that “deep squats are bad for the joints.”

Alternatively, if your common sense is not enough, you can go to the bibliography of my article, obtain the above-mentioned sources, and read them. Next view videos of Olympic weightlifters, Hindu wrestlers, and other well-trained people. Finally, ask yourself why you ever paid any attention to what some people said or wrote “for ages”?

BTW, do your students a favor and do not instruct them until you can perform at least the MWod woman test shown below. That should give you practical understanding of normal mobility and fundamental exercises.

The Unbreakable® Umbrella — A peculiar mix of genteel elegance and chilling weaponry...

One Response to “Deep Squats and “Master Instructors””

  1. 1 Steven

    @taekwondo master instructor
    The full deep squat is a position of rest for millions of people in Asian countries and a position of toileting. People in Asian countries rarely have hip or knee trouble. Research that.

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