Should I do squats in my rehab program?

In our clinic we work with a lot of people trying to return to life after major injuries or surgeries.  Sometimes these are knee reconstructions or joint replacements. Or they may trying to become more functional in the presence of back pain or knee arthritis.  One of the activities we frequently ask them to do to improve lower body and core strength is to squat and they are frequently surprised about it.  Many people have been told by someone(sometimes their doctor) that because of their hip, back, or knee pain they should never squat again.  Now in some cases loading the knee and bending it will be an issue and that has to be taken into account.  But squatting is one of our basic movement patterns which we do well from very early in our development, and many of life’s basic activities are some version of a squat such as stairs, descending a hill, most sports activities, and getting in and out of a chair.  So it makes sense to train your body to squat well to function better.


Before squatting though, you need to make sure your squat movements are ideal.  This is the reason many people recommend not doing it.  Squatting isn’t bad, but squatting badly is bad.

Here are a few things to look for in a proper squat:


  • Feet shoulder width, either straight or slightly toed out
  • Knees aligned over toes, not inside feet collapsing together
  • Weight equal on both legs
  • Hips to parallel with knees or below
  • Spine parallel with lower leg (trunk not pitched forward)

Here are some examples of bad form.


Poor knee position.


Poor knee form, weight shifted, not getting hips low enough.


Rounded spine.


If you have any of these movement dysfunctions, you should get them corrected before using the squat as a training activity.  Sometimes this is just learning better form.  Sometimes you are dealing with mobility or strength issues. A trained professional can help you figure out why your squat may be off. Either way correcting your squat then using it as a training device can help you move better, function better, and maybe get out of some pain.





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