Squats are one of the most basic human movements performed daily by billions of people. You wake up in the morning, kick your feet out of bed, stand up and there it is, the first squat of the day and you’ve only been awake for 15 seconds. Despite worldwide participation, if you talk to most anyone who even dabbles in exercise they won’t hesitate to share their HATRED for squats. Reasons for this hatred will vary from naive “I walk so that strengthens my legs” to misinformed “squats are bad for my knees”. Well, both reasons couldn’t be any further from the truth. Walking is good aerobic exercise but does little to strengthen your legs. Additionally, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better strengthening exercise for your lower extremities that will actually improve the health of your knees. Increasing muscle strength above and below the knee will help decrease compressive loads through the knee.
When performed with good body mechanics, squats target several large muscle groups across multiple joints. This is how the body was designed to move and provides the most efficient transfer of force from larger to smaller muscle groups. Maintaining good mechanics throughout the movement are critical to avoid developing bad habits. You should be able to perform 20 repetitions with perfect form before thinking about adding weight. The keys to progressing safely with the squat or any other exercise are mechanics, consistency and then intensity.