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DON’T DO SQUATS

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“Do not do squats!” It’s almost a mantra for me, and I don’t know why. After all, squats, deep knee bends and lunges have probably paid for both of my kids’ college and grad school educations. I should love the squat, but for years I’ve been telling my patients don’t do squats, wondering if I was alone in this opinion, and then I saw this on the internet. Orthopedic surgeon invents Crossfit to fund his children’s education! Who’da thunk it? Has a baker ever told his client not to eat cake? Has a plumber ever told her clients to give a courtesy flush before using the toilet paper? But medical professionals should have a different perspective, right? That’s why your dentist tells you not to eat sugar. It doesn’t mean you listen. 

And so, I blog. Over and over. DO NOT DO SQUATS. And patients and readers get mad, especially if they’ve paid for a year of kettle bell or Camp Gladiator classes. Face it. The exercise industry is invested in squats and, in particular, women doing squats. You’ve been brainwashed to think it’s the only way to burn the calories and build up that booty. But I promise that so many of you will end up in pain, damaged, under the knife, and with the only thing “swole” being your knees. 

Squats are bad for your knees, particularly women’s knees, because of the way we’re put together. Squats put tremendous pressure on our knee caps and our meniscus cartilages. 

People ask me if they can do quarter squats, deep knee bends, lunges, little bits of squats, or squats only on Tuesdays? It’s like the dentist telling someone they can eat a little sugar, a little chocolate, only every other day, at noon. It’s easier, and better, just to say, “Don’t eat sugar.” So… Don’t do squats. 

PS: To strengthen your legs walk, cycle, swim or do straight leg raises.

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Dr. Barbara Bergin is a board certified Orthopedic Surgeon who has been taking care of the bones and joints of Austin, Texas, for over 30 years. She prefers prevention to treatment and takes a natural approach to both when possible. By informing her readers and patients through 1010ParkPlace and her blog, drbarbarabergin.com, she wants to prevent 100,000 injuries before she retires.

13 thoughts on “DON’T DO SQUATS”

  1. So tell me a safe exercise for my quads! Since the proper way to lift something heavy is to use one’s legs and not one’s back, it’s necessary to have quadriceps that are up to the task. (It’s even better to have somebody else do heavy lifting, but not always possible.)

  2. I had the hardest time getting up from a chair. I am only 64 but felt 84….my open heart surgery almost did me in. Just standing up was hard. Then I read that Most people are put into nursing homes because they can’t get off the toilet alone. Then I started going to a gym with trainers that are actually trained themselves and yes I do squats. I can get up from a chair without pushing myself up. I tore my meniscus 4 years ago and I feel my knee is stronger from squats. I won’t argue with a doctor, but squats have been great for me….I do not offer this to be a malcontent, just another side

    • They always like to do a story on the one 80-year-old, or the one pregnant woman who runs the Austin Marathon. They don’t do stories on the hundreds of people who don’t even make it to the starting line because of training injuries, some of which result in permanent, and painful conditions.

      Not speaking of you specifically, but squats may not be the reason you are doing so well.

  3. I love Dr. Bergin!!! I had a meniscusectomy about 15 years go and was not eligible for a replacement part. My orthopedist told me no tennis, no skiing, any sport with sudden stops and starts, only fluid motion. No knee bends, squats or lunges unless I wanted to see him for a knee replacement. He was all for disregarding his advice since he also told me he has 4 kids and 1 ex wife and 1 current wife! People think I am a big wimp when I say I can’t do the above listed exercises so it is nice to hear from someone else!!!

  4. Bad knees run in my family. I had my right knee replaced about 7 yrs ago and it still bothers me. I have never done squats because they did hurt my knees. I did a spin class for years and it does help.

  5. Hello, thanks for all your great advice. I have problems with my knees (degeneration behind the knee caps apparently) and am doing Pilates reformer classes recommended by my physio to strengthen weak areas. In your opinion, would this cause my knees to get worse as there is a lot of knee bending involved, whilst pushing out on the reformer Many thanks

    • I think Pilates is probably okay, since it is assisted and not actually doing squats. But many exercise programs are invested in eventually getting you to do the squat, so be aware!

  6. I just went thru a round of physical therapy which included cycling, walking, straight leg raises and using elastic bands. My orthopedic specialist said no squats or lunges unless I wanted new knees. He too said he would be happy to make some money off of me if I didn’t follow advice. I have strengthened my quads doing these exercises and doing quiet well. I will confess it has been a new mindset because squats and lunges were part of my exercise routine. I am learning how to exercise in a safer but just as effective manner.

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