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ETFnerd

Long-term Effects of Heavy Squatting

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I see a lot of people with years of heavy squatting experience with mobility issues. Seems to be because joints are just not as strong or durable as major muscle groups involved in the squat.

The gluteus, quadriceps and calves are the largest muscle group in the body, incredibly strong and have a great capacity for growth and recovery. However hips, knees, ankles do not appear to have the same strength and resiliency. After you get to a certain point, say 2-2.5xBW, the joints become points of failure and the limit to their development is far south of the limit on the muscle groups.

What are your thoughts on whether there is a limit on the stress that you should place on joints in heavy compound lifts? The limit seems to be more on squats than DLs and BP, but if you care to comment on those, I would be interested.

Overhead lifts where you use your shoulders seem vulnerable too as the muscle group is not that large and the rotator cuff. elbows and wrists are also weaker, so the same question goes for the overhead lifts.

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So, I'm going to post this with a grain of salt, as I'm reading through it as I post...

http://www.usapowerlifting.com/newsletter/11/coaching/coaching.html

I would think that at some threshold it's going to start being detrimental. I think it also depends a lot upon what the lifter is doing for themselves. As in, are they taking supplements for their joints? Are they(and have they been) lifting with poor form for X amount of years?

But overall, I'm going off of bro-science and how little google returned to me, I'm going to say there is no direct cause and effect with squatting heavy and turning into a cripple later in life.

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Yeah it's a heavy (zing) topic that I can't really give due diligence right now but let me just say that I've seen retired world level Olympic lifters move around and I've seen ex elite powerlifters move around and I know which one I want to be when I grow up.

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I'm by no means an expert on this but one of the big things that is talked about in the Stronglifts 5x5 book is the idea that squatting is bad for your knees. It gives a lot of examples of people who have used the Stronglifts program (which has a large emphasis on squatting) for whom squatting has actually improved their knees (whether they've had genetic conditions, injuries, etc.). It puts the blame for the idea of squatting causing bad knees on people squatting with poor form and people only doing half squats. It doesn't use any scientific evidence to back it up though so I can't speak for its validity

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Yeah, but bad knees with bad form comes in early. You don't get to squat 2.5x bw with bad form. I'm not sure just how many people really do squat this heavy though: I know I don't!

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I squatted 405 @ 175 so not quite 2.5x but close... i have the worst lower body flexibility and if i was squatting at your gym you would throw me out and never have me back for insurance reasons...

having said that i think you're right that folks with good form progress faster and further, exposing them to heavier loads, and as the loads get heavier, the discrepancy between what the joints can bear and what the muscle can bear comes further into the light...

so both groups appear to have reasons for developing immediate or longer-term injuries. the longer term injuries seem more dangerous because you are constantly feeding the joints unbearable loads over long periods of time... until that time when the joint has gone past the point of no return...

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I'm by no means an expert on this but one of the big things that is talked about in the Stronglifts 5x5 book is the idea that squatting is bad for your knees. It gives a lot of examples of people who have used the Stronglifts program (which has a large emphasis on squatting) for whom squatting has actually improved their knees (whether they've had genetic conditions, injuries, etc.). It puts the blame for the idea of squatting causing bad knees on people squatting with poor form and people only doing half squats. It doesn't use any scientific evidence to back it up though so I can't speak for its validity

It really depends on what is bad in your knees. "Bad knees" is quite a catchall.

I can't imagine heavy lifting being good for a cartilage/bone on bone type issue.

If tendons are causing the knee pain then there really is nothing better for the knees than squatting. I have first hand evidence of this, and really what got me lifting in the first place was chronic knee pain. Tendon based chronic knee pain is usually caused because the muscles are too weak, putting excessive stress on the tendons. Increase the strength in the muscles (usually quad/hamstring), reduce the stress in the tendons, knee pain goes away over time (almost 100% gone for me). The squat is the best single exercise you can do for those muscles. But I bet the opposite is true as well, there will reach a point where the muscles will get too strong, the loads too high, where the tendons will be overstressed once again. The thing is, especailly at first, if you have chronic tendon based knee pain the squat is also the single most painful thing that you can do. Even though it hurts, A LOT, squatting makes the pain go away. At first though I had to do other exercises to build the strength up and relieve the pain to the point where I could even handle doing a single bodyweight squat.

Edited by Waldo

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Obviously the human body has limits, and I agree with what jdanger said.

My only point to add is this; are you really going to try and lift so much weight you potentially cause catastrophic failure in your limbs?

Anyways, I was posting this link in another thread but I'll re-post here because it's somewhat relevant:

Strength Standards @ exrx.net

Not advanced/elite? Don't worry about anything but bad form. Elite? Foggy area due to lack of studies n what not.

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are you really going to try and lift so much weight you potentially cause catastrophic failure in your limbs?

does that mean that once you're in elite territory that you won't increase weight? even if you were to do that, i would think that over time, the ability of the muscle to bear the load would increase... whereas the ability of the joint to do the same would not...

where would you stop such that you wouldn't have injury? as you train your capacity increases.. but i would guess not forever... and at some point that limit will turn backwards with age and other factors. the limit seems dependant on highly individual factors, and long-term stress related injury can be imperceptible until it becomes irreversible unless you are fastidiously vigilant about your training regimen...

i mean your joints can atrophy from typing on a keyboard...

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That't what I mean though; most people, even those seriously TRYING to, won't get to the elite level. They just either don't have the right genetics or are prevented by acts of nature.

I dunno. I'm not there yet, but at least for me, I'm sure there will be a point where I stop making gains, and I go 'Ok. Enough is enough.' Considering that excessive powerlifting will prevent me from playing my sport effectively, I'll probably stop my squats at three plates, deadlifts at 4.

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