When I was thinking of what to write for this edition, I had a friend of mine ask me about how deep he should be going when he squats. I told him to go below parallel and he said he heard that was dangerous for the knees. This is an all too common belief that is not based in truth. The knee is a hinge joint at which flexion and extension can take place. For those of you that know a bit about biomechanics, a joint experiences the greatest amount of torque when the lever arm is at is greatest distance from the fulcrum. So from this, we can see that at parallel or 90 degrees on a squat (as is usually suggested by many trainers), the knee joint is experiencing the greatest amount of torque. A high amount of torque places a large degree of stress on an area. This is a good thing if we are talking about a muscle but not so good if we are talking about a hinge joint. Ok, so the next thing. If you are an athlete that has ever had a knee injury, you may remember that the athletic trainer, physical therapist or orthopedic doctor checked the ligaments in your knee by putting you on your back and placing your knee at 90 degrees.
In this position, the person will then pull, push and try to move the knee laterally and medially. If there is pain or a lot of movement, they can then begin to diagnose an injured ligament. Ever think of why they check the knee in the 90 degree position? The reason is because the knee joint has the greatest amount of instability at 90 degrees. So, the advice most trainees are receiving is to squat with a load to 90 degrees, the point at which the knee is experiencing the greatest amount of torque and the most instability. From this point, the trainee is then supposed to stop and reverse. Yeah, that sounds really good for the knees. Listen; go deeper than parallel when you squat. It is harder and you will have to use less weight, but your legs will experience greater results and you will save your knees. They’ll thank you when you are older.
Ok, many people define themselves by the role they undertake. One of the biggest things that my coach has taught me is that we must bring meaning to the pursuit; the pursuit does not bring meaning to our lives. If for example, you are a basketball player; there will come a day when you can no longer play. When this happens, you will lose a large part of your identity. Why do you think many professional athletes have trouble retiring? It is not the pursuit that makes you who you are; you bring a special meaning to the pursuit that you undertake. It will be different for everyone. However, once your time has come on to move away from the chose pursuit, you can then pick up with another pursuit and bring meaning to that pursuit. It is like the old question: define who you are without telling me what roles you hold (i.e. teacher, father, girlfriend, etc.).
A lot of this has to do with ego, something that we all have. I started to read Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of NOW. Here is a great passage from his book that by reading, will bring a new awareness to your life: “To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important. This total reversal of the truth accounts for the fact that in the ego mode the mind is so dysfunctional. It is always concerned with keeping the past alive, because without it – who are you? It constantly projects itself into the future to ensure its continued survival and to seek some kind of release or fulfillment there. It says, “One day, when this, that, or the other happens, I am going to be okay, happy, at peace.” Even when the ego seems to be concerned with the present, it is not the present that it sees: It misperceives it completely because it looks at it through the eyes of the past. I will leave this up to you to make the connection, because indeed there is a connection. Once you realize the meaning of pursuit and becoming aware of your ego, a whole new world will begin to take shape. It is not what you are doing, it is who you are being.
Kyle Newell is a strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) located in New Jersey. He specializes in body transformation and sport specific conditioning. Kyle is pursuing his master’s degree in exercise science through the University of Texas Pan American. Kyle is also a competitive bodybuilder in addition to being a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN). Kyle is available for online consulting. Just remember that proximity has nothing to do with expertise. Kyle can be reached through his website at http://www.bodyperformancecoach.com