Squat lifts may be popular for muscle strengthening, but new research shows even with proper technique they are high-risk exercises leading to possible stress fractures.
Though athletes have been using squat lifts as a routine muscle strengthening exercise for decades, new research shows that they may be worth less than squat in terms of their potential injury risk.
The squat lift is a full-body exercise that involves lifting barbell or free weights, starting from a standing position, into a squat, then back to a standing position. While there are many variations to the squat lift, this is the basic form practised by weight trainers, including young athletes. Squats are a part of training for many high school sports, many athletes starting this kind of training by age 13.
The trouble is that this particular exercise puts tremendous strain on the spine. Even with textbook technique, squats put inordinate stress on the spine and can cause chronic stress fractures.
A study presented at the North American Spine Society annual meeting in Chicago November 2 concluded that even when young athletes have perfect form when doing squat lifts, they’re risking a hard-to-heal stress fracture of the posterior lumbar spine structure known as the pars interarticularis.
“These are high-risk lifts whether you’re a child or an adult,” said lead author John McClellan, MD, a pediatric and adult spine surgeon at the Nebraska Spine Center in Omaha. “For years, coaches have blamed spinal fractures on kids’ poor weightlifting techniques, so we wanted to put that theory to the test.”
The study now provides evidence that even with perfect form squat lifts put the spine at very high risk. Once a pars fracture occurs, the study authors said, the chance of it healing is as low as 2 percent. Degenerative disc problems and a lifetime of low back pain are likely outcomes.
For training tips that won’t put your spine at risk, check out these at-home strength training tips.