Why not stretching your calves before you squat is destroying your knees
So I’m sure many of you reading this do squats in the gym without a speck of consideration for stretching your calves. Squats are one of my favorite exercises because not only is it a very functional exercise since we do squatting activities many times all day, but I can really feel it blasting my glutes and quads.
Personally speaking, I see a TON, A TON of people not stretching in the gym. I almost always stretch before and after each exercise I do. I can bet many of you do not stretch before doing your squats in the gym. I recently read a research article that explains in depth why not stretching your calves when you perform squats could be blowing out your knees.
Explanation of what the study did
So this article was in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation by Macrum et al. They recruited 30 people for the study without a previous history of knee injuries.
Basically, they made the group of 30 (15 men, 15 women) do 2 sets of 7 reps of squats, 1 set with their feet flat on the ground; the other set with their feet on 2 wedges. So their foot was positioned so that the back of their foot or rearfoot was closest to the ground, while the front of their foot or forefoot was raised up higher off the ground at a 12 degree angle. So the front of their feet was raised up on the wedges 12 degrees to tighten their calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) to simulate limited ankle motion due to tight calves.
So here are the results of the study for the Wedge group compared to the Non-Wedge group.
- Quadriceps activation decreased, along with a 15 percent decrease of knee bending.
- The calf muscle soleus increased in activity, but not the gastroc calf muscle.
- The knees to make up for decreased flexion, began to bow inwards 18% more than the non-wedge group.
Explanation of the results
To sum things up, the tightness of the calves were causing the knees to cave inwards during the squat, placing abnormal stress and pressure at the knees that can lead to Patello-Femoral Pain Syndrome. So if you are not stretching your calves before you squat, you could be damaging your knees by having them continually bending inwards with each downward motion. Note, the bending inwards was only about 1 degree, but according to the research paper, bending inwards at the knees of just 2 degrees more than normal is enough to cause Patello-Femoral Pain Syndrome over time.
So remember, stretch your calves before you do squats! You could be causing great damage to your knees over time. In fact, I’d stretch my calves everyday since squatting is such a functional activity we constantly perform.
Macrum et al. Effects of Limiting Ankle-Dorsiflexion Range of Motion on Lower Extremity Kinematics and Muscle-Activation Patterns During a Squat. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation. 2012; 21: 144-150.