The Anatomy of The Squat

The squat is one of the basic compound movements. A compound movement involves more than one joint and the squat involves more joints than I can accurately count.

On a basic level it involves the hip, knee and ankle but when you start to increase the load and execute a squat with proper form you realise that you start to bring in many many more joints including your elbows, wrists, intervertebral joints, neck etc. I’m not saying that you actively use them and think about it but you do use them to maintain almost full-body tension.

If you just want to know about the anatomy of the squat skip to the section titled “Anatomy”

The reason why the squat is sometimes hailed as the “King Lift” (as stated by powerlifting legend Louie Simmons in an article written in Jan 2009) is because of the profound effect it has on the body’s physiology.

When executing the squat you put your body under a massive amount of stress, physically and hormonally. Squatting develops power in your legs (quads and hamstrings), in your glutes and also helps build strength in your back. When your squat increases; your deadlift increases, your clean increases, your snatch increases etc

Some coaches also make the bold statement that you can squat to increase the size of your biceps – while you do get some tension in your biceps when you squat I personally don’t feel that it’s enough to build the kind of biceps that people actually want.

Putting the physical effects aside, squatting causes your body to release massive amounts of growth hormone (a communicating hormone with a very misleading name) as well as testosterone. Both of those hormones will lead to muscle growth as well as lipolysis (the breakdown of fat).

I won’t go into how to squat correctly because you can find a video on YouTube that’ll explain it better than my words ever could. You understand more of what you see than what you read.


If you go below 90 degrees your knee is in an anatomically favoured position so it’s actually stronger and less likely to get hurt.

Also, if you go lower your fibres get stretched more so the contraction required to bring you back to a standing position is going to have to be larger, thus leading to more tears in your muscle which will inevitably lead to more growth.

The lower you go (flexed knee position) the tauter your cruciate ligaments are which prevent medial, and to some extent, lateral rotation of your knee. Whereas, when your knee is in a more extended position (closer to extended than flexed – i.e. a 2 inch squat) they aren’t very taut and your knee is seriously unstable (which allows you to do certain movements like turn your feet inwards etc).In the last 10 degrees of movement from flexed to extended there is an obligatory terminal rotation so by moving through that range constantly you’re causing a grinding/screwing action which will wear everything down a lot quicker. This movement is actually referred to as being “screwed home.” Putting a large amount of weight on that unstable joint is going to lead to rotational damage as well as keep all the strain on your knees which will grind down your menisci until you have bone on bone grinding.

Just looking at the ligaments, in an extended position you use your ACL and in a fully flexed position you use your PCL. Keeping it in the top part of the motion you’re constantly stretching and relaxing your ACL like a rubber band. At least when you squat down fully with a full range of motion you move the strain between ligaments (even though they’re both taut, they aren’t both doing the same job) which means you can move the strain around. Having said that the strain is very low at the lower portion of the squat because the majority of the strain is then passed onto the hip joint which is actually a lot sturdier because it’s enarthrosis (deep ball and socket) so the range of the motion is limited by bones etc making it a hell of a lot sturdier.

So without even looking at any studies that show which kind of movement provides more muscle activation etc etc just from looking at the anatomy of the joint I can tell you that keeping it very high with a lot of weight is going to cause a lot of damage and stability issues.


  • Squat lower to avoid knee issues and to build more stable knees.
  • Squatting increases growth hormone and thus IGF-1 levels – leading to hyperplasia and growth and fat loss
  • Squatting increases androgen levels leading to growth
  • You shouldn’t lock out your knee at the top of the squat – that prevents knee damage and keeps tension on the muscles for longer.

Written by Shiva, a med student with an interest in bodybuilding and powerlifting.

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In Finance and Medicine Evidence Beats Reputation

I have practiced medicine for thirty years and have been trying my luck with investing in the market for almost as long. There are some strange similarities between the market and the human body. Both are extremely complex and are an intricate network of interactions of signals, all subject to stimuli from the outside. Both the market and the body produce signs and symptoms. Usually, these symptoms are unimportant. But some may be harbingers of some major illness or, conversely, signs of recovery. To the untrained eye, the important signs may seem trivial and (more usually) the unimportant signs may seem threatening and worrying. I can easily tell these apart in my patients. But I often wish that I had the skills of a “market doctor” and was able to scientifically recognize meaningful signs in the market and take advantage of them.

One can take this analogy quite a bit deeper and make some interesting observations about the nature of expertise. Let’s briefly examine the history of medicine. In ancient times, the practice of medicine was dominated by wise men who were thought to have discovered some secrets and have a special understanding of the human body. They were not asked for any evidence that what they were recommending was safe and effective, nor did they offer any. Their authority was enough. Galen, arguably the greatest physician of antiquity, came up with the idea that bloodletting was a great cure for many diseases. Based on his reputation alone, this dangerous practice became the unquestioned standard treatment for a millennium and a half.

Galen’s equivalent in ancient China was Zhang Zhongjing who based his therapeutic system on the yin yang and the Five Phases. These ideas were derived from philosophy and certainly not from the study of the human body. His authority was unchallenged for centuries (and still remains intact among some practitioners). The idea that medicine should be a science and not just an art is very new. Evidence-based medicine only took root in the last fifty years. Thankfully, in this day and age, most North American doctors would describe their practice as evidence-based.

A very similar evolution has been happening in relation to how the market is interpreted, but a change from authority-based recommendations to evidence-based market analysis seems to be far behind the corresponding changes in medicine.

The investment community is still dominated by gurus, experts, advisors, analysts, “old hands”, TV wizards, oracles and prophets. Very little, if any, of their methodology has ever been tested. We are supposed to take their investment advice based solely on their authority and reputation. Many of their dictums and aphorisms have been quoted from book to book for a century and still abound today despite never having been put to the test. For example, the classic advice always to use stop-loss orders on your positions has never been challenged (until recently – there’s a great discussion on this topic at )

A while ago, a came across a magazine interview with one of the famous fund mangers, a giant in his field. He was asked to reveal the secret of successful fund investing to the readers of this prestigious publication. And he did. The secret was: select six well managed funds with good long term track record, and invest in the three of them that had the lowest returns in the previous year; then, once a year, rotate your portfolio so as to be always invested in the three weakest funds of the year before. (His logic was that a “well managed” fund would always rebound from a poor year and an exceedingly good return cannot be repeated in the following year). The interviewer never asked if this was ever tested – the reputation of the man was enough. Thousands of readers might have followed this advice and… lost money.

It did not take me long to select several groups of six funds each, collect the data from Yahoo, plug it into Excel and test the guru’s advice for the preceding ten years. The results were the exact opposite of what the great man advocated!. The weak funds tended to remain weak and the winners tended to stay ahead. Did the guru not know this? Or did he try to deceive?

Conclusion: in finance, evidence beats reputation and science beats art.

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