I can’t say I love doing squats but I do love what they do for me. Squats are perhaps one of the most functional exercises we can do in the gym because they carry over to everyday life all the time. Every time you stand up from sitting down you are squatting and through squats in the gym we can mimic that motion and muscle use identically. Losing our ability to get up easily shouldn’t be taken lightly. I’ve worked with many individuals that have lost that strength and appreciate it vastly once they get it back. If you don’t use it, you will lose it, and by keeping our strength above and beyond what is required in every day life through working out, we safe guard our future functionality. It is important that we do squats correctly so that we work the muscles involved optimally, and, so that we don’t cause an injury in the process. The muscles worked during squats include erector spinae (low back), quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluts.
To perform a squat correctly, as you start bend your knees, you will also start to bend from the low back. The key is to lift the resistance from the legs and back at the same time. To protect the knees, you don’t want your knee to go too far beyond the end of your toes. Your knees can pass slightly over the end of your toes (or shoe line) but not much. I try to meet my knee at the end of my toe/shoe line. To keep the knees back, you bend from the low back, sticking your hips behind you. The key to avoid hurting your back is to keep the arch in your low back (the natural curve of your spine) and keep the shoulders upright. For most people, your shoulders will follow where your eyes look, so I look straight ahead or slightly up to keep my shoulders upright during the motion. When done correctly, your back and legs will move together in harmony. At the top of the motion never lock out your knees. Keep a very slight bend in the knee when you stand upright. Locking out the knee causes the supporting muscle that support the knee joint to relax, placing all the load on your knee joints. I also never go lower than a ninety degree bend in the knee. Once your femur (or upper leg) is near parallel to the floor, you have gone deep enough. Bringing the hips below knee height puts an enormous amount of strain on the knee joint and the benefit of the added range of that motion does not out weigh the higher risk or injuring the knee. I posted a video on Facebook showing correct form. Here is the link. Notice how I apply all the rules.
If you have a chronic back problem, you should never do shoulder loaded squats (such as barbell squats) but dumb bell squats are many times o.k. Squats are also contraindicated for many knee issues. In cases where there are chronic back or knee problems, there are other ways to condition the same muscles used in a squat through other exercises. A physical therapist or advanced health a fitness expert like myself can point you in the right direction in those situations. Always consult your physician before doing any new exercises if you have any sort of physical ailment.