Saturday, January 7, 2012

Squatting myths !!!

Squat is the crowned king of lower body exercises. The benefits of this powerful exercise are associated to hypertrophy - overall increase in lean muscle mass, calorie expenditure and hormonal release. Squats invariably can be performed with different variations, these variations include Back Squat, Front Squat, Ball Squat and Unilateral squats. The movement involved in squatting is a co-ordinated natural movement that is normally practiced while performing activities of daily living. In an Asian population, an average individual do certain movements to a full flexion of the knee (111degree – 165 degree). A perfect example would be sitting cross legged; one requires 90 degree – 100 degree of hip flexion and a full knee flexion [1]. However, there has been a healthy debate amongst coaches, strength athletes and fitness professionals that squatting is bad for your knees. Specifically, the knee joint goes through a lot of stress that will invariably compromise the stability of the knee joint, if it passes the toe line.

Squatting is a compound and a multi-joint movement exercise that requires the involvement of three joints – ankle, knee and the hip where flexion and extension is involved. Moreover, the movement is initiated on all three joints. Any pre-dominance of any joints, especially, during the initiation of the movement would result in the over loading of that specific joint.

Knee joint
Restricting the knee joint (not ahead the toe-line) while squatting invariably with a dominance on hip flexion. The body has to then compensate that leads to increase spinal loading, especially, lumbar loading. Researchers have suggested that the knee torque was slightly less in squat when the forward displacement of the knee was restricted [2]. However, hip torque was substantially increased. They suggested that restricting the knee resulted in the forces being inappropriately transferred to the hips and the lumbar region. Therefore, appropriate joint loading while squatting may require freedom of movement on the knees i.e. to move slightly passed the toes.

Squatting deep is bad for the knees
In our activities of daily living (ADL), we normally squat deep and this happens on a regular basis. Researchers have suggested that the force experienced on the knee in 70, 90 and 110 degree flexion of the knee joint. 70 degree can be explained as a quarter of a squat, 90 degree can be explained as a parallel squat where the femur is parallel to the floor and 110 degree can be explained as a full squat. In 110 degree, knee flexion the knee passes the toes. This study suggested that the amount of stress or force experienced on the joint was not that significant in all the three range of movement. In simpler terms, the amount of stress experienced by the knee joint did not warrant an immediate contraindication on this particular movement restriction.

Now as a trainer we need to be aware that the tibiofemoral and patellfemoral compressive force are greatest in the closed kinetic chain exercise at full flexion and squat is a good example of a closed kinetic chain exercise. Interestingly, the greatest tension on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) was actually found in the open kinetic chain exercises, at or near the full extension position [3]

Now the question that keeps arising is should we allow a clients’ knees to go past the toe line? The answer to this question is subjective. An individual with specific knee based issues have to go through rehab to develop the muscles and ligaments surrounding the knees. The job of fitness trainers are multidimensional and the trainer has to be aware of the clients’ condition to assess and analyse the functionality of the exercise. This can be only done through proper counselling and health screening of the clients. It is very important to teach a member to squat using their body weight, as this is an important preconditioning before loading the members with weight.

 It is common knowledge that the body is not designed to work in just one plane but it is designed to work in quite a few planes together. Hence, exercises like the hack squat, leg press and smith machine are fixed axis machine and makes the body adjust to one line of axis. This unnatural movement makes the body to compensate and in time may lead to injury. 


[1] S.J. Mulholland and U.P. Wyss (2001). Activities of daily living in non-Western cultures: range of motion requirements for hip and knee joint implants. International Journal of Rehabilitation Research, 24, 191 – 198.

[2] Fry AC, Smith JC, Shilling BK. (2003). Effect of knee position on hip and knee torques the barbell squat. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,17(4): 629-633.

[3] Escamilla R, Fleisig G, Zheng N, Barrentine S, Wilk K, Andrews J. Biomechanics of the knee during closed kinetic chain and open kinetic chain exercises. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 30(4); Pp 556-569. 1998.

Frank Mapranny
Fitness Head, 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Handy tips for a foodie

Everyone gets FOODIE at some or the other time of the day!!! However, some may fulfill their hunger at the earliest, while some others may starve till death!!!There a few handy tips that we all foodies can follow to keep up our energy levels and to boost our metabolism!!!I was going through this website, I enjoyed reading their pointers and slideshows regarding fitness and health. This was the biggest motivation for me to write this article since I am a foodie myself!!I have managed to summarize a few points below.

1. Eat Smarter 
When you're hungry, cookies and chips might call your name from the pantry. But these junk foods are packed with lots of calories in a small portion, making them heavier for your stomach. When you feel the urge to snack, reach for an apple, orange, or other fruit. Fruits won't overload you with calories. Plus, they'll fill you up so you won't be hungry again soon.
2. Healthier Dessert
You don't have to ignore your sweet tooth. Instead, keep a watch on your portion. Love two scoops of ice cream for dessert? Try one scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt topped with tasty berries for a healthier option.
3. Fuel Up with Water
The body needs water to process calories. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down. This may affect your fat storage sites to a greater extent. So, beware.... 
4. Power Up with Protein  
 The body burns many more calories digesting protein as it uses for fat or carbohydrates.  Although you want to eat a balanced diet, replacing some carbs with lean, protein-rich foods can jump-start the metabolism at mealtime. Wanna build muscles? Protein rich diet is a must!!!
 5. Building a Better Pizza
    The next time you and your friends order pizza, forget the pepperoni and the extra cheese. Instead, layer on veggies. These healthy, low-density toppings will fill you up and can make your pizza tasty. If you really miss the meat, try chicken as a healthier option. For fun, make your own mini-pizzas at home using whole-grain pizza breads as your crust.
6.  Recharge yourself with anti-oxidants
 Feeling Low? Getting tired and lazy too early?? Your immune system needs a boost…..Re-energize yourself daily with a dose of anti-oxidants…They are your fighters, your soldiers against the free radical attack happening every moment in your body..!!!Citrus fruits are the easiest to carry...

7. Never hog too much
Intense hunger pangs are a daily occurrence in our lives. Easiest way out is “TO BINGE OR HOG ON WHETEVER COMES FIRST IN OUR WAY!!” That’s a very wrong concept…Space out your meals in such a way that you do not feel hungry throughout the day. Avoid having long meal gaps…Small, frequent, healthy meals is the key to avoid “BINGEING”!!

8.  Be active
The key to all “FATTY ISSUES” is to increase your activity level during the day. Atleast brisk walking is something we all can afford to do [without giving any dumb and unreasonable excuses to ourselves!!!]. This will also help you to keep your metabolism on the right track and will help you to stay fit. After all, to stay FIT is to eat HEALTHY!!

9. Judge your food cravings  
Chocolates, potato’s, fries, cakes, and pastries….yummmm….!!! These food cravings are the culprits in our daily schedule that disrupt our metabolism and increase our FAT RESERVES!!!What is the use of bingeing on these when there are healthier things to munch and which do not even add to our calories? Take a simple test. Judge the timing and the the events that lead to these cravings….Handle those first and see the change for yourself!!

   Refreshed after reading the article or too much to think about? These pointers attracted me since my clients left me in a dilemma regarding their bingeing and eating out habits!!! Solving this dilemma was a challenge and I am sure we all do face such problems and do not have any solutions for it. Now, being smarter and healthier while eating out is the solution to our FOODIE problems:) So, enjoy your protein-rich meals, fuel up with water and keep recharging yourselves with antioxidants!!!

Sakina Modi, 
YFC - Colaba

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Exercise of the week - Decline Bench

See to that you secure your legs at the end of the decline bench and get yourself down on the bench.
Using a little wider than shoulder width, lift the bar from the rack and hold it straight over you. The arms should be perpendicular to the floor. This will be your starting position.
Lower the bar in a controlled fashion until you feel the bar on your lower chest.
Bring the bar back up to the starting position.

Performance meter
If you are executing this exercise for the first time, see to that you have an experienced spotter.
See to that the bar touches your lower chest.

Frank Mapranny, 
Fitness Head,