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December 23, 2020

Exercise myths or facts? Squats are bad for your knees

Also, should you eat before exercising, and is it best to save your core workout for the end of your session?

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Fitness Myths Squats Source/Image licensed from Ingram Image

No, squats will not harm your knees. Rather, they will strengthen the muscles around them, preventing injury.

Fitness and nutrition are among the things that are important to a lot of people, so there are many opinions and people offering advice out there! 

Not unsurprisingly, that means some misguided notions about exercise and fitness pop up occasionally, which can make it tough to decipher what's true versus what we've all just kind of "heard through the grapevine." 

While, of course, it is true that all of our bodies are unique and react differently to training, there are some overarching ideas that do apply everyone. Going forward, we can all benefit from keeping these in mind.

Here are some common myths – and the actual facts. 

Myth No. 1: It’s important to save all core exercises for the end of your workout

This first myth is something we all kind of adhere to, maybe even subconsciously. "Ab workouts come right before you're about to call it a day!"

Honestly, I used to do this myself. But why? There’s no reason for this! First off, the core includes your entire back and midsection, it's not just the abs. In fact, I like to refer to the core as your body's trunk; it's the center of your body and holds your entire body together.

A strong and stable core is so important when it comes to strength levels and performing other exercises because your core/trunk is involved in everything that you do! 

Shoulder pressing weights might seem like an upper body exercise, but really your core is recruiting all of the surrounding muscles to stabilize your body. That allows you to press the weights overhead without hurting your lower back. 

This applies to almost all of weight training. Because most exercises need the core working, it's important to "wake it up" early in the workout so it's ready to play an active roll with each exercise.

Right now, I’m speaking strictly of core-focused exercises, like planks and use of the ab roller, as you're already working the core when deadlifting, squatting and doing other full body exercises. Even when it comes to strictly these "core-focused" exercises, why are we waiting until the end?

By the end of the workout, you're already tired and most likely thinking about what you have to do post workout. A lot of times, we end up ditching the last 10 minutes of these "ab exercises" because our mind is already thinking about that email from our boss or what to make for dinner. Or is that last part just me?

I'll leave you with this: if the core is such a large part of your body and integral in performing all exercises, why are we waiting until the end of a workout, when our body is tired and our mind is wandering?

Myth No. 2: Deadlifts are bad for your back and squats hurt your knees

This one immediately inspires some Bruce-Banner-into-the-Hulk levels of anger from your girl, as it could not be further from the truth. Deadlifts are super important in building full body strength and more specifically, in strengthening your posterior chain.

Think about bending over to pick up a box off the ground. When done correctly, it seems super easy. When done incorrectly, you throw your back out. I might sound like a broken record to my Drucker Fitness clients, but that’s how strongly I feel about this — anytime you are lifting something off the ground, you should deadlift it!

When done incorrectly you will feel pain in your lower back. But when done the right way, you will be able to lift way more weight safely! That means hinging at your hips, keeping your core engaged, a slight bend in the knees and keeping your back straight, not rounded, but with a curve at the lower back.

Squats are another example of an exercise that, when done correctly, will strengthen your legs and even prohibit knee injuries. Yet, squats often get a bad wrap because too many people use bad form.

To perform a pain-free squat, set your feet hip-width distance apart, put your weight in your heels (you should be able to wiggle your toes) and sit back into your heels as if you are sitting into a chair. Lower your body until your hips are parallel to the ground, then ground down through your feet, squeeze your glutes and drive yourself upward.

If you cannot get parallel to the ground, that’s OK. That gives us something to work on! Instead, stand in front of a chair or couch and sit onto that until you feel strong without the assistance. The best part about squats is that they strengthen your entire lower body. The stronger your muscles are surrounding injury prone areas, such as knees and ankles, the less likely you are to injure yourself.

When people feel knee pain, a lot of the time it is because they have a weaker quadricep or hamstring muscle. So the more squats you do the better your joints and muscles will feel!

Myth No. 3: Don't eat before a workout

This one gets tricky because there are a ton of contributing factors. Working out super early in the morning makes it difficult to squeeze in a meal or snack. There are people who can’t eat within an hour of a workout because that leads to nausea and then some people, like myself, who feel lightheaded during a workout if they're too hungry.

It’s important to feel energized during while exercising and a lack of food can make you feel depleted and lethargic. If you’re someone who needs food to feel energized but are constantly fighting nausea, I’d suggest snacking with a simple, easy-to-digest carb, like a banana or cup of oatmeal. Try to eat a meal two to three hours prior to your workout, focusing on foods that give you energy and support your muscles, like proteins and carbs, but also that you know sit well with your stomach.

The biggest takeaway from all of the above should be this: Ask questions and if something hurts, you’re probably doing it wrong, so seek out advice.

Make sure you are reaching out to the right people. There are tons of knowledgeable and certified people out there to answer your questions, but there’s also a lot of misinformation. Look for people with CSCS, CPT and CSFC certifications.

I have a passion for fitness, and there's nothing I enjoy talking about more than working out, besides the newest Grey’s Anatomy episode, so please, reach out to me @druckerfitness and let’s chat ... about fitness or Grey’s, I’m in for either!

Check out this workout for some basic strength movements, like squats and deadlifts and a good sweat!

Gabby Drucker owns Drucker Fitness, a Philadelphia-based personal training studio and online training business. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and a Pre and Postnatal Certified Trainer. Follow her on Instagram at @druckerfitness or visit

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