In Defense Of Squats (For Women)

There has been quite a little uproar over the past few weeks around an exchange between two of my favorite trainer/authors, Tony Gentilcore and Bret Contreras, and the Boston trainer Helena Collins and her fans.

Basically, Collins wrote a post which bashed squats for women.  And I quote:

“…your safety is your #1 priority, and definitely DO NOT be persuaded by advice from magazines and uninformed trainers to do squats that WE ALL KNOW make your thighs huge!

This exercise over-develops the outer part of your quadriceps, and possibly will lead to an imbalance in your knees, and even worse – flabby inner thighs.”

Tony G wrote a post disagreeing with her, and Bret Contreras followed up with a rather lengthy point by point rebuttal.

Collins and friends came back to comment on Tony’s blog, basically ignoring the point by point, and responding as if Gentilcore and Contreras had attacked the results she gets with clients (they did not).  Contreras, not really known for his subtlety – but very knowledgeable, responded with a two part post (part 1, part 2) on Gentilcore’s blog basically tearing apart any shred of argument Collins, et al, had about squats.  It’s all quite dramatic if you want to read them all.


For the benefit of FitFinity readers, I wanted to summarize some of the points Gentilcore and Contreras made about squats, as I fall strongly into the pro-squats-for-women camp as well (it’s one of my exercise essentials).  Let’s bust some myths:

  1. Sqats Aren’t Safe - Squats are perfectly safe, if done correctly by people with the proper mobility and activation patterns.  In fact, learning to squat safely would probably undo a lot of musculoskeletal issues we see in the general population,
  2. Squats Give You Huge Thighs – In most cases, body fat gives you huge thighs, not squats.  Most women will never find that squats make their thighs “too big,” and none will find that it happens quickly.  In general, squats build great legs.  In rare cases where certain women are very prone to putting on quad mass, less volume may be used, or other exercises subbed in.  Not the case for most women.
  3. Squats Over-Develop The “Outer Thigh” – Research does not support this.  Squats do not preferentially recruit any of the quadriceps (muscles of the front thigh).  Study.
  4. Squats Lead To Flabby Thighs - This is almost silly.  Fat is flabby.   Muscle is not.  Squat builds muscle.  In fact, the squat engages many of the hip adductors (inner thigh muscles).
  5. Squats Re-Enforce “Sitting” Posture – Only if you do them wrong.  If anything, a properly executed squat strengthens the posterior chain, which counteracts the effects of hip-flexed, seated posture.

That covers the gist of it.  Basically, squats build great legs on all but a very select few.  For more info on squats, check out Exercise Essentials: Squat.

In case you still weren’t feeling the squats, check out Contreras’s client Karli banging them out: