Does Squatting Make You Shorter?
There are many things that can questionably make you shorter, and the act of squatting is one of them. Squats are an exercise that works the full-body, engaging multiple muscle groups, providing a great overall core workout, and by working many muscles this can often leave you feeling shorter after a hard workout.
While it is true that you will probably be slightly shorter after a hard workout, with all the pressure being applied onto the spine, can this make you permanently shorter?
Can you get shorter by squatting?
Our height fluctuates between a 'high' and 'low' during the day. The spine decompresses as we sleep, gaining height, and when we wake up in the morning it immediately starts to compress again, losing height throughout the day. Similarly, the act of squatting compresses the spinal discs, losing height, but then decompresses after a workout, regaining any lost height.
By loading force applied onto the length of the spine, the tension is going to cause the discs to decompress, and therefore the spinal column is going to get shorter as a result.
This is not solely related to squatting, as any exercise which involves a certain level of force being applied will compress your spine and therefore make you temporarily shorter. It is not age-related either and is an entirely natural occurrence (1).
Do Squats Stunt Height Growth?
Squatting will not stunt height growth if performed with correct form, and provides a great body workout. When issues arise they are commonly muscular strains from overdoing things, which pose no issues to height growth.
However, growth can be stunted through injury, and between 15% and 30% of fractures that occur in young people are growth plate fractures. The bones of young people are soft and surrounded by tendons and muscles. This leaves them venerable, and if you put an excessive amount of pressure on something which is not fully developed then it may cause serious injury to the discs, growth plates, and immature bones, which can indeed stunt growth, which can stunt growth. (2)
For example, lifting heavy weights above your head with incorrect form can cause an undue amount of axial pressure on the spinal column, leading to injury. So make sure that proper form and guidelines to adhere to when exercising.
Can Squatting Help us to Grow?
So we know that regular squats performed with the correct form will not stunt height growth, but can they actually help us grow taller?
One study reported that training load and volume contribute to GH release, with 6-12 sets of squats reporting an increase in post-exercise GH secretion (3). Lower sets did not help, but of course, it is always good to give the muscles a good workout! So low sets of squatting will not help GH to be released, but with added weight, reps and intensity, it is very possible that squatting can have a positive impact on growth hormone and testosterone release, post-exercise.
This does not mean you are going to automatically grow, but it does show that high-intensity exercise gets the body working, and releases valuable, natural body balancing chemicals that are vital to maintaining health.
Are Squats Harder if You Are Taller?
The simple answer is yes. Accounting for equal proportions and BMI, taller people have longer legs, therefore must generate more force to perform the same movement (range of motion) than a shorter person will need to. You are higher off of the ground, so your muscles are going to be working harder to balance and maintain the flow of motion.
It is to be noted that other factors come into consideration such as proportions, weight, and muscle mass, which can alter the force needed to perform a squat. But in general, it will be harder for a tall person to perform a squat than a shorter person.
Can Squatting Cause Height Loss?
A common misconception is that working out will make you permanently shorter when this is not true.
As you perform squats you will start to lose a small amount of spinal height due to repetitive motion causing axial pressure on the spine, and as a result, the spinal discs become dehydrated, slightly shrinking in size.
So, you will lose a few millimeters of height after a workout. However, this is temporary and your height will return to normal after you lie down and the discs have relaxed and decompressed.
The Dangers of Incorrect Form
Over time, similar to being overweight, adding excess loading weight onto your body and performing squats with incorrect form means the spinal discs will be less likely to repair, and some height loss may occur. This is even more true after 40 years of age, as on average, we lose around 1cm each decade, and we can speed up this height loss process through injury.
There are many variations of the squat, some of which work your muscles with a lighter endurance-filled workout, and some which will build strength and muscle mass, with heavy weights and low reps. One thing is true though, and that is whether performing 1 or 100 squats a day, learning proper squatting form for each of these variations is essential.
Squatting often carries itself over into other facets of weight training, and without proper form, injury can occur. We can view it as a trade-off, where the amount of effort you put in to perform exercises correctly equals the gains you make. Therefore if you are putting lots of effort into lifting heavy weights with the incorrect form, the trade-off will be permanent injury and a potential loss of height.
Let's have a look at some common mistakes which can affect your knees, spine, and other parts of the body and potentially cause irreversible damage making you stand shorter over time.
How to Avoid Injury
- Warm-up and cool down ALWAYS, and in the correct manner.
- Switch things up, to avoid repetitive impact on joints (listen to the body). Obsessive loading on joints can permanently damage them, inhibiting movement, and the joint may change shape over time, becoming deformed.
- Avoid overtraining as this can make you more vulnerable to injury.
- It is important to remember that the more resistance weight you add equals extra pressure loaded onto the spine and the risk of spinal damage increases.
- Rest in-between sets, allowing the spinal discs a proper rest in-between to hydrate, as overusing them may very well cause your spinal discs to slowly lose height, which can turn to permanent loss.
So variations of the squat also need to be properly performed, such as adding weight overhead, and other forms of training which involve a squatting position with the additional weight, without the use of a bench or other equipment. If not performed correctly then you will be susceptible to damage to your muscles, ligaments, and joints.
If you have a pre-existing spinal condition such as degenerative disk disseize or any other problems then you should be very careful when performing squats, as even with correct form, the pressure put on the spine may cause injury. In this case, you can buy a supportive brace to help ease pressure on the spine.
How to Combat Height Loss From Squatting
- Performing a 5-minute routine in the mornings, such as Pilates can help to strengthen your back muscles and for you to stand straighter throughout the day, losing less height after a workout.
- Laying down and having a short nap will let the spine stretch out and regain lost height from squatting.
- Keep hydrated by drinking lots of water. This can help the spinal discs retain fluid throughout the day.
- Vitamin and mineral supplements can be a great asset for bone health
The effects of squatting carry themselves over to daily activities such as walking, running, pushing something, climbing stairs, and anything that involves the use of the legs as a force. Squats are a highly valuable exercise that can give great benefit, but with great value comes a great risk if they are not performed correctly.
With exercise such as squatting, you are putting pressure on the spine, and depending on intensity levels and reps this can cause you to lose 1-2cm of height after your workout. Of course, your muscles are also going to feel used and weaker than before you began training.
This can easily lead you to feel that you are slowly losing height and that squatting is making you shorter after each workout when in reality all you need to do is have a good night's sleep, which will repair the muscles and regain any lost height.