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Study Says Mirrors Might Not Be Helpful for Squats


Mirrors at the gym are there for watching our form, but a recent study carried out at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago found that they might not be the best tool when we’re watching squats to make sure we’re avoiding preferential loading. Preferential loading is when more weight is put on one leg than the other and is of course avoided for safety reasons as well as improper positioning that could lead to uneven muscle gains.

According to Monica Rho, MD, who was the lead researcher of the study:

“The goal of most people who perform double leg squats as part of their exercise routine is to make sure their weight is evenly distributed on each leg. Everyone tries to achieve symmetry because they want to work out each leg equally during the squat. However, there is no data out there that demonstrates whether or not a mirror helps the loading symmetry of a squat, and this study was designed to answer that question.”

To carry out the study the researchers chose five men and women who were between the ages of 18 and 50. There were all in good health and none of them were currently dealing with issues having to do with their balance, osteoarthritis, or pain of the back or hip.
To begin the study the participants were asked to stand on different force plates that would be able to measure where they put their balance while they were squatting. Then they were assigned different squats to do. One was a fixed squat with their feet at a distance apart that was chosen by the study leaders, one was a fixed squat where the participants actually chose their feet distance, and then one was in a position that was entirely chosen by the participants.
They each did five of each, and one half of the group used the mirror to check their even weight distribution while the other half did not, and then they switched.
The researchers bascially found that the differences between the participants using a mirror or not made very negligible differences, leading them to believe that it did not matter whether or not the squatters were actually using the mirror at all.
“Our findings indicate that, when it comes to equal weight distribution and symmetry of loading each leg during a squat, the mirror doesn’t seem to make a difference,” but went on “it is still possible that squatting in front of a mirror is better for people who have difficulty in maintaining good form during their squat.”
So, the long term squatter might have their form down whether they are looking at or not, but the beginner might be able to still gain from using it.
Next up the research team thinks it would be helpful to do a bigger test to find out if the mirror might be able to help with correct positioning of the knees and the ankles during a squat.