Table of Contents

In today’s blog post I am going to demonstrate safe squat technique as well as proper form for a squat.

Exercise Choice is Critical

Individuals with osteoporosis need to pay special attention to the exercises that they practice. Exercise is very beneficial but the wrong exercise, or the right exercise done incorrectly, can cause considerable harm to you and your bones.

Recently, I have had several new clients show me exercises prescribed to them by personal trainers. The exercises that they were doing increased their risk of fracture.

Unfortunately, although this personal trainer had the best of intentions, he is not familiar with the issues faced by a person with low bone density or osteoporosis.

Safe Squat Technique

The squat is a great weight bearing exercise that builds bone and muscle strength.

In the video I show a safe squat technique and incorrect form of the squat exercise.  The safe squat exercise that I show is the Squats with Weights exercise that is part of the Athletic Level Exercise for Better Bones Program.

In this squat you rest the weights on your shoulders and close to your body.

osteoporosis exercise plan

Unsafe Squat Form

The form taught to my new client by her personal trainer had her arms extended out with the weights in her hands.

A 1984 study examined the effects of loading the spine close to the body and away from the body. The study found that placing the weights away from the body dramatically increased the compressive forces on the spine.

A weight of only 2 kilogram in each hand was high enough to lead to compression fractures of the lumbar spine.

Exercise Recommendations for Osteoporosis

Exercise is an essential ingredient to bone health. If you have osteoporosis, therapeutic exercise needs to be part of your osteoporosis treatment program.

But what exercises should you do and which ones should you avoid? What exercises build bone and which ones reduce your chance of a fracture? Is Yoga good for your bones? Who should you trust when it comes to exercises for osteoporosis?

A great resource on exercise and osteoporosis is my free, seven day email course called Exercise Recommendations for Osteoporosis. After you provide your email address, you will receive seven consecutive online educational videos on bone health — one lesson each day. You can look at the videos at anytime and as often as you like.

I cover important topics related to osteoporosis exercise including:

  • Can exercise reverse osteoporosis?
  • Stop the stoop — how to avoid kyphosis and rounded shoulders.
  • Key components of an osteoporosis exercise program.
  • Key principles of bone building.
  • Exercises you should avoid if you have osteoporosis.
  • Yoga and osteoporosis — should you practice yoga if you have osteoporosis?
  • Core strength and osteoporosis — why is core strength important if you have osteoporosis?

Enter your email address and I will start you on this free course. I do not SPAM or share your email address (or any information) with third parties. You can unsubscribe from my mail list at any time.

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Safe Squat for Athletic Level

Safe Squat for Athletic Level • Professional Tip

Proper Squat Form with Weights

In the Exercise for Better Bones program you will see at the athletic level squatting done with weights held at the shoulders. In this way the weight is very close to the body.

A study published in 1984 looked at the loading of the lumbar spine, specifically L3. The study examined the effects of holding roughly two kilograms (or five pounds) at the body as compared to holding the weight extended and out in front of the body.

The study found that placing the weights away from the body dramatically increased the compressive forces on the spine. A weight of only 2 kilogram in each hand was high enough to lead to compression fractures of the lumbar spine.

When the weight was held close to the body the force was limited to 1,800 newtons of force on the third lumbar vertebrae. Extending the arms and holding the same weight away from the body can bring up the forces into the spine well above fracture levels for somebody with osteoporosis. The forces go up in the area of 2,600 newtons of force.

It is essential that you follow safe guidelines when doing exercises, especially if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia.

safe squat technique

Osteoporosis Exercise Plan

Visit my Osteoporosis Exercise Plan page for more information on this topic.


December 29, 2015 at 5:05pm

Nina Germeyer

What is your position on deadlifts? Either with a straight bar, hex bar or kettlebell. Are deadlifts also unsafe for osteoporosis? Deadlifts are hip-centric as opposed to quad & knee-centric like the squat. But the spine is actually even more vertical in a deadlift than a squat.
Thank you for a fantastic blog.

January 25, 2016 at 8:59pm

Margaret Martin replies

Hi Nina,
Sorry for the delay in responding - the Holidays got in the way. Please see my response to deadlifts above. All the best!

January 11, 2016 at 10:54pm


What about air squats?

January 25, 2016 at 8:37pm

Margaret Martin replies

I teach "air squats" a.k.a. squats without additional weight with the arms at the chest or on the hips so that - see chair squats in my book - so that individuals get used to having their arms in and not out in front of them which is more loading on the disc of the spine.

January 24, 2016 at 12:18am

Juliet Parker

Hi Margaret, I would also like to know what you think about deadlifts. I have been going to a special 'bone clinic' for osteoporosis and they teach us to do a deadlift. Some of the ladies are lifting their own body weight in the deadlift. We are taught to use a straight bar with weights and lift 25 times in each session

January 25, 2016 at 8:57pm

Margaret Martin replies

Hi Juliet, As a rule I do not teach deadlifts to my clients with low bone density or osteoporosis. I believe there are safer exercises that target the same muscle groups without putting the spine at risk.
As for the number of repetitions 3 sets of 8 reps would be more bone building than a one set of 25 reps. Stay strong, safely!

March 30, 2016 at 8:55am


When doing squats, is it safe for weights to be on your shoulders if you have had a fractured spine? Or better to holding them to your side of your body? Thank you!

July 9, 2019 at 2:49pm


Hi Margaret, is it safe to do squats with a barbell using a squat rack? I've been lifting for years with no problem.

July 13, 2019 at 9:58pm

Margaret Martin replies

Hi Kathy, Thank you for your question. Yes as long as the bar is resting across your shoulders and not on your neck (it sounds idiotic to mention this but I have seen it!). The LIFTMOR study in Australia incorporated weighted squats using a barbell 5 reps X 5 sets with very good results. So as long as your form is good I encourage you to keep lifting. I wish you all the best.