Conscientious fitness professionals exert a great deal of energy helping clients and exercisers improve the quality of their movement. Often, mirrors are used to provide visual feedback on form and optimal loading. But do mirrors really help? Researchers from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago were skeptical.

In a small study, the researchers wanted to learn if participants (aged 18–50)would load both legs more uniformly while performing a squat with a mirror than they would without one. The researchers recruited five men and five women to complete five squats in each of three different stances, one of them self-selected; they performed each squat to average chair height with and without a mirror. Each subject’s preferred load shift and maximum knee and hip flexion angles were examined.

According to the researchers, load shift differed very little between mirrored and nonmirrored scenarios. The effect of foot stance on weight distribution was also insignificant.

“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,” explained Monica Rho, MD, lead author. “However, this study did not address whether performing squats in front of a mirror facilitates proper form so people don’t hurt their back or knees while squatting. To that end, 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.”

The study was presented at the Association of Academic Physiatrists Annual Meeting in February.

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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