ATG’ squat stands for ‘Ass To Grass’ squats or full squats. The full squat is so deep that the hamstrings of the lifters touch their calves. It doesn’t get any deeper than that. Well, it does but it’s dangerous. Truth be told most people don’t have flexibility to do such deeps squats.
In the video below you can see a demonstration of the ATG squat:
Chances are that you don’t have it either unless you are very young. Children don’t have problem squatting ‘ATG’ style because they have phenomenal flexibility. As we age our active flexibility,however, is lost slowly due to restrictions coming from our lifestyles.
Obviously when you are a child you have more opportunities than when you are old. On paper you can become anything you want because you have the time. In other words there is more freedom to your choices and the word is yet to put you into a mental and physical box. As we age, however, we lose both mental and physical flexibility in order to protect ourselves. We restrict our spirit and body because we have learned that some actions can cause us more harm than good. In brief, the older you are the bigger the prejustice you have to fight and the bigger stick you become.
So, if you cannot keep proper form while squatting ATG style, it’s dangerous to do so. The biggest problem is keeping the arch of your lower back. If you squat and your back is flexed at the bottom, there is serious strain on your spinal ligaments. This is one of the best ways to hurt your lower back. For good or for worse the lower back recovers slowly because the blood supply to that area is rather weak.
However, if you are part of the lucky guys you may be able to ATG squat with good lower back arch and minimal to no ‘butt wink’. In that case it’s advisable to squat all the way down. The bigger the range of motion, the more muscle fibers are stimulated.
If you desperately want to ATG but you don’t have the flexibility, you will have to sacrifice time and effort to develop it. There are many drills you can do. A cool method is to become proficient at front squats which in general allow even inflexible people to go a little deeper. You will also have to improve your active flexibility through a variety of mobility exercises such as goblet squats, wall squats and many more to count.
Keep in mind that most weightlifters use special weightlifting shoes in order to squat deeper. All weightlifting shoes have elevated heels which give the lifter the opportunity to keep the torso erect. For more information on squat shoes read this article.