Squat depth is often discussed furiously among bodybuilders and powerlifters. People seem to have a different understanding of how things are supposed to go. How deep should you squat is the question…
Most people squat high. They perform quarter reps. The reason for that is the lack of proper instruction and the desire to lift more and more weight. It’s not uncommon to see people in the gym put 4 plates on each side of the barbell and perform some sort of knee bends thinking they are doing something.
This is not a squat and is potentially dangerous. When you do quarter reps you are placing most of the stress on your knees and patella tendons. This is dangerous and you are risking potential injuries to the ligaments and tendons in the area. It’s just too much stress, especially if the weight is also heavy.
With that being said quarter squat are not always bad and sometimes professional lifters use them in their program to get used to heavy weights. Beginners, however, have no business playing with fire.
Parallel /Half Squats
The most popular way to squat would be the parallel or half squat. You are squatting until the crease of the hip is on line with the knee joint. Easier said than done. Most people seem to have different understanding of what parallel really is.
The benefits of parallel squats are that they engage more muscles and the greater range of motion provides more stimulus for grow along with improved mobility and fuller strength spectrum. It’s advisable to squat at least this deep. If you want to go deeper, you may have to work on your flexibility.
Full Squats / Ass To Grass (ATG)
A full squat ends when the hamstrings touch the calves. This squat is the hardest of all three basic versions and requires the highest amount of active flexibility and mobility. The hardest thing for people is to keep proper lower back arch at the bottom. If you let your lower back bend at the bottom and you have a heavy barbell on your back, you are risking a serious injuries. Since most people don’t have the mobility to do it correctly, this version is rarely presented by personal trainers.
The Happy Medium
The happy medium would be to squat to just below parallel or until the hip crease is lower than your knees. That’s when you get the best of both worlds – fuller muscular engagement and stimulation while not risking injuries at the bottom due to improper lower back position.
The just below parallel squat is considered the best of both worlds, but if you have the mobility and the knowledge you should perform full squats. You will use less weight but it doesn’t matter. The benefits are worth it and weight on the bar isn’t everything.