Today, the question is – how deep should you squat?
Most people squat high, very high. Quarter reps are the norm in most gyms, not the exception. The reason for that is the lack of proper instruction and the desire to lift more weight. It’s not uncommon to see people in the gym put 4 plates on each side of the barbell only to perform some sort of knee bends.
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. You are risking potential injuries of the ligaments and the tendons in the area.
Having said that, quarter squat are not always bad. Sometimes professional lifters use them in their program to get used to very heavy weights. Beginners, however, have no business playing with fire.
The most popular way to squat would be the parallel or half-squat. This squat ends when the crease of the hip joint is in line with the knee joint. Easier said than done. Most people seem to have different ideas what parallel is.
The benefits of parallel squats are that they engage more muscles. In addition, the greater range of motion provides more stimulus.
It’s advisable to squat at least to parallel. 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 most difficult part for most people is to keep the back arched at the bottom. If you let your lower back bend while there’s a heavy barbell on your back, you are risking an injury.
Since most people don’t have the mobility to do this version correctly, it is rarely presented by personal trainers.
The Happy Medium
The happy medium would be a 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:
1. fuller muscular engagement and stimulation
2. lower chances of spinal flexion at the bottom
The just below parallel squat represents the best of both worlds. But if you have the mobility and the knowledge, you should probably perform full squats too. You will use less weight, but it doesn’t matter. The benefits are worth it. Besides, the weight on the bar isn’t everything.