Despite all of the evidence and all of the arguments regarding squats and the proper depth of squats, it’s a topic that continues to spark discussion. Some people are comfortable in the power position, some are more comfortable in the hole. Whatever your comfort level, here are some reasons why squatting below parallel is ideal and what may be limiting you from getting that depth.
Proper squat depth is below parallel or where the crease of the hips is below the top of the knees. Shallow squats or quarter squats place the greatest amount of stress on the knees and rely primarily on the quadriceps. They completely neglect the posterior chain muscles – hamstrings and glutes. It’s the work of the posterior chain that stabilizes and protects the knees when squatting below parallel.
Be A Better Athlete
The limited range of motion of the quarter squats does allow the athlete to lift more weight, but the biomechanics and internal load changes throughout the squat, making the quarter squat an ineffective strength builder. As stated earlier, it puts the knees at risk and the lower back as well.
Squatting below parallel will lead to gains in muscle and strength. Often times, athletes will initially lift less weight when squatting through the full range of movement as opposed to the quarter squat, but the deeper squat calls the posterior chain into action allowing for these gains. Using proper form, squatting below parallel is safer for the low back and knees. Without deep squats, knees will be in a weakened state.
Training in full range of motion also makes a more efficient athlete. If an athlete trains within a limited range, he’ll only produce movement or force in that range. Quarter squats focus primarily on the quadriceps. A healthy and efficient athlete training at full range of motion can produce force throughout various ranges of the joint. Deep squats focus on hamstrings, glutes, and core.
How Supple Are You Really?
There are several reasons, excluding lack of strength, that a person can’t get deep enough in his squat and most of them deal with lack of mobility.
Poor ankle mobility can lead to a host of problems with the squat. The ankle needs about 15 degrees of dorsiflexion to keep the weight on the heels, avoid pronation, and not have any great shifts in weight throughout the squat.
Hip mobility can also challenge the squat. Our society spends a lot of time sitting – at a desk and in a car – and this causes our hip flexors to be tight and shortened. Additionally, many people are unable to internally rotate the hip and therefore can’t get the necessary depth in the squat.
Lack of strength or mobility in the thoracic spine hinders an athlete’s ability to get into and maintain proper upright chest position in the squat. Those lacking the strength and mobility of the thoracic spine will find themselves rounding the upper back as they try to come out of the bottom of the squat.
Do Your Sit Ups
Finally, lack of core stability has negative effects on the squat. Without the necessary stability, the body perceives this as a threat and basically shuts down for protection. By engaging the core and strengthening it, it provides a sense of stability to the body and the depth will improve on the squat.
In relation to a core stability, core strength, and the squat most people feel that a weight belt is the solution to these issues. What would you say if I told you that your body has a naturally occurring weight belt that does the exact same thing as the leather, bedazzled, overpriced piece of material you have around your waist for those 65 lb squats? The Rectus Abdominus, Internal/External Obliques, and Transverse Abdominus (your core muscles) make up a built in weight lifting belt in your body that when engaged can do just the same if not a better job than a weightlifting belt because it fits your body just right. Before you reach for that weightlifting belt, make sure you core is up to snuff with the rest of the body before performing a squat.
Go Forth And Drop It Low
It seems like common knowledge these but if you want improved range of motion, better development of athleticism and overall well being, and a stronger core you need to be taking your squats below parallel. Every body type is different so focus on getting as low as you can without breaking form and if you aren’t sure if you are doing it right that’s what your coach is there for. You will be hard pressed in this day and age to find a coach in your gym that doesn’t understand the basic biomechanics of a squat and how to perform the movement properly. Bonus points for that individual if they are able to scale and modify the movement to ensure proper motor patterns are being developed. But in the end if you want to be better off, don’t cut it short, drop it low when you squat.