“When I was younger my football coaches said for squats when doing heavy weight just to go down to where your legs were parallel to the ground then shoot/push hard up. Since then I’ve always taken that approach to anything leg related.”
I’ve gotten quite a few of these comments to videos I post where I squat ass to grass. If I have time I then ask questions like “did your coach tell you why or gave you any context?”. The answer is always NO.
If they’ve only told you to do something, but not why or given context, I would call that bad coaching. Coaches should explain ‘why’ and athletes should ask ‘why’ without having to be afraid. Never just do because of…
Even though the coach might have given the right advice at that moment in time, this person now goes through life and never squats ass to grass.
The answer to “How deep should you squat” is:
- What are your goals?
- How is your flexibility?
- How is your technique?
- How is your mobility?
- How is your strength?
Getting back up once the hips are past the knee line is much harder. So, for beginners, a quarter or half squat will be suitable during progression.
Going past the knee line provides more time under tension. Assuming that tension is not broken at the bottom of the squat. Time under tension is good.
Taking joints through the full safe range of motion is good as it helps create healthier joints, less pain, and decreased risk of injury.
Why are you not going past parallel, is it because of goals, flexibility, technique, mobility, strength, or fear? Fear for a knee injury? If you possess all qualities to execute a good deep squat there is no need to fear.
If deep squats hurt your knees then you have not progressed properly, are overtraining, or are using an incorrect technique.
Squat deep for life
As for, should you squat deep with heavy weight, the answer is, yes and no. It will entirely depend on the answers to the questions asked. In general, the answer will be, squat deep!
Should you squat parallel?
Yes, if your sport has movements that are closer to the quarter or half squat, you should train that range too. You would train that range to become stronger in that range, but you would also train full range for the added flexibility/stability/mobility/etc. benefits.
Squat tips and cues
- Shoulders high and hips low
- Shoulders stop moving down when the hips do
- Push the hips toward the ground
- Look ahead
- Push the chest out
- Keep the pelvis aligned with the spine
- Adjust feet to where you’re comfortable
And… it’s ok for the knees to come over the toes if that’s required to create a counterbalance. In fact, unless you have really really short legs those knees will come over the toes. Do not keep the arms extended and in front of you, this gives you a cheating range and prevents you from progressing to a deeper squat.
Following is a great example of a deep squat with all of the above in mind.
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The workout is a simple but super effective one, simple as in just two exercises, the half snatch and squat. The speed at which it is performed completely changes it up. The eccentric lowering works the shoulders. The slow and deep squat provides more time under tension which becomes a real task on the core. 1 minute of work, 1 minute of rest, 20 minutes in total.
Here is another demo from a front-on view of a good deep squat.
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