The Squat (or at least why you should squat full depth)
Here is an old article from the Combat Workshop site, and something worth looking back on as more new people are training at the gym and it is good for the regular gang to touch base with the fundamentals and remind us why we do what we do… I also must have been a bit angry the day I wrote it!
I think I warned everyone this was coming …
I’m not sure if the title for this post is appropriate. I’m not sure if the squat is just an innocent victim caught in the crossfire or else a willing subject eager to demonstrate that partial range is a crime and should be eliminated from all gyms immediately (unless of course there is a valid reason, such as an injury).
Either way, let’s focus on the squat. The squat is a magical movement. As a coach and an athlete of sorts it is a movement of which I have experienced the results and benefits first hand. It has improved my overall strength, tenacity and most importantly I attribute this one movement to rehabbing my knee 100% after I detached my MCL.
On the other hand, it is the one movement that has given me the most heartache from a coaching perspective. It is the one movement that seems to be butchered, half attempted and vilified beyond any other. And to be honest, squats are just making me cranky these days.
Before I go any further into the dark depths of this rant, lets clarify what I am looking for…
What is full depth in a squat? And what the hell do I mean when I say ‘go deeper, lower, past parallel, etc.’ because I’m really beginning to wonder if people understand these words at all, let alone their context in relation to a squat. Full depth is when your upper thigh breaks past parallel to the floor or your hip crease goes below that of your knee crease.
Why do you need to go that far? For a start, if you don’t, not only will it make me really upset, it is guaranteed to piss your knees off and WILL lead to knee pain.
By skipping that all important end of range, you are getting your Quads to do all the work and the Hamstrings and Glutes don’t bother kicking in much or at all. This means that when you half squat, it’s mostly Quads and this pulls your Tibia (shin bone) forward all without the guys at the back kicking in and working to give a balance. That forward pull causes shearing on your knee (even that word sounds painful!). Once you get your ass low enough, the Adductors, Hammies and Glutes (the back of the thigh) kick in, causing a backward pull of sorts and this negates the forward pull and thus the shearing on the knee. Squatting low is good.
In workouts I regularly see people performing partial squats and this kills me, especially after I have spent time talking about the benefits of squatting regularly. I have coached and supervised thousands of squats at this stage. I am by no means an expert but I know a good squat when I see one.
Maybe this post should be more about doing things properly but, like I said, I see this problem arise more with the squat than anything else.
I felt compelled to write about it after recently reading a very good article on t-nation by Mark Rippetoe.
Here’s a piece from Rippetoe’s article…
Squatting high is easier, but easier doesn’t work…
Squats below parallel are your homework. The result of doing them is that you get stronger on all the other exercises, even the pressing movements, because squats make your whole body stronger – if you do them correctly. I know it’s harder that way, and one of the ways you know it’s wrong to do them high is that everybody else does them high. When was the last time that thing everybody else was doing turned out to be the right thing to do?
Deep squats done with a weight that’s a little heavier each time you train affect your body in a way that no other exercise can. And believe me when I say that “other methods” have been tried. They just don’t work. And it’s not that they don’t work as well, they don’t work at all.
Honestly, nothing pisses me off more than having to repeat myself (well, not many things) and no matter how annoying you may find me saying ‘deeper’ or ‘go lower’ for the 100th time, I find it ten times more annoying hearing my own voice that much.
Maybe this article isn’t really about squatting. Squatting is merely the vehicle used for people to display their laziness. Maybe this should be about stepping up to a challenge and meeting it head on and then overcoming it, and becoming a better, stronger person both physically and mentally.
Every week I am proud and amazed by the effort I see you guys put in and ultimately I want you all to reach your potential but it won’t happen if you are holding yourselves back in reps or movements. Let’s smash those reps. Full range. Be consistent and maintain the standards in the gym that we have set so far and going forward this will help everyone progress at a faster rate and make sure it remains a great place to train.
…Just to balance out my angry tirade, here is an excellent video of the very mellow Chris Spealler demo’ing an air squat.
And another of him coaching the squat – some usefull homework here
Happy (full range) squatting people!