Squats: GET DEEP!!!
Most of us have all seen the guy at the gym putting three plates on each side of the barbell, getting ready to back squat, and then only going down about a quarter of the way. We’ve might have run into someone telling us that we need to get deeper into our squats, and then heard others saying how much they dislike or even hate squatting because it hurts their knees or back–and then watch as the squat rack quickly turns into the curl rack, where guys can flex their biceps.
Most of us know that we need to get to parallel when performing any type of squat, but what is considered parallel, and why is it so important to get there?
Proper Form for Squats
First of all, we need to understand what parallel refers to when performing a squat, since there is some controversy over it, and then go over the benefits of getting to parallel.
I know that most people think that parallel is 90 degrees flexion at the knee. According to the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA), squatting to parallel occurs when the top of the knee is in line with the cress of the hip.
Once you understand what parallel actually looks like, it’s important to know why it matters. Here are the five big reasons for squatting all the way down to parallel.
Safety and Stability
The biggest reason to perform squats properly is because of safety. People are constantly telling me how they can’t get any deeper in their squats because it hurts their knees and back. By not getting deep enough into the squat, you will actually put more force and torque on the knees and low back. This is actually doing more harm than good.
This brings me to my next point, knee joint stability. We can actually strengthen the stabilizers in our knees (ACL, PCL, MCL, and LCL) by squatting deep into the squats. By squatting to parallel we strengthen, compared to tearing them up when we only go half way down.
Mobility and Development
The next reason for is an increase in hip mobility. This is huge since most people spend their time sitting at desk, which causes the hip flexors to become extremely tight. We then tend to lose range of motion through our hip joint. We can regain this mobility if we perform our squats properly and increase our posture.
The fourth reason is for proper activation, and overall development, of the posterior chain (Glutes, Hamstrings, & low back). If we fail to go all the way down into our squat, we will not get proper activation of these muscles. Without proper activation, we will not see any gains in strength, size or leanness in our posterior chain. Basically, we are just wasting our time, and won’t see any benefits from the movement if we don’t get deep enough.
Lean Body Mass Development
The last point I am going to go over, and probably the most important, is that the squat is the best overall developer of lean body mass. There is no other movement that can create more lean body mass than the squat. Just like previously stated, though, we have to get all the way to parallel and perform it correctly in order to get these results. At the same time, by having more lean mass on our body, we will burn more calories, fat, and have better overall physique.
Simply put, when you don’t perform squats correctly, you gain zero benefits. By not getting deep enough into our squats, we cause more harm than good to our bodies, and just plain waste time. However, when this movement is done properly, it will give you the most bang for your buck and give you better results than any other exercise movement.