Full (deep) squats or Parallel squats

Discussion in 'General Training' started by Manic, Mar 29, 2004.

  1. Manic

    Manic New Member

    I used to do deep squats (I now do parallel -- the trainers at my gym advised me to do so...).

    I'm thinking of going back to deep squats but... Would like to know what others are doing, and would like to know why...


  2. Kate

    Kate New Member

    Hi, Manic! :D

    Thanks for bumping that thread on this subject.

    I did deep squats for a short while, when a proselytizing powerlifting friend tried to get me to compete. I couldn't move but about half the weight (admittedly variations on a known exercise can be more difficult to learn than a new one) and felt considerable DOMS in the posterior chain with little complaint in my quads. Very anecdotal evidence to be sure ;)

    There are plenty of good reasons for deep squats, but I am lifting to grow. I have built awesome quads by going to parallel and my joints prefer this depth. Reasons enough for me to stick with my old standby...

  3. Insane_Man

    Insane_Man New Member

  4. Manic

    Manic New Member

    I used to squat like the second guy (picture), but with much less weight...

    Kate (thanks for your answer! :) ) : you said that your joints "preferred" going to parallel. Were they aching when going deep?

  5. Kate

    Kate New Member

    :) My right hip was screaming after a few weeks of deep squatting. Admittedly my form was new and my right hip has always been the first to complain. It's quite possible if I'd stuck with it, I could have nailed the form, gotten stronger... maybe even improved the mobility in my hip.

    I wasn't willing to take the risk. If I want to get low and heavy, I deadlift. Once I pull the first one off the ground, I know I will get my reps. I don't want to end up looking like that guy with his butt on the ground and be unable to get up. I've done that on the leg press, and let me tell you, it is not pretty [​IMG] [​IMG]

    My recipe for making this kind of decision:
    1. Establish your primary goal
    2. Weigh risk vs. benefit

    When you squatted low in the past, what did your joints "say"?

  6. stevie

    stevie New Member

    from even a power lifting view point, that guy in the second photo is much lower than he needs to be to have the lift deemed legit. You just need your hip joint to be visably lower than the knee joint, thats all. The only reason i can think to go any lower is so that you can take advantage of momentum and bounce the weight back up.

    In terms of what you 'should' do, my opinion is that you should go as low as you can safely. ie as low as you can go while maintaining a good tight back arch; as low as you can go while managing to keep your hips moving back as knees are bending (at no point should your knees be bending without your hips moving backwards); as low as you can go without having your knees moving towards each other.

    Everybody has slightly different body mechanics. Therefore, there is no one way to squat that will suit absolutely everybody. Its something you need to assess with regard to your own body (risk vs. benefit, good post kate ;) ). Along the same lines, some people might find that leg press suits their body far better (thats not me, but i am not you!) in which case why would you contiune with the squat at all?
  7. Manic

    Manic New Member

    Thanks for your comments.

    Kate :
    These are good points.

    My goals are hypertrophy, flexibility and general body-health. And, like most of us, I don’t want to go for unreasonable risks…

    But which avenue is riskier : deeper or parallel? This is what I’m trying to sort out.

    Some people actually say that stoping at parallel (or close to 90deg.) is actually more dangerous than doing the full squat : “Most interesting to me is the problem with what is usually recommended as "safe": squatting to parallel. At parallel (where the thigh is parallel to the floor, higher than the depth of a full squat by about 30 degrees), the compressive forces on the patella (kneecap) are actually at their highest (Huberti & Hayes, Journal of Bone Joint Surgery, 1984: 715-724). Decelerating, stopping, and reversing direction at this angle can inspire significant knee pain in even healthy people, whereas full squats present no problem. Another exercise which is supposedly "safer" is the leg extension, even though patellar tension and shear forces on the knee joint are demonstrably higher with such an exercise (see sidebar).” learning the squat.

    Since I’m actually squatting to parallel (maybe a bit lower) these kinds of comments make me think...

    As for flexibility and health, full range is sometimes recommended: "In fact, there is strong evidence that squatting actually improves knee stability! The increased strength, balance, and proprioception from regular squatting can make a substantial contribution to keeping knees healthy." learning the squat

    Regarding hypertrophy, some articles suggest that "As squatting depth increases, quadriceps-muscle activation also increases, and thus expanding the depth of squatting should be associated with augmented gains in quad strength." How safe is squatting?. I guess the quads are also much more streched in that position, which would probably cause more microtrauma.

    Now what... well, I guess I'm just trying to see if squating "deeper" is actually as safe as some specialists (like Kreighbaum) say.Squat Analysis, or maybe even better than parallel.

    AAAAHHHHHH…. Well.

    My joints seemed to be okay. But I became worried when, like I said, the trainers at my gym advised me not to deep squat. They said it could be okay NOW, but that I’d suffer latter on… Which of course is not what I wish. I need my knees!

    These are all good points about good technique. Have you been “deep squatting” lately?

    True, but aren’t there some general rules? Like you said : “as low as you can go while maintaining a good tight back arch; as low as you can go while managing to keep your hips moving back as knees are bending (at no point should your knees be bending without your hips moving backwards)”. These are general rules which can be applied to different contexts, different body mechanics.

    ** So could that be considered a good answer to the deep/parallel issue : go as deep as you can, as long as you put into practice “x” and “y”? ** (x and y being hypothetical parameters to "assure" safety)

    Other considerations?

    (I’m sorry if my English is not great (it’s not my first language)… Hope that the content comes through…)


  8. Bryan Haycock

    Bryan Haycock Administrator Staff Member

    Yes, its true the quads are in a more stretched position, however, they are inactivated to a certain degree. If they weren't your quads would contract and kick your feet right out from under you. So picture that guy above with his butt to the floor. Now picture him doing a leg extension right at the bottom. You see? He would fly backwards if his quads engaged fully.

    It is actually your butt that gets the most work beyond about 90 degrees.

    Use leg extensions for full range contractions if that is what you are after.

    For fitness, go ahead and do deep squat jumps up onto a platform. Use no additional weight.
  9. Mindwraith

    Mindwraith New Member

    I do parallel, mainly for the assumptive reasons Brian confirmed above. I dont feel it in my quads past a certain point.
  10. Manic

    Manic New Member

    Thanks for the info, Bryan. I greatly appreciate.

    Shouldn’t something about the deep squats/parallel squats be added to the FAQs? Maybe it's just me... [​IMG]

  11. Scott S

    Scott S New Member

    Right now, I'm working on my glute/ham flebility and plan to switch to full squats when I can maintain the arch all the way down. Whoever suggested bouncing at the bottom of a full squat, THAT'S how you injure your knees! Don't do it!

    I think that squatting ATF with good form is the best way to get the most out of the squat and also to maintain flexibility. I challenge anyone to prove that full squats done with good form are more dangerous than squats to parallel.

    As for Insane_Man's pic, that guy was squatting when the powerlifting standards were not what they are today. PLing was in its infancy, and "as far down as you can go" seemed to be the rule, whether that was to the ground, or barely to parallel.

  12. stevie

    stevie New Member

    I think one of the big questions is what is it about deep squatting that is supposed to be 'dangerous'? Is it really the shear forces in the knee joint?...and are these forces really increased even if excellent form is adhered to?

    I agree that you are not doing your knees any favours if you bend your knees without accomodating the bend by moving hips backwards. Also if your knees begin to move inwards; or having your knees bend out in a different direction to that which your toes are pointing (ie toes pointing out, knees pointing forward is really gonna cause problems). Resting in the bottom position may cause knee problems as will bouncing up from the bottom. But if you squat with immaculate form, then i really cant see a problem.

    If your form is good until parallel and then suddenly deteriorates after parallel, then you need to rectify your form. If you cannot simply due to body mechanics, you have two choices, either stick to a depth suitable for your body or drop the squat altogether.
  13. i actually had a stiff knee before i started squatting. i go past parallel and never have joint problems. in fact, depth is NOT what causes joint problems. It's whether you squat straight down or sit back. Imagine sitting on a chair or toilet. The first thing that happens is your butt goes back and your hips start moving back and down. Nobody stands in front of a chair, bends their knees, then scoots their butt back. As long as you warmup and sit back and not down, keeping your shins close to parallel, your knees should be fine. Especially w/ HST, where you don't do less than 5 reps.

    Stance determines where the power comes from. A close to medium stance is more from the back and quads, where a wider stance will activate the hams and hips more.
  14. bourbonboy

    bourbonboy New Member

    I do squats just above parallel because I do not have the ankle or hip flexibilty to squat any deeper (for now). If my body allowed me to do it with proper technique I would try and sit on the floor while keep my feet flat on the floor. Also, the heavier the weight I use, the less my body will allow me to perform the exercise as deep. I believe that you should squat as deep as you can with proper technique. But there is way more to proper technique than keeping the lordosis and having the patella track over the second toe. Just on example is people deviatiing to one side in the concentric pahse. I think that the majority of the people out there are doing it wrong when they try and squat to parallel.

    Therapists direct patients "to squat to a 90 degree knee angle. A knee angle of 90 degrees can be reached far before a parallel squat is reached. Strength coaches do not define squat depth by knee angle but rather by a parallel relationship of the femur to the floor, which often results in a knee angle greater than 135 degrees if the athlete is an ankle-dominant squatter. This type of ankle-dominant squatting is frequently seen in athletes with knee pain or patella tendinitis."
  15. RotatorCuff

    RotatorCuff New Member

    But the thing about parallel squats is that the quads are at the most tension at parallel so the quads get conditioned to that amount of tension thus eventually the other part of the rep will be less effective for hypertrophy than at parallel. But with full squat tension stays mostly the same on the quads except for the decrease near the bottom thus leaving most of the parts of the rep equally effective for hypertrophy.
  16. bourbonboy

    bourbonboy New Member

    But, even if that was the case, why not just load the bar up with more weight and perform the exercise with correct technique rather than going to parallel just cuz that's what you think you should do? Almost everyone I see squat in the gym to parallel does it wrong. Whether it be using the ankles too much, leaning forward too much, rotating to the side, having the tailbone tuck under etc etc etc. Don't get me wrong, I strongly believe the deeper one can squat the better (assuming that they do it properly).
  17. Insane_Man

    Insane_Man New Member

    Yeah, squatting is certainly complex and form is very important.

    In one article Bryan discourages squatting for newbies (or something to that effect) because of this.

    At my gym most people do it wrong too. Personally I'm going to record myself squatting as soon as possible so that I can critique it for myself. Often I'll ask somebody for a spot and ask them about my form, they say it's fine, but most people don't even know how to properly spot for a squat.
  18. The Pencil Neck

    The Pencil Neck New Member

    What most people consider "parallel" is actually a half squat with the hip joint much higher than the knee joint. You can lift a helluva lot more weight that way and your knees aren't in their strongest position when you stop and turn around. So I'd say this has the greatest chance of injury: more weight + weaker biomechanics. But. If you're thinking of the squat as a quad exercise, then this is the way to go. And keep your stance relatively narrow. These high squats also have a greater carryover to sports where you have to jump from a semistanding position like volleyball and basketball.

    IIRC, your knee is at its weakest right at parallel. The muscles/tendons are lax at that point. So if you take your half squat weight and go to "real" parallel... you're going to have a problem.

    I'm a powerlifter. I consider the squat a posterior chain exercise instead of a quad exercise. I try to always go below parallel and I use a wider stance. I consider this a much safer exercise than the half squat and it makes you stronger over a wider range of motion.

    If I want to work my quads, I usually do front squats (@$$ to the grass), single leg/bulgarian squats, or high step ups.

    But that's just me.
  19. Blade

    Blade Super Moderator Staff Member

    Just to clarify, Bryan - are you defining 90 degrees as the angle of the knee joint, or as thighs parallell to the floor?
  20. Blade

    Blade Super Moderator Staff Member

    The study:

    Caterisano A, Moss RF, Pellinger TK, Woodruff K, Lewis VC, Booth W, Khadra T., The effect of back squat depth on the EMG activity of 4 superficial hip and thigh muscles., J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Aug;16(3):428-32.,
    Caterisano A, Moss RF, Pellinger TK, Woodruff K, Lewis VC, Booth W, Khadra T.

    The Department of Health and Exercise Science, Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville, South Carolina 29613, USA. [email protected]

    The purpose of this study was to measure the relative contributions of 4 hip and thigh muscles while performing squats at 3 depths. Ten experienced lifters performed randomized trials of squats at partial, parallel, and full depths, using 100-125% of body weight as resistance. Electromyographic (EMG) surface electrodes were placed on the vastus medialis (VMO), the vastus lateralis, (VL), the biceps femoris (BF), and the gluteus maximus (GM). EMG data were quantified by integration and expressed as a percentage of the total electrical activity of the 4 muscles. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Tukey post hoc tests indicated a significant difference (p < 0.001*, p = 0.056**) in the relative contribution of the GM during the concentric phases among the partial- (16.9%*), parallel- (28.0%**), and full-depth (35.4%*) squats. There were no significant differences between the relative contributions of the BF, the VMO, and the VL at different squatting depths during this phase. The results suggest that the Gluteus Maximus, rather than the Biceps Femoris, the Vastus Medialis, or the Vastus Lateralis, becomes more active in concentric contraction as squat depth increases.

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