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Thread: Below parallel squatting: Is it necessary?

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    Bring it. DaCypher's Avatar
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    Below parallel squatting: Is it necessary?

    I've always been a believer in maximum range of motion and I've always emphasized form and technique over the weight being used. I've also been doing below parallel squatting since I started squating. However, recently I decided to experiment with only going to parallel (or maybe just below parallel) and my squat weight along with my quads have exploded. I guess my question is this, if I've gained this mass and strength by limiting the ROM in squats, is there something that I'm missing by not going all the way down? And why is it that squats are the only exercise that it is acceptable to limit your ROM when you could go further and still make good gains?
    Last edited by DaCypher; 06-11-2002 at 09:47 AM.

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    new and improved runt's Avatar
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    I've talked to a lot of guys at the gym about this very question and most of them say they let their knees be the deciding factor. If you can go all the way down and your knees aren't adversely effected great but if your knees freak out parallel is fine. I mix mine up. Results are the thing, so if your getting good results going to parallel stick with it. At some point you might find the results waning and you might want to go back to full range of motion.
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    ...fattest...fatter...fat. WannaBeStrong's Avatar
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    Of course the weight will go up with a smaller range of motion.

    I can't attest for the mass gain, but when you change your routine slightly, sometimes it makes a big difference.

    As far as "what you're missing" here is something from Keith Wassung:

    Many fitness experts warn against performing squats past the point of parallel for fear of potentially damaging the knees. As a general rule I disagree with those experts though there are certainly individual exceptions. When the full squat is performed correctly and with total control through a complete range of motion, the knees are strengthened, not weakened. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, an estimated 50 North Americans have suffered or are suffering knee pain or injuries and six million of them will visit a doctor for knee problems each year. The majority of these problems are degenerative in nature and are the result of disuse of the knee joint. Squatting keeps the knee joints mobile and free of pain. There are several facets on the inside of the kneecap that are all used only in individuals who squat.
    Otherwise, common sense tells me that more muscles are getting worked the further I go down (within reason).

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    Cardio bunny Alex.V's Avatar
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    You're putting the muscle under greater stress, I would imagine. When going ATF, you're actually using weight that is far too light to sufficiently stress the muscles in the upper half to two-thirds of the motion, (this is assuming you can squat more to parallel than ATF, and you're not using bands or other variable-resistance equipment or techniques) and it's only when the muscles are at their least efficient (i.e., at the very bottom) that the lousy mechanical angle forces them to work their hardest.

    So, on ATF squats you truly overload the muscles over a small ROM, while on parallel squats you're truly overloading them over a greater distance. Hence, more stress, and more growth. However, ATF squats with bands would probably eliminate this shortcoming. Something interesting to think about trying.

    Note: This only holds true, IMO, if, like I said, you use greater weight for the parallel squats. Parallel is still decently deep, and I doubt you're shortchanging/compromising any practical strength gains.
    Last edited by Alex.V; 06-11-2002 at 10:21 AM.
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    Bring it. DaCypher's Avatar
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    Pretty interesting points guys. I think I'm going to stick with parallel squatting until my progress begins to slow. Actually, I might throw in a lighter set going all the way down...

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    Senior Member Fudomyo's Avatar
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    You've got so many muscles in your leg, each of which is designed for a different range in the squat. Even if you did do lighter weight, which I don't think is predicated, you would build more muscle.

    Parallel or below is your gluteus maximus. Chix dig that.

    I'd suggest changing your rep scheme before switching to a more limited range squat.

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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    I performed parallel only squats for the first 12 years of my training (with a few exceptions). My legs got quite big and strong. I prefer ATF squats now precisely because I have knee issues and other assorted injuries which make a deep, narrow stance squat the best. The ATF squats limit the weight used, thus making things easier on my knees.

    One problem with ATF squats was partially addressed by B. The squat is a movement which involves rotation around the ankles, knees, and hips. This dramatically changes the resistance curve to specific muscles during the movement. As you dip beyond parallel, you put the involved musculature into a relatively poor mechanical position, thus the "sticking point" that exists somewhere between rock bottom and parallel. This sticking point limits the resistance that can be used during ATF squats greatly, to a load that one can push through the sticking point. So, one can use much greater loads during parallel squats, thus stressing the involved muscles to a much greater degree, albeit over a shorter ROM. If you think about it, the ROM for the quads during a parallel squat is roughly equivalent to that used during a full ROM on the leg extension. Performing parallel squats is not equivalent to stopping a bench press at the halfway point.

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    Banned kaleido's Avatar
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    I go well below parallel right now, and the best thing it's done for me is increase my ability to jump from a standstill. I can absolutely explode upward.

  9. #9
    . Delphi's Avatar
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    Quoting Kenneth Wassung from the previous post-

    ...According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, an estimated 50 North Americans have suffered or are suffering knee pain or injuries and six million of them will visit a doctor for knee problems each year. The majority of these problems are degenerative in nature and are the result of disuse of the knee joint. Squatting keeps the knee joints mobile and free of pain. There are several facets on the inside of the kneecap that are all used only in individuals who squat.
    I wonder how much of this was said by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Just the statistic on the incidence of knee injuries, or does it include the part about most of the injuries being degenerative, and does it include the part about squats strengthening the knee joint? I'm not saying I don't agree with all of the above because it all makes sense, but the way it's worded could be misleading people about what the ASOS really said.

  10. #10
    Hungry BCC's Avatar
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    ATF is the way to go, now that I've begun front squatting again, I love doing ATF with them as well.
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    Bring it. DaCypher's Avatar
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    chris,
    Interesting that you mention ATF is easier on the knees for you because I have found it to be just the opposite for me. I also find I have to use a wider than shoulder width stance or I experience severe pain in my left knee (I had ACL reconstructive surgery on it). However, I find when I stop at parallel my stance does not need to be as wide. Anyways, I guess everyone is a little different. You made some good points as well. I think I might just do ATF every other week or something along those lines. Or maybe even one set to parallel and one set ATF...

  12. #12
    Senior Member smalls's Avatar
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    I thought I would start squating to parrallel, because I thought I could squat more, but my squat weight is about the same either way. So I am going back to atf, since I like it a lot better.
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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Originally posted by DaCypher
    chris,
    Interesting that you mention ATF is easier on the knees for you because I have found it to be just the opposite for me. I also find I have to use a wider than shoulder width stance or I experience severe pain in my left knee (I had ACL reconstructive surgery on it). However, I find when I stop at parallel my stance does not need to be as wide. Anyways, I guess everyone is a little different. You made some good points as well. I think I might just do ATF every other week or something along those lines. Or maybe even one set to parallel and one set ATF...
    I think that if ATF squats bother your knees, you should avoid them.

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