It is my contention that the bottom one third of the full squat represents the primary limiting factor for most people in the increase of lower body strength and development. Since the full squat often acts as a barometer and or catalyst for the development of the entire body, then this portion of the squat may very well be a primary limiting factor for the entire body. This is also the area of the squat where the greatest potential for trauma and injuries can occur.
By bottom position, I am referring to the fully descended position to about 30 degrees above parallel. This area is the toughest part of the squat and there is often a feeling of discomfort, vulnerability and anxiety as to whether the proper depth has been achieved. This is likely due to lack of flexibility in the hips, knees and ankles and the fact that we spend very little if any time in this position in our everyday lives.
The best way to overcome this apprehension is to squat as deeply as you are able to. This negates the anxiety of wondering if you hit the right squat depth each time. Obviously a competitive powerlifter will have to spend some time squatting to break parallel, but many would be wise to squat deeper more often in order to build their confidence and overall lower body strength. From a very early age, I learned to squat much deeper than parallel in the gym and in powerlifting meets and I don't feel that it put me at any competitive disadvantage. I competed in over 60 powerlifting meets and never once received a red light for failure to hit proper depth. You can use up a lot of energy and mental focus trying to just break parallel that could be better spent on the execution of the overall lift.
The second thing you can do is to develop a habit of squatting instead of sitting whenever you can. Obviously you cannot do this at a business meeting or at church, but you can work it into daily habits such as petting the dog or picking up something from the ground. Do this a dozen times a day for about two months and you should notice a marked increase in your comfort and confidence in the bottom portion of the squat.
The third thing you can do is to perform some adjunct squat movements in your training which will strengthen the bottom one-third of the squat movement. The following are two of my favorites.
Deadstop Squats, also known as Bottom Position Squats, are an incredible exercise; in fact I predict it will someday become a contested lift in some type of strength competition. I like to do these after I perform regular full squats. Using either a power rack or a set of adjustable squat racks, place the bar as low as you possibly can and still be able to position yourself underneath the bar in the bottom part of the squat position. When you are properly set up for this lift, you should feel as though you are in a very powerful position, rather than a feeling of being cramped and "out of position" A lot of this has to do with lack of hip, knee and ankle flexibility. I have found a great way to loosen and warm-up the hips and knees is to pedal a stationary bicycle and alternate normal pedaling, with a pedaling movement in which you place the outer edge of your feet on the pedals with your knees spread out wide. It looks a bit obscene, but it gets the job done. When you first begin doing bottom position squats, you may have to initially start at about a half squat, and gradually move the pins down until you find the right starting position. Make sure your entire body is tight and then elevate the weight upwards until you are standing straight up, then, using precision control, lower the bar down the pins. Take a few breaths and then repeat for the target number of reps. You will find that your biomechanical position and technique must be near perfect when handling maximum weights. I like this movement for several reasons. When you start the movement from the bottom position, you are directing all of your initial energy into doing the toughest part first and once you break past this initial phase, the rest is easy by comparison. I also like the fact that there is virtually zero ballistic impact on the knees and I have had many people who claimed they could not squat because of pain in their knees, be able to do deadstop squats without any pain in their joints.
Pause Squats are full squats performed exactly like traditional full squats with the addition of a 3 second pause in the bottom phase of the squat. Take the weight off the supports and descend to your lowest squat position, holding that position for approximately 3 seconds, then drive the weight upwards to completion. You can use either a training partner to count off the seconds or you can do it yourself. Either way, I like to use a cadence and command of 1…..2….3. followed immediately by a powerful "GO"! Perform these after your regular squats with a rep range of anywhere from 3-6 reps per set. This exercise will teach you to stay tight throughout the entire range of motion in the squat and will greatly enhance your ability to drive out of the bottom.
another good article. please keep churning them out
Doesnt everybody love going to the gym and seeing the usual people putting on tons of weight and only do a 1/3 squat and act like they are big.
Ass to ground squats are the only way to effectively promote huge growth in the legs and ass
Good post Keith. I'll offer this site with some pretty informative articles too.Originally Posted by Keith Wassung
Your point about squatting instead of sitting is insightful too; for anyone who doesn't squat, gets intimidated, or just starting out, do squats in front of the TV; bodyweight & imaginary bar or broom handle.
I always go ATF. May as well get the most for your time.
"You can take control of my mind and my body, but there is one thing a Saiyan always keeps.... his PRIDE!"- Vegeta
Great article!! So does this mean then that being between parallel and 30° above it is ok to do squats? When I do them I find I tend to stop just before parallel, maybe 5-10°. I'm going to use a large mirror in front of myself tomorrow and see if i can go just that little bit further down without killing myself.
Give me DOMS or give me death
every time I see a new thread from you I look forward to reading a great article, I was not dissapointed when I read this one
Alright! I did some full squats yesterday. For me, since I have a small body frame, there wasn't a drastic difference between that and parallel. I must say though, I did notice somethings. It was harder to keep my balance. It forced me to blast through all sticking points. AND MY ASS ALMOST HIT THE GROUND! I recommend these to people if they have the flexibility. Until you get warmed up, you won't be able to do as much weight as you normally do. Swallow your pride. It's worth it.
Last edited by thalakos84; 02-03-2005 at 06:30 AM.
Bench - 225
Squat - 247x5
Deadlift - 315
I'm with ya, Cubby. Keith's articles are always informative and interesting.Originally Posted by Cubby
i always throught going below P was bad for the joints, and the discompfort wasnt just because you were not used to it....?
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 million 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 joint facets on the inside of the kneecap that are all used only when an individual squats.
When the squat is performed to a parallel depth, it is the knees, which take the majority of the stress involved in stopping the downward momentum of the squat. When the squat is performed to a full depth, this same “braking” stress is transferred to the larger, powerful muscles of the hips, hamstrings and buttocks. It is obvious that the squat must be performed with a great deal of control and that any type of rapid “rebounding”, whether it is done at parallel or at full depth will be detrimental to the knees.
Last edited by Keith Wassung; 02-03-2005 at 04:26 PM.
I do ATF squats, leg press and I do them very controlled reps (as all my lifts) and my knees just kill me the day after.