Should You Squat All The Way Down?

19 Feb

This is a common question I have gotten as a personal trainer, and one that is “controversial.”

I thought of this post after I saw elite runner Lauren Fleshman post a video of her team mate doing a barbell squat. Someone commented that she should be going all the way down, and then debate ensued. Well, Lauren answered with a great, informative response, and others were debating. I’ll post her answer in a bit.

The question I always get is, “Should I squat all the way down?” (Ass to grass if you will).

how low should you squat

You may hear this a lot (that you should), but I’m going to tell you that you shouldn’t (my opinion). Here are 2 reasons:

You don’t have the flexibility or mobility to do so. Your hips might be tight. Your lower back might be tight. Or your core may not be strong enough. If you try to squat lower than you can, you could end up hurting yourself, and your form will definitely suffer.

The “tuck.” If you don’t have the flexibility, then your lower back will certainly tuck under, which puts a lot of stress on your lower back. Here’s what this looks like:

 

What causes the tuck? Here’s what trainer Tony Gentilcore says:

A vast majority of people (not everyone) are sitting in posterior tilt all day, and as a result the hamstrings tend to get stiff(er) relative to the anterior core.

Ask someone to take a video of you squatting, so you can determine if you have a tuck. If you do, Tony has some great videos to help fix the problem.

I urge you not to force yourself to squat lower than you are able to! At the same time, don’t be one of those people who loads up the bar with weight, and just squats a few inches. I read somewhere that doing loaded squats and only squatting like 1/4 of the way down puts way more pressure on your knees than going parallel. So if you can’t go parallel OR a little above parallel, work on mobility first, and then attempt to squat.

If squatting to parallel is an issue for you, try out front squats.

The different placement of the bar helps you use your core more, and it helps a lot of people go deeper than a back squat. You could also try placing plates under your heels in a back squat, to help you go a bit lower. I did this with my brother, and in a few weeks he was able to remove the plates.

Okay, back to Lauren Fleshman. So someone told her to squat all the way down, and she told that person that he didn’t know about runners mechanics and why they don’t squat all the way down. I asked her to explain and this was her response:

lauren fleshman

 

I squat to 90 degree, mainly because I can’t go all the way down yet. But for me, I think 90 degree squats are fine. Trust me, you will feel it. It is tough. To recap, here’s what you can do to improve your squats:

  • Work on flexibility and mobility. Foam roll! Foam roll right before squatting too to help with range of motion.
  • Put plates under your heels to help you go a little bit lower. The plates elevate your heels, which helps if you lack flexibility.
  • Try a front squat. If you’re intimidated to try it with a barbell, try it with a kettlebell first.
  • Go to parallel or slightly above – nothing wrong with that.
  • If you can’t squat at all, work on bodyweight squats to get the form down, then slowly add weight with dumbbells. Also do other leg exercises instead, like lunges, split squats, leg press, etc.

Do you do barbell squats? Have you tried front squats?

Would anyone like a post going more into depth about squat variations, perhaps with a video?

********************************

Follow Reach Your Peak:

Advertisements

6 Responses to “Should You Squat All The Way Down?”

  1. Run Pilou Run! February 20, 2014 at 3:48 am #

    Thanks for the post. Now I have a good answer when someone asks why I can’t squat any lower (I am a runner).

    Seriously though, I really suck at squatting. My hammies, quads, lower back are way too tight to even come close to parallel! My little sister (a PT) and my osteopath are working with me on this…we’ll see how that goes. I had never heard about the plates under the heels, so I’ll try that as well. Thanks for the tip!

    • reach-yourpeak February 20, 2014 at 9:44 am #

      No problem! Definitely try the plates under heels. Also try warming up and stretching/foam rolling your calves and hips right before sqautting. stretch those hips a lot!

  2. Stephanie February 20, 2014 at 8:19 am #

    Thanks for this! I’ve always felt a little “bad” that I can’t go past 90 degrees (it just doesn’t feel right), but now I don’t! I love doing different squat variations, though, such as regular, sumo, chair. Squats have definitely gotten my butt back in shape! Yes, would like to see more squat info!

    • reach-yourpeak February 20, 2014 at 9:43 am #

      Great, I will have to work on another post! And yes, no reason to force yourself to go below 90. 90 is great! That’s great mobility. I’m not a huge fan of sumo squats for some reason – I just never feel them!

      • Stephanie February 20, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

        Looking forward to it. Just came across a post on another blog about different types of deadlifts (http://bretcontreras.com/whats-the-difference-between-a-romanian-deadlift-american-deadlift-stiff-legged-deadlift-and-straight-leg-deadlift/), which is also an interesting topic!

        For sumos, do you do them straight-legged or with your toes pointing at 10 and 2 (which I prefer)? As you come up, squeeze not only your glutes, but your inner thighs and pelvic floor muscles. It kind of all happens at once for me…once I squeeze one of those muscles, I find all of them are squeezing!

      • reach-yourpeak February 21, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

        I do them with my toes pointed out but for some reason just feel like it’s such an awkward position lol but I will have to try doing them and squeezing all of those muscles!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: