Should You Squat Past Your Knees?

     This has been a topic that people, including myself at one time, have misunderstood because of what professors or the typical trainers may say.  The fact is that squatting below parallel is perfectly healthy for your knees.  However, most people lack the necessary mobilities to squat this low and often times, at someone’s end range you will see a “dip” or curling under of their lumbar spine.  This is the person hitting the end range in their hips and continuing  to hit this end range (spinal flexion) is definitely a contributing factor to disc injuries.

     In this video (thanks Kevin), even though it is demonstrating someone with a hip impingement, at the end range you notice the butt dipping under slightly.  I have seen this in countless weight rooms and pushing through the hip end range can cause A LOT of problems.

     In the Biomechanics of Squat Depth it shows that the highest forces on the ACL occur at 15-30 degrees of hip flexion while the lowest forces were at 60 degrees or more of hip flexion.  So those quarter squats you see people doing, not so good, although there may be some certain situations where it may be applicable.  The point is that, yes, not everyone needs to squat to parallel, especially if you do not have the necessary mobilities.  A lot of people, are just not meant to squat.  But it is a completely different story that people can say squatting “hurts” or is bad for their knees when there warm-up consists of shaking their arms around for 7 secs and touching their toes to pick up their NO-Explode drink.  It is safer, for those individuals who are not meant to squat, to stay 2 inches higher than to cause some back problems later in their progress.  However, it would seem foolish to say that deep squatting is bad for your knees for everyone

80's woman overhead squatting with Jorts = Mrs. McDreamy

What to do then if you cannot deep squat?

     This is why I am a big advocate of single leg training because it usually allows the full range of motion without the back being the limiting factor. 

  • Reverse Lunges (dumbbell in each hand, Goblet position etc.)
  • Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats (w/ dumbbells, or barbell in front squat grip, back squat grip)
  • Even step-ups (bench has to be appropriate height)

For some awesome reads on this, check out these  next few articles

Is It Wrong to Squat Like a Child– Craig Liebenson, DC

The Biomechanics of Squat Depth– Brad Schoenfeld

If you do not know how to properly warm-up, here is a quick one David Lasnier put up.  He runs through it quickly to show a quick sample, but each movment is done 8x/side. 

Cheers,

Matt

 



Categories: Injury Prevention, Strength Training

Tags: , ,

2 replies

  1. I cannot believe I happened upon this! I thought I was crazy becasue I have yet to see any information on this toppic of “hip dropping when squatting deep”…. so glad you wrote this.
    I am afraid I am one of the poor souls who “biomechanically” suffers from deep sqautting like a suggestive night dancer, who’s hips’ curve under then drive out of that curve in struggle to lift the weight back up. I left a comment on Bret Contreras recent post about this because I had begun to notice low back strain and he was aware of the issue as well…
    I had told him that when I was able to realllllly focus on not doing that with bodyweight (via positioning other body parts a little differently.. even wider stance, straight straight back, and reallly keeping an eye on my hip movement, I was able to not do it so much) He said I can just keep trying to encourage that form and also try box squats (along with regressing some in weight) and also reccomended better hip flexor stretch and mobility drills. My last session with the squats went so much better doing box squats. I understand how uni-lateral work will be very important to me, but I just don’t want a death sentance on the squat! Theyre so effective and awesome and that’s so disappointing!
    I find it much easier when my stance is great deal wider. Would you say it’s ok to keep working hard on this even if means a year of box squatting and lots of uni-lateral work? Or am I doomed to only the latter? Thanks in advance 🙂
    April

    • Hey April! I think that if you didn’t notice any pain from the box squatting as opposed to normal squatting, then absolutely stick with it! I think it is significantly important to lift pain free in order keep up the progress and so that some injury doesn’t destroy that. Remember there are always ways to work around something! Same goes with unilateral work, if you notice it does not bother you at all, keep it up. I do not think you may be doomed but I can’t be sure.. I wonder based off your squat depth, whether you are going too far down, some people just cannot because of structural adaptations. This is why box squatting is a great alternative! Keep working hard but be safe! Let me know if you need anything

      -Matt

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