Why We Squat Below Parallel



If any one of you has ever attended a class at Southwest Strength, you will notice there is one thing Nathan and I stress all of the time, and that is squatting below parallel.
When I first started training other people, it was really common for me to see them surprised that I was asking them to squat so low. I also got the comment that deep squats are bad for your knees. This is actually not the case guys!
Now, not everyone walks into the gym with a perfect, deep squat. In reality, a lot of people have to work really hard to get comfortable in that below parallel position. Even after tonnes of mobility work and strength training, some people may never be able to get that low. This just depends on their injury history, any past medical procedures that may hinder mobility, and maybe just how someone is structurally built.
If anyone is reading this and thinking, “I would never be able to squat that low if my life depended on it.” I want you to grab an album of baby pictures of yourself. Guaranteed there will be at least one picture of you ‘squatting below parallel’. It actually is a little baffling to me that so many adults have lost the ability to squat, and babies do it without thinking! It is also baffling to me because we squat so much doing everyday tasks throughout our entire lives! Sitting down in a chair, sitting on a toilet, gardening, picking something up off the floor, the list goes on and on. But we still struggle with that full range of motion.

It’s also a more effective way to get stronger. In my opinion, doing a bodyweight air squat below parallel, will be more benefiting to you than doing anything at or above parallel with any kind of load. So not only is deep squatting safe and effective, but it’s the perfect recipe for a nice, strong booty (and who doesn’t want that). Studies show that the gluteus maximus is over 25% more engaged during deep squats than not breaking parallel.
At Southwest Strength, if you are not able to just walk in the doors with a perfect squat, which let’s be real guys, doesn’t happen often, we have set up progressions for everyone depending where they are at. We will start you off simply squatting to a bench or a box. This is usually the height of a chair. Once you progress, we will now make that height lower for you, so you are made to squat deeper. We will continue to progress you to squat lower and lower until you can successfully attain a below parallel squat. Only after this fact will we ever add weights. This can get frustrating for some people. Especially if they have been squatting improperly with heavy loads prior to this elsewhere. Trust me guys, it’s not about how much weight you can load onto the bar that we are worried about. We want good, healthy, safe range of motion. So if that means taking down the weights and getting it right, that’s when the ego has to be set aside and we take it back down to the basics. No one would build a house on a weak foundation, so we don’t add weights to sub par squats. Even once you have attained a perfect air squat, we will start adding weights slowly, and that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll just throw a barbell on your back and let you go. There are many different variations of weights we can use with someone just starting to add load. Things like kettle-bells, dumbbells, and even just holding a plate can be great tools to help improve and progress your squat.
Some people will just naturally squat better than others. That’s why there is never a one size fits all approach to strength training. Squats are a great tool to build strength, stability, and increase joint mobility and health. So keep squatting guys, your bodies will thank you for it!

Source : The effect of back squat depth on the EMG activity of 4 superficial hip and thigh muscles. Caterisano A, Moss RF, et al. The Department of Health and Exercise Science, Furman University, Greenville, SC, USA. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2002 Aug;16(3):428-32.

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