When it comes to highly awesome exercises, the squat ranks right up there in the fitness world. Working everything from the back, quads, hamstrings, and glutes, the squat does amazing things to the lower half of the body if done correctly and consistently.
The squat however, is one of the most neglected movements in the gym today. Many squat racks go unused or are being abused by people doing barbell curls for their biceps.
That is a whole other story though.
When it comes to the squat, a debate has come along on how low one should go when squatting. This depth debate is parallel or below parallel (you may have heard it called “ass to grass”).
The gym is a huge place for nostalgia and show. The developed “how-to” techniques take a back seat to what is seen as cool and tough. Many times, the performance and the purpose do not line up quite the way they should.
Looking at the ATG (ass to grass) squat, the mindset goes to range of motion. If a person is getting deeper that just means they are getting more range of motion which in return makes the movement more effective, right? Well, squatting involves some very important soft tissue, ligaments, and tendons to perform. And part of the battle of training is keeping the body in proper form to keep going as the years go by. Studies show that when performing ATG squats muscle activation is no greater than that of a person who is simply doing a parallel squat.
A parallel squat is when the quads, not hamstrings, are completely horizontal and level. Going below this point with either too much weight or performing too many reps has shown too cause joint issues, heightened inflammation, and even alter someone’s gait (manner of walking).
Many powerlifters and bodybuilders have come to learn that squatting to parallel provides the same amount of intensity and hypertrophy in the legs as going ATG while also preserving their bodies, so they can keep squatting for years to come.
Maybe the biggest attribute to learning and advocating parallel squatting is it tells people that squat depth is truly universal. People can easily become discouraged if they are taught that their butt needs to hit the floor for it to be a “good” squat. This is just not optimal or fair. Someone who is very short should squat the same way as someone who is very tall.
Getting under the bar by itself deserves a pat on the back. Getting “low” is more for show than anything else. Are you lifting for yourself or for others?
(This article is not to bash on people who perform ATG squats, but simply inform those who are new to squatting or even give people who have been squatting some insight on the mindset behind ATG squats)