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Learning to do Full Squats


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I'm always on the lookout for good web sites that describe proper exercise technique and training tips. I ran across this site yesterday on doing full squats.

 

http://www.stumptuous.com/cms/displayarticle.php?aid=52

 

I think this is one of the best and most comprehensive articles I've ever read about the benefits and techniques of full squats. I have some grinding, aching knees after leg workouts. After reading this, I think I may know why. This is a quote from the article.

 

Most interesting to me is the problem with what is usually recommended as "safe": squatting to parallel. At parallel (where the thigh is parallel to the floor, higher than the depth of a full squat by about 30 degrees), the compressive forces on the patella (kneecap) are actually at their highest (Huberti & Hayes, Journal of Bone Joint Surgery, 1984: 715-724). Decelerating, stopping, and reversing direction at this angle can inspire significant knee pain in even healthy people, whereas full squats present no problem. Another exercise which is supposedly "safer" is the leg extension, even though patellar tension and shear forces on the knee joint are demonstrably higher with such an exercise

 

I've been doing parallel squats. Perhaps this is part of my problem. Okay, so now I'm going to drop the weight down a bit and learn to do full squats. I'll see how my knees do.

 

While you're browsing this site, check out her other training ideas. Good stuff.

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Also referred to as an ATG squat (ass-to-grass or ass-to-ground). I've been trying to be able to do this for a while, but being tall the mechanics are not in my favor. I think my big problem right now is forward ankle flexibility. I've made some progress with this by doing some active stretches beforehand.

 

Anyone else encounter and overcome such an restrictive ankle?

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Also referred to as an ATG squat (ass-to-grass or ass-to-ground). I've been trying to be able to do this for a while, but being tall the mechanics are not in my favor. I think my big problem right now is forward ankle flexibility. I've made some progress with this by doing some active stretches beforehand.

 

Anyone else encounter and overcome such an restrictive ankle?

How tall are you? I'm 6' 1" and my ass is 11 inches of the grass when I squat. Parellel Squats hurts my knees, Full Squats don't. I've read some good articles online that says PS are harder on the knees than FS.
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How tall are you? I'm 6' 1" and my ass is 11 inches of the grass when I squat. Parellel Squats hurts my knees, Full Squats don't. I've read some good articles online that says PS are harder on the knees than FS.

About the same. I can't go more than an inch or so lower than parallel without my heels lifting or my body falling back. I'm almost positive that this is due to ankle (in)flexibility.

 

I've just heard that taller people have a harder time squatting due to the length of the legs, but I don't have anything to back that up. I don't consider it an excuse.

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About the same. I can't go more than an inch or so lower than parallel without my heels lifting or my body falling back. I'm almost positive that this is due to ankle (in)flexibility.

 

Hmm. Could it maybe be a short/tight achilles tendon or calf? That could also explain why your heels lift at that point.

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Hmm. Could it maybe be a short/tight achilles tendon or calf? That could also explain why your heels lift at that point.

Oh yeah it's definitely the muscle/tendon holding it back. I've just had very limited success trying to stretch and lengthen them.

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How tall are you? I'm 6' 1" and my ass is 11 inches of the grass when I squat. Parellel Squats hurts my knees, Full Squats don't. I've read some good articles online that says PS are harder on the knees than FS.

About the same. I can't go more than an inch or so lower than parallel without my heels lifting or my body falling back. I'm almost positive that this is due to ankle (in)flexibility.

 

I've just heard that taller people have a harder time squatting due to the length of the legs, but I don't have anything to back that up. I don't consider it an excuse.

 

Part of the heels coming up / falling back issue can also be that you simply haven't found your optimal position for your body. If I squat high-bar (bar just a hair below the base of the neck) with heavy weights now, I get knocked forward a bit, which tends to put me on my toes to keep from leaning too far in front. Part of that is that I still don't have the core strength to keep it from knocking me forward a bit, so it screws with keeping good form. However, if I drop the bar down to the lower shelf on my traps and lean my torso forward just a few degrees more, I'm far more stable and it keeps me from going forward, not to mention it allows for me to use my hamstrings better in the movement. So, bar position, particularly if you're taller, can have an impact on your stability.

 

Also, stance width / angle of feet can have an impact on how solid your squat is and how stable you may be able to keep form as well as impact your depth. I go with shoulder-width stance most of the time (and I have an extremely wide frame, so it is a bit wider than most people go) because it keeps me the most stable throughout the movement. If I go narrow, hitting good depth is easy but coming out of the hole I find that I'm not as solid as I should be. If I go too wide, I'm strong out of the hole but lose my steam halfway up. Finding that middle ground where I can easily hit good depth and not sacrifice stability was key and took a lot of playing around to find, so if you haven't experimented with changing your positions to test other things, I strongly recommend it.

 

I think that too few people experiment with different stances and different bar positions, then they either get hurt or frustrated and say that they can't squat simply because they didn't find what worked best for them. It took me years to find the best position, and if I don't squat for a few weeks, I have to re-learn my optimal mechanics all over again, so it's a never-ending battle to find and keep what works best for your body.

 

Finally, for lack of flexibility, I found a good way that I was able to get past it quite some time ago. This worked for me, and may not be ideal for everyone, but what I did was, every other squat workout, I started my warm-ups with paused bottom squats with about 60-70% of my max (or, whatevern I could do for about 6-12 reps with fairly easily). I'd find the best position for the safety pins by sitting down and back without weight at first to find how low I was able to go, then I'd set the pins a notch below that (usually about 3") I'd then load up with some moderate weights, and ride it down as far as I could as if it were pinning me to the bottom position, keeping tight but letting the weight stretch me out and down as far as it would go. I'd hold it for a 3-5 second count before rising, doing from 2-5 reps per set for around 2-4 sets before getting into my usual squatting session. This would really loosen up my calves, hips and hamstrings and seemed to really help with me being able to get lower than before. Now I can get a rock-bottom squat down to about 5" from the floor, not quite like when you see olympic lifters whose asses are nearly touching the ground, but far enough below parallel that nobody could ever question depth I don't recommend using too much weight on this, but it's a great stretch to do before hitting your heavy squats and I definitely attribute it to increasing my flexibility and being able to get to a greater depth. Also, I find that the lower I go, the more important it is to make sure that my feet are angled out about 15-30 degrees as it feels way too tight everywhere if I try to keep my feet remotely straight. Even the angle you keep your feet can change everything for your squat, so never underestimate how much the little things can make a difference

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This squat talk makes me sad since my injury won't allow me to do crap for leg workouts. I have a strong urge to squat right now.

 

I did something similar to Veganessentials for increasing the depth of my squat. It does work quite well. I am going to be doing that again to rehab myself back into squatting when I recover from my injury.

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Part of the heels coming up / falling back issue...

Thanks a lot for that information. I do squat with the bar up high, I've tried it lower and it felt better up high, but I never tried to see if it helped my balance.

 

I normally squat at shoulder's width with my feet and knees turned outward about 45 degrees. If I move my heels another 2-3" out per side, I can get ATG with bodyweight only, but with additional weight I fall back. If my feet are any closer or I bring my knee/toe angle in any more I cannot even get parallel. In any case my ankles rarely go much past 90 degrees, but with a wider stance this is less of an issue.

 

I will try the bottoming-out hold you talk of. I've also been trying a calf raise level machine to stretch that out after doing calf raises.

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I tried full squats yesterday and I did pretty good. I did some practice squats, then moved onto the bar and did it without weights. Then I added weight. I could feel all the muscles working: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core. It was awesome. I'm glad I read that article! The best part is when the author writes "Leg presses are to squats as dog poop is to belgian truffles" I lol'd.

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VeganEssentials wrote:

 

Finally, for lack of flexibility, I found a good way that I was able to get past it quite some time ago. This worked for me, and may not be ideal for everyone, but what I did was, every other squat workout, I started my warm-ups with paused bottom squats with about 60-70% of my max (or, whatevern I could do for about 6-12 reps with fairly easily). I'd find the best position for the safety pins by sitting down and back without weight at first to find how low I was able to go, then I'd set the pins a notch below that (usually about 3") I'd then load up with some moderate weights, and ride it down as far as I could as if it were pinning me to the bottom position, keeping tight but letting the weight stretch me out and down as far as it would go. I'd hold it for a 3-5 second count before rising, doing from 2-5 reps per set for around 2-4 sets before getting into my usual squatting session. This would really loosen up my calves, hips and hamstrings and seemed to really help with me being able to get lower than before

 

This is great advice.I do similar things to keep flexible, & it works wonders.Stretching the place you want to increase flexibility & pause in that position for ages.Repeat.

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This is all great advice! I look forward to incorporating full squats into my leg workout once race season is done!

 

A quick question for the veterans on here - how does your typical full squat weight compare to the weight you would use for parallel squats (with an equal number of reps)?

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A quick question for the veterans on here - how does your typical full squat weight compare to the weight you would use for parallel squats (with an equal number of reps)?

 

At one time, my weights in a full squat and a parallel squat were the same, but eventually the parallel squat numbers took off for me when I changed over to doing them as the basis for all my leg work.

 

I eventually hit a 525 parallel squat, and shortly before, I did a paused rock-bottom full squat with 445 if I remember correctly. That was with a complete dead stop at bottom as I was testing paused squats that day, so I had my butt only about 6" off the ground. So, there was a big difference for me, but again, I had pretty well put my work into parallel squats since that time with just doing full squats as warm-ups and for stretching out.

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A quick question for the veterans on here - how does your typical full squat weight compare to the weight you would use for parallel squats (with an equal number of reps)?

 

About 10-20% difference. My best parallel squat is 116 and best full is 105. Haven't tried to max out on parallel recently.

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I eventually hit a 525 parallel squat, and shortly before, I did a paused rock-bottom full squat with 445 if I remember correctly. That was with a complete dead stop at bottom as I was testing paused squats that day, so I had my butt only about 6" off the ground. So, there was a big difference for me, but again, I had pretty well put my work into parallel squats since that time with just doing full squats as warm-ups and for stretching out.
A quick question for the veterans on here - how does your typical full squat weight compare to the weight you would use for parallel squats (with an equal number of reps)?

 

At one time, my weights in a full squat and a parallel squat were the same, but eventually the parallel squat numbers took off for me when I changed over to doing them as the basis for all my leg work.

 

I eventually hit a 525 parallel squat, and shortly before, I did a paused rock-bottom full squat with 445 if I remember correctly. That was with a complete dead stop at bottom as I was testing paused squats that day, so I had my butt only about 6" off the ground. So, there was a big difference for me, but again, I had pretty well put my work into parallel squats since that time with just doing full squats as warm-ups and for stretching out.

 

Those are some great numbers. I thought I had some strong legs but that is on a completely different level!

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Also, I find that the lower I go, the more important it is to make sure that my feet are angled out about 15-30 degrees as it feels way too tight everywhere if I try to keep my feet remotely straight. Even the angle you keep your feet can change everything for your squat, so never underestimate how much the little things can make a difference

 

After reading this thread last week. I started deep squatting with my bodyweight in my cube at work. I found that keeping my toes pointed forward my knees would ache on every rep. By angling them outwards about 30-45 deg. with a wide 1-foot more than shoulder width stance I was stable and pain free with my hams hitting my calves. I was amazed I could even get that low. So last night I loaded up the bar with 165 (significantly lower than parallel squats for me) and got 12 reps about 15-20 % below parallel (just before my hams hit my calves). It felt great, and going below parallel I could really feel my hams working. I don't think I'll be doing parallel squats again any time soon. I plan on trying to get rock bottom and slowly work the weight back up. Even with the lighter weight, I'd say my quads almost got just as good a workout because of the depth, and my hamstrings got way more of a workout.

 

So thanks for the article and advice tumbleweed and VeganEssentials !

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Thanks for the replies!

 

I think I'll have to use the advice here to improve my flexibility. I've only recently started squatting, and even trying full squats unweighted, I have problems due to poor hip and ankle flexibility (not surprising to me, since I've had issues with my hip and ankle muscle flexibility before). I guess I'll be sticking to parallel squats for my weighted work for now, and try to get my body into proper condition so that I can move to full squats at some point.

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No, no, NO! Bouncing with weight balanced on your patella...don’t even think about it, you should never bounce in a stretch, let alone a weight stretch!

Unlike what this person says pretty everyone recommends keeps knees in line with the toes.

ALWAYS mind the form, this bloke is not one I’d recommend to train an exercise, doing any form of squat form is paramount to success, never just slouch down, do it right, or don’t do it!

Safer ways to achieve these goals are to use more traditional calf stretching techniques & to try Goblet squats (Dan John shows some good stuff here http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6529481301858251744 )

I would not recommend bouncing about in a stretched position with weight, just not that safe, some people can get away with it, but many pay a price at some point.

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No, no, NO! Bouncing with weight balanced on your patella...don’t even think about it, you should never bounce in a stretch, let alone a weight stretch!

Unlike what this person says pretty everyone recommends keeps knees in line with the toes.

I've been stretching the past few days using the general position from that video, and I have to say it has worked amazingly well.

 

You're right. You should *not* bounce in a stretch if that means you're doing it to force the joint well past its normal range of motion. I don't like how he does it in the video either, but I think there's some merit to the position. If you do try this, don't do it like in the video. Definitely control your motion more and make sure you are doing a dynamic stretch, not a ballistic stretch.

 

I agree that your toes and knees should be relatively in line. They don't need to be exactly as the same angle, but you definitely don't want them off by more than 15 degrees or so. Just my opinion.

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Obviously there is individual variation, but we're not talking about you choosing which style you want to use, we're talking about offering training advice. He's up on youtube offering training to people who maybe have no idea (you sound like you know your body enough to make sensible choices), as I trainer I tend to look at things like "someone with no idea is going to apply this advice", that's how you have to think if your training people, you have to teach the safest way, as I said people can often get away with it, but that doesn't mean it's the safest training technique to achieve the goals most people are after, for most people (& on youtube you've got to assume you're talking to 'most people'), other methods will get you there with less risk.

For most athletes everything I said hold true, its a narrow view to think "this works for me, so everyone should do it", you must consider that maybe in this case you're actually the exeption who is, maybe, more durable than many trainees. If they did the same they could well become injured. These trainees can achieve the same results without those risks, in around the same time, using more traditional stretching, safe dynamics stretches/exercises & bodyweight squat variations if flexibility is the issue.

Any trainer offering this to the average trainee shouldn't been seen as a good trainer as he's risking injury to his clients & the first rule is "never to risk injury to clients when training them".

Knowing your body well enough to know this isn't going to hurt to you (or indeed well enough to know this IS going to hurt you) is a good thing & I'm certainly not trying to knock you, but bear in mind that maybe 80-90% (or more) of trainees really aren't in your position & don't know what their bodies are telling them, so can't make reasonable judgements, they need people like us to point out the safest course to reach their goals & even if we do something, then maybe it's not for them at their stage of development (until they've developed the necessary proprioception to decide for themselves).

On the video he should have pointed this is really a specialised protocol that can be used by the advanced trainee who really understands their body & should not be used by the average trainee who should use traditional stretching techniques to reach their goals.

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Absolutely, you're right. I only use some concepts from his stretching video and have to adapt it to what I know/think is safe and how I know my body. I've watched the video again and the only useful thing I got out of it was the positioning for that stretch. I actually keep the weight up higher on my thighs. This helps me stretch without falling over for now, once I get better here I'll focus on VE's recommendations earlier in this thread.

 

I do see your point and agree that that video is dangerous if taken at face value. I don't look at these things as a new lifter would.

 

On the topic of stupid youtube videos, take a look at

. I'm not sure which one is supposed to be good and which bad. I'm assuming the latter guy is the trainer showing good form but he's kicking his feet up way too much and isn't keeping the DB close to his chest. Also looks like he's pulling the weight up past his chest instead of snapping it up. I fail to see what's so poor about the first guy's form.
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