Are ATG Squats Bad for Your knees?

Hey Christian,

I know the answer is no. But I have an argument with someone who studied in a stupid place where they teach you that ATG squats are bad for your knees because they place more stress on them. In a desperate effort to shut him up, I was wondering in you could answer him with your opinion to this simple question.

They place more stress on the cartilage between in the patellofemoral joint. However, with proper patellar tracking, recovery protocols, and obviously correct form, this added stress doesn’t usually result in any advanced wear or tear on the joint. However, parallel squats and above ALWAYS cause an increase in sheer forces (bones sliding over each other).

They also place more stress on the MCL and medial menisci, I think because of this added shear force. There is risk with any type of squatting if you aren’t taking care of your knees, warming up properly, keeping your knees tracking right.

Good points above. I personally have tender knees from years of wear and tear… I played baseball for 11 years and was a catcher (so a lot of stress on the knee joint), played football for 9, then competed in olympic lifting for 6-7 years squatting daily, sometimes twice a day…

I can do full squats and full front squats but parallel squat cause some pain if I do them too often. The 90 degrees knee angle is the most unstable and weakest (structurally) position in a squat so stopping there and reversing direction is more stressful on the knees than riding a squat all the way down provided that you do not have mobility issues.

Furthermore people can use (a lot) more weight on the half to parallel squats than on the full squats. That higher load places a lot more stress on the structural components of the knee joint while the full squat is more self-regulating in that you can’t use as much weight.

Finally, the full squat leads to a better overall lower body muscle balance which will reduce the potential for injuries.

BUT I’ll play devil’s advocate some people do not have the levers (long limbs to torso ratio especially with long femurs) or mobility (tight ankles, hamstrings and hip flexors) to do a full squat with a safe technique. These people are at a higher potential risk of injuries from full squats.

My knees bother me off and on quite a bit. I find squatting atg I get a clicking sound and pain in my right knee. I find with parallel squats I can make it through the ramp and at least halfway through the density if not all the way through.

I had terrible knee pain in my early 20s from half and quarter squatting, and “bench” squatting from a high bench, and from leg extensions. When I started squatting deep my knee pain went away and has been gone for over 15 years. I have read that the knee is least stable at 90 degrees.

I have even done a lot of bottom range only squats-from about 2 inches below parallel to about 4 inches above parallel and the knees are fine. I did tear and ACL 10 years ago, but it was probably from having outer quads that were a lot stronger than my hams, and also genetically loose joints. I also believe that most knee injuries occur above 90 degrees.

[quote]mertdawg wrote:
I had terrible knee pain in my early 20s from half and quarter squatting, and “bench” squatting from a high bench, and from leg extensions. When I started squatting deep my knee pain went away and has been gone for over 15 years. I have read that the knee is least stable at 90 degrees.

I have even done a lot of bottom range only squats-from about 2 inches below parallel to about 4 inches above parallel and the knees are fine. I did tear and ACL 10 years ago, but it was probably from having outer quads that were a lot stronger than my hams, and also genetically loose joints. I also believe that most knee injuries occur above 90 degrees. [/quote]

The bottoms-only squat is a popular method for chinese olympic lifters who need to bring up their leg strength fast. I also feel that they are great for developing the coordination between the hamstrings and quads in the squat as well as teach the body how to use the stretch-reflex properly.

Doing leg curls prior to squatting is also a good way to help protect the knees during squatting. Couldn’t explain the exact reason but it works. Been using that with several clients ever since Meadows talked about it.

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

Doing leg curls prior to squatting is also a good way to help protect the knees during squatting. Couldn’t explain the exact reason but it works. Been using that with several clients ever since Meadows talked about it.[/quote]

Just warm up weights; or work to 3RM ?

[quote]Voluminous wrote:

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

Doing leg curls prior to squatting is also a good way to help protect the knees during squatting. Couldn’t explain the exact reason but it works. Been using that with several clients ever since Meadows talked about it.[/quote]

Just warm up weights; or work to 3RM ?[/quote]

Pump work… I like sets of 8-10 reps + 10 partial reps at the end of the set