T Nation

Deep Squats

Hey folks, I just got back from Bally’s (save your comments) and for the first time I questioned a personal trainer on something I overheard him say. For the first time ever I saw someone besides myself doing deep squats. He points to the person and says to his client, “There’s an accident waiting to happen. There’s no need to go that deep.” Grr … I walked right up to him and said, “I heard what you just said and I have to disagree with you.” He said, “Why? That’s a great way to blow out your knees.” I said, "If anything, stressing your knees in the ‘parallel’ point can harm them. He then said, “There’s no reason for full range of motion. Do you go all the way down on your bench?” “I sure do … just before the bar hits my chest.” He said, “Well, you’re going to tear your rotator cuff.” Am I wrong here? Tell me. The only thing I regret is saying something to him when he was with a client. That was plain wrong of me. And I’m sorry I did that.

GrowtH, he’s wrong, you’re right. Simple. Full range of motion with strict form (even if it’s necessary to reduce the weight) will ALWAYS produce better results than poor form and higher weight (or poor form and the same weight). It’s probably MORE dangerous to get in the habit of using poor form, as THAT is what usually leads to injuries. As for the client thing, yeah, you probably should’ve waited to talk to the guy, but hindsight, you know?

Challenging any one when they are in the authority position (as this trainer was with their client) is going to cause the protection reaction in them. This guy is trying to preserve his income, whether his info is right or wrong (wrong in this case). Have an aside conversation with the client, point them to T-mag, and let them make their choices.

what you really need to do is dig up studies on the benefits of full ROM benching and squating. Also, get quotes from respected peoples, like I know Fred Hatfield has an article on his site. You’re right btw.

I get really upset when I hear that type of stuff too…it’s hard to let a newbie get told wrong and not say anything.

Dude, that guy is wrong. If you use a partial ROM, you can use more weight. What’s worse, a natural full ROM or a partial ROM with more weight than you can actually handle. Go ask his client if they wanna dump him for you, hehe.

I had a guy come up to me in the middle of a set and tell me i was going to hurt my knees squatting deep. I couldnt respond cause i was lifting but everytime i see him i wanna tear his head off. This guy looks like shit. I mean shit. not regular shit. but the bile filled shit. you know what i mean. hes not even skinny fat. hes fat with a protruding head, like hes looking for something on the floor. im still pissed and it was last year. i have a problem holding grudges. sorry

Degreed to the nines and decades in the business . .I’ll tell you outright- You are BOTH correct.
The ultimate goal is absolute full range of motion in PERFECT BIOMECHANICS
Beginners, intermediates and those of a challenged structure imblanace- long limbs, etc. . .may in fact benefit from training through their personal perfect range . .you’ve seen the guys that when the try to go too low in a stiff deadlift, their back loses its’ arch, squat too low for them and they bend over with a humped back AND unless under the weight of a bar cannot put their hands by the armpits in a bench position . .
They are trained to their best ROM with weights and then flexibilty work post weights to lend greater ROM in time . .
Rotator cuff trauma ?- you bet it’s possible . .blow out the knees ? Doubtful - he’s more likely to strain the low back or slip a disc into sciatica . .
Take it from the trenches :wink:

Hey Guys,
Thanks for your feedback. I think Demo Dick put it best … correct form over heavy loads. Goldberg … I laughed my ass off!! Thanks! And Mike, I agree … different variations for different people. But I try to get the best range of motion that my flexibility and form allows. For instance, I cannot do behind the neck shoulder presses due to past separated shoulders. Even when I go really light. And good mornings are super hard for me to keep good form … so sometimes I use as little as 80 lbs just to get the motion down. Thanks!

Ok, Im into my “challenging the convention” phase right now so bear with me. I hear you all validating GrowtH’s comments but not one of you has said why it’s better to squat (or do any exercise for that matter) with a full ROM. I know it’s standard exercise dogma to do so (full ROM) and you’ve all chimed in telling us so, but do any of you know WHY? When debating someone in the gym, you’re just going to look moronic if you cant justify your comments with some sound reasoning and logic. Why is it worse to only go to parallel? Why will better results be achieved with total ROM? Sure, I know the answers already. But Im just challenging you all to give reasons rather than recite dogmatically. Please dont make me out to be a jerk with this post, I just want to challenge you all (as you become more knowledgable in this game) to understand the “whys” behind things rather than the “hows”. Too many bitch about what “bothers them in the gym” but they dont even know why it SHOULD bother them. Know what I mean?

From my understanding, the hamstrings, glutes, and vastus medialis work their hardest in the bottom position. Having a strong v.medialis is very important for knee stability as is the hamstrings.

John, I was taught (and this could very well be wrong) that using full ROM movements with strict form recruits more muscle fibers that poor form and heavier loads. Since the goal of anyone wishing to increase strength and/or muscle size should be to recruit and exhaust as many fibers as possible (as well as to strengthen tendons and ligaments), they should use strict form. Also, I’ve noticed that when people get in the habit of using sloppy technique to up poundage, they appear to be risking injury to themselves and others by “throwing around” more weight than they can safely handle.

Anyway, this is how I explain it. Am I wrong, partially right, or what?

Full squats have lots of advantages. I think they’re great for athletes… Because you’re working the muscles through their entire ROM, they’re “used” to being stretched to their fullest length and are used to having to contract after being stretched to this length. More strength over a greater ROM = less change of injury. Also, I think the gluteals contract the most when at the bottom position in a squat (as well as the hams) so the bottom position helps to work the posterior chain more effectively. If nothing else, look at it from a practical standpoint. When you full squat, there’s no doubt that you’ve gone through the entire range of motion you were planning to do. But when someone does partial squats they tend to stop short higher and higher with every rep. I’ve seen it dozens of times - first rep is to parallel, second is an inch above, etc… before you know it they’re doing 1/4 squats. Finally, I think too many guys do partial squats because of their ego. They’re not willing to sacrifice some weight in order to squat ass to grass. Now I think the big question is, why NOT full squat? I can’t think of a reason why… Some trainees have a tendency to bounce or relax at the bottom, which is obviously bad, but if you can keep them from doing this and to keep muscular tension throughout the movement then I think it’s a good way to go. I’m not saying that everyone should, some guys with really long legs might have a hard time squatting ass to grass, but I think squatting as low as your body will allow with good form is definitely the way to go.

I forgot to mention why I feel full ROM movements are better for tendons and ligaments. At the extreme range during a lift, tendons and ligaments are stretched, under stress, to the maximal point. Without placing stress on them at this portion of a lift, you’re not incurring enough stress on these tissues, and hence they won’t strengthen properly. Strength in these tissues is crucial for increasing muscle size, as if THEY cannot support a given load, it’s less likely that the overlying muscle groups will either. They’re kind of like the framework in a house; without sufficient support, working on the roof (the overlying muscles) is kind of pointless.

Yes, I know that to truly strengthen tendons & ligaments, one should incorporate low (4-6) reps and heavy weights (while still adhering to strict form) into a lifting protocol, but using full ROM when using more reps and less weight seems to help in the meantime. Then again, what the hell do I know?

Ok I am doing ass to grass myself, but I avoided them forever because I heard that going past 90 degress on any leg movement (leg extensions included) were VERY bad on your knees, is this true at all ever?

Hey John et al., you’re right. In fact, before I posted this message to the forum, I went to the authority of the squat: Dr. Squat Fred Hattfield. But man, although the info is great on his site, it’s pretty unorganized. I searched around for other info, even on T-Mag, but pretty much found info like, “go deep, don’t stop at parallel,” etc., but never got the “why.” So I turned to the T-Men and Vixens on this forum. I’m still searching during breaks between projects! :slight_smile:


I think that Staley article above sheds a lot of light on this subject. Check it out.

Ok, on mention of Dr Squat, I thought I’d get out my ISSA training manual by Fred Hatfield. This book was put out last year.
"To work best (with the utmost safety and effectiveness) squats must be done with an upright torso, with knees not extending beyond the feet in order to protect the integrity of the tissues compromising the knee joint. They should go to a depth necessary to stimulate maximum quadriceps contraction, but not so deep that hyperflexion of the lumbar spine exposes you to seriou back injury (i.e. thighs approximately parallel to the floor).

Ok, so then based on the t-mag article, should very tall people (like me and my husband) not do full squats? I am more leg than anything - my inseam is 36". I guess that is what poliquin called poor leverage. Am I missreading the article?

Spanky, I think what you said is right on. I remember back before when I used to squat to “parallel”. After at least one or sometimes two sets of squats in a series, I would find myself asking my partner “did I go deep enough?” After thinking about it for a while, I realized sometime after that if I had been going deep enough, then I wouldn’t fucking have to ask and I would know it. Well, lucky for me that I happened to be rehashing articles in Testosterone a few months ago when I saw the values and virtues of the full squat. I am short (5’4") and so the full squat works pretty well for me because of proportions. It eliminated all the guesswork and assinine habit of asking about whether or not I squatted deep enough. I think I was doing just what you just said, Spanky, and decreasing every subsequent rep by just a bit until by the last nervous rep of my 2nd or 3rd sets, I was just “pecking” downwards with 1/4 squat movements. The full squat has transferred well over to my front squat, which has increased by about 25% in the last several weeks (also ass2heels). In cases where the deep squat simply can’t be performed, then I guess accomodations would have to be made. But you can’t argue with full ROM done in perfect biomechanical form. A lot of control is required, for sure… with no relaxing possible. I can feel my trunk contract maximally to keep me in correct posture as I force my pistons to contract and perform several deep reps. Them full squats turn ya nice n’ red too. Heheh.