T Nation

Squat Depth and Knee Problems?


so I was squating at the gym the other day, going just below parallel, a distance I thought appropriate to stimulate muscle and develop strength when a older woman approached me and asked if I was a physical trainer or have studied anything of the sort. I told her I've just read an awful lot and consider myself well versed in the excersize. She proceded to tell me she has a phD in excersize physiology and she has heard of many people tearing up the cartilidge in their knees from going too low.

I've seen two other people squat at my gym, one a friend who has also heard of knee problems and goes to just above parallel and the other some random dude who has a 2" ROM other wise the rack gets used as a curl machine as mentioned in another tread on here

As a result of her conversation I've started squating to just above parallel. I'm not a powerlifter however I would like to compete at some point or another.....

would you guys call me lame for not going below parallel? should I go lower in hopes of powerlifting in the future?
anyone else afraid of knee problems


I think most of the knee problems people have from squatting comes from the knees going way forward over their toes and/or their knees coming in. You can certainly go below parallel and not hurt your knees. Just focus on A) sitting back not down and B) pushing your knees out through the entire lift.


Yes you should and done properly your knees should get stronger. If you want to PL For darn sure you need to hit at least parallel



Ill add do some prehab things if your look at writings by Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson on knees



do you have knee problems? If no, then go as LOW as you can go.

Its been shown that ATG is safer then parallel, but parallel is safer then a 1/4 squat.

try not to let your toes go over your knees, IF your wearing flat soled shoes.

ATG your glutes stop the motion, parallel ur knees stop it.

Ever wonder why more PL'ers blow their knees out then OL?


Cos they're using much heavier weight?


The worst mistake I ever did when I started squatting was going down too fast and using the bounce to drive the weight up. Today I can't go much over my bodyweight (on the bar) on the back squat without it causing me considerable amount of knee pain and progression is slow.

Just keep the lift controlled and you will be okay.


The bounce you speak of was not done correctly. I have done the same thing myself. My and your perception of how fast the bounce should happen how it should feel etc... was wrong. If done correctly the bounce is from the hips.

Here is the thing about deep squatting. There are alot of people that swear up and down that they have solid form squatting yet their knees hurt. Here is the problem I have with that. If you keep a tight arch and get the weight back on your glutes, (im not talking powerlifter style even, normal width etc.) at your deepest point your posterior chain should be handling the vast majority of weight. Here is an example: you have an extremely tight pair of jeans on, when you squat back there is a tremendous amount of tension around your inner thighs, hamstrings and butt. You can basically sit back into this tightness. The same should be happening when you squat. Even if you are using what would be considered good form for the average person, if you cannot or are not or are lifting to heavy to sit into this tightness then, the exercise becomes much more of a quad exercise, this is not good at all and I think people that try to bounce out of the hole often cannot get into the position to sit back when they try to do the bounce. Again that takes awhile to learn and instead of trying to do it you should let yourself progress into it naturally.

Now you are also going to have people who got the genetic shaft in that their body is a second rate piece of shit and for whatever reason wont hold up over time with even the best of form, but this doesnt happen often IMO.

And Hanley, Powerlifters blow out their knees more often than olympic lifters because olympic lifters by the nature of the sport peak at weight they cannot move rapidly. Powerlifters peak at weight they cannot move period!!! Additionally, Olympic lifters have to concentrically move the weight first, so chances are they are not even going to get up a weight so heavy it will injure them. Powerlifting, when squatting and benching, is dangerous because you start the movement with the weight at the top of the motion, so you can lower the weight but its kindof a toss up whether it will come back up. Deadlifts are different because it is more like olympic lifting in that you have to concentrically move the weight first.


Where did you see the study that states ATG is safer than just going to parallel?


A little below parallel is the way to go. The stress on your knees is greatest AT 90 degrees. So either a little below or a little above parallel will help to minimize the stress on your knees.

Like Shadowzz4 said, if you adjust your stance so that your can sit back more and your knees come forward less, you shift the stress from your knees to your hips. Everyone is different, so you just have to find what works best for you.

Just because she has a PHD doesn't mean anything. Ask that lady if she has ever squatted in her life, or taught someone how to squat. I doubt it. If the answer in no, tell her to STFU.


Don't necessarily listen to her because she has a PhD in Exercise Phys. I have a MS in EP. Most Exercise Physiologists are cardio people (marathoners or triathletes).

When these cardio gurus came to the strength (contractile theory, hypertrophy, strength training) parts of the courses they were clueless. I got my MS from a Big Ten school, was a grad assistant with the stength program and laughed my self sick during some of the lectures.

If they have a degree in biomechanics, they should have a clue about joint positioning, etc. Exercise Phys, not necessarily.

If you have good position in the bottom parallel shouldn't be a big problem.


I wouldn't listen to too many people that say they've heard. Its one thing to here her say she saw, thats 1 degree, but now your talking about what she heard from someone else thats 2. Most joints in the body are built to operate in the ROM that they have. Problems come because of too much weight, speed, muscle activation, and 3 dimensional forces applied at the joint.

I think many people here have given you good squatting advice learn from what they have said and use your common sense when applying it to the joint.

Also I had a problem with knee pain and the below parallel bounce also. As I lightened the load and observed my form I noticed it was because when i bounced I would relax my muscles and let the force cause the boucne at the bottom. Its real minor and real quick but it can have a major impact on that joint. Keep your muscles tight.


So you agree with my post that the reason powerlifters blow out their knees more often because they use heavier weights?

Having competed in both it's not a shot at O-Lifters. It's just how it is.

Look at the recent trend in clean recoverys where lifters PURPOSELY let their knees drift as they ascend so their quads can help more. Try doing that with maximum weights and you'd be fucked.

Lets face it, olympic lifters don't need to ever take max or even near max back squat attempts because it just isn't the limiting factor.

Spend 6 months looking for a 5kg squat increase, or 6 months on form work... Which will most likely give better carryover?


I will search for it and post it when I find it again, I'm sure I have it bookmarked somewhere but I'm at work right now.

But just think about it, the biomechanics of the area and all of it. When you slow down and stop just a parallel, its all in the knees. Sure the muscles contract to stop you, but most of the stress from it is on the knees, where the tendons and ligaments are being pulled and tightened to stop.

When you squat ATG and sit back properly (which most people can't do w/o a heeled shoe), all the stress is shifted to the glutes and/or hamstrings.

Plus, in my personal experience, after starting to squat PL style, really wide and sitting far back and keeping the knees behind/over the middle of my foot, I ended up injuring the knee, and coming down with tendinitis.

I took a month vacation from lifting (because I got tendinitis in my wrist from benching), I started training for OL, and my knees and wrist haven't hurt since. If anything, my knees are a lot strong from squatting lower.

I'm just basing this on what I've read from a reputable study and from my own experience.

And Hanley, OL might use less then their true grind out 1RM for squats, but we also squat a LOT faster then PL. PL is under tension for a longer time generally that would put even more stress on everything.


I am absofuckinlutely amazed this post got this much attention.

If I had a one hundred dollars for every time some dumbass came up to us with shit like that I could retire.

Fuck, about a year ago some beanpole trainer came up to us and told us he, "noticed we arched our backs when we bench," and was about to fill us full of some shit about hurting our backs. I just cut him off and basically told him don't even talk to us about crap like that.

The statement this woman is making is basically so fucking stupid it doesn't even warrant a post let alone the number of responses it has gotten.

For fucks sake people, the fact this is even being debated around here is depressing.


That is a poor attitude. You never know when you will learn something new, even in a discussion of something basic like squat depth.


I'd be pretty sure he knows alot more than you think.


Like what? That sometimes ignorant people say stupid shit to you at the gym.

Pretty sure that is not new information.


Sorry, I have done both, and I would say that you're probably generalizing. My experiences have been the direct opposite of yours. The biomechanics "and all that" make a big difference, and they certainly aren't the same for everyone. There's just too much variation in the "biomechanics and all that" between lifters to always say what's going to hurt who and where.