T Nation

Squating to Parallel or to Ground


I've been squatting down to the floor for some time now, but often get people telling me to squat only to parallel.

Can someone provide me with appropriate facts that I can use to validate squatting to the ground, next time someone tells me to do otherwise? Thanks,


If you aren't getting injured and feel no knee pain, then your form must be good and it should be okay to go all the way down. Of course, if you go just below parallel and not really far down, then you can put more weight on the bar.

Just don't become one of those 4 inch squaters. lol


Ask and ye shall receive:


Just about everything you'd want to know on this topic. Enjoy, and hopefully you can educate some others about the usefulness of ATG squats.


I would test out the squats for your own body and ignore anyones advice to you about squat depth and what's wrong or right for YOU.

My best leg builders were from using everything from ATG to probably 1/8 movements all in the same exercises. I would do a few warm ups to full extension. Then start light with ATG and kept adding weight until I could no longer do a FULL ATG, and went up through the degrees of a full squat until I was well over my 1RM weight doing partial reps.

I was after STRESS and breaking down the contractile proteins to build muscle. I didn't give a fuck what my squat depth was. I did whatever was possible to avoid injury and break down muscle fiber.

This is my opinion. Bull full range is where I like to start to aggrivate those fibers. Short range is where I like to finish as I'm down to stressing what ever fibers I have left that will let me perform movement.

Bottom line ...test it and find out for yourself. For me it was every range of motion, I was more concearned with STRESS over ROM.



Ground. Ass to grass. It's the only real way. See Poloquin's article from earlier this week. The only way to fully recriut the VMO is at the bottom of the squat. This is good for your knees (healthy knees, that is), not bad.


Ground. Ass to grass. It's the only real way. See Poloquin's article from earlier this week. The only way to fully recriut the VMO is at the bottom of the squat. This is good for your knees (healthy knees, that is), not bad.


Just watch the lower back. If you lack hip mobility then you will need to work on it before loading heavy ATG squats.


Full ROM is essential in any exercise in order to achieve balanced muscle development.


Yes but first you have to define "full ROM." I posted this in another thread, but here's what Mark Rippetoe has to say about ATG squats:

"Squat depth is critically important, but so is correct form. ATG-level depth most usually requires that the lumbar muscles relax the lordosis and that the hamstrings relax before extreme depth can be reached. It doesn't sound like a good idea to me that anything be relaxed in a deep squat, since doing this kills your good controlled rebound out of the bottom and risks your intervertebral discs.

Those rare individuals that can obtain ass-to-ankles depth without relaxing anything might be able to get away with it, but as a general rule you should squat as deep as you can with a hard-arched lower back and tight hamstings and adductors. This depth will be below parallel, but it will not usually be "ATG"."


This is another area where genetics is for some reason or other ignored. I have a female friend who has never done any sort of weight training and her VM is better than most men's. Then, of course, are the guys who go parallel or 3 inches above and have awesome VMs.

Doesn't matter who you cite. If you lack the genetic make up to build a good VM you will never have one; if you have the raw material, you will develop it with NO special moves, no particular depth, just like Lee Priest's forearms...which he never trains directly.

Let's not blow sunshine.


According to Charles Poliquin:

Squatting to parallel (legs bent 90 degrees) not only makes the exercise less effective but, additionally, it increases the risk of injury. First of all, by not squatting the full range of motion, one doesn't maintain proper lumbosacral bodymechanics. When performing the squat movement, the sacrum undergoes a process known as nutation (it tilts forward, relative to the two ilia on either side of it). At approximately 90 degrees of knee bend, the sacrum tilts back (a process known as counternutation) and sets the lifter up for lower back pain.

In order to perform a full squat, flexibility and range of motion must be maintained in the lumbar spine and SI joint, as well as in such muscles as the iliopsoas and hip external rotators - piriformis, gemelli, etc. If the lifter can't squat past 90 degrees of knee bend without the heels raising or the body bending excessively forward at the waist, but can squat all the way to the floor while holding onto something, we know that there are some muscle imbalances in regard to the pelvis/lumbosacral region (iliopsoas, external hip rotators, erector spinae) as opposed to a knee or foot/ankle dysfunction.

Additionally, since the hip joint is considered by many authors as the "steering mechanism for the leg," improper pelvis, hip, and lumbosacral mechanics could manifest down the kinetic chain as chronic or recurring knee/ankle problems. Thus, regular performance of the full squat offers a "screen" for the athlete of his or her lumbosacral/pelvic flexibility, which may prevent injury or muscle imbalances long before they become chronic.

Parallel squats also may be potentially damaging to the knee joint. The original data on full squats causing ligament laxity was obtained in an uncontrolled manner. Recent attempts to replicate these studies haven't shown any increased laxity or knee pain/dysfunction from doing full squats as opposed to parallel squats.

Furthermore, ask any orthopedic surgeon at what degree of knee bend does one perform the Drawer test - 90 degrees. Why? Because in this position, the knee joint is the most unstable, and if you were trying to assess the integrity of the cruciate ligaments, you'd want the least amount of interference from other structures as possible. Bend the knee to full flexion. How much does the tibia move on the femur anteriorly or posteriorly? Very little. However, do the same test at 90 degrees of flexion, and you'll get considerably more movement.

Therefore, you can imagine how much force is on the knee ligaments if the athlete is descending with a weight on their shoulders, and then at 90 degrees - the most unstable point - reversing the momentum and accelerating in the exact opposite direction. Couple this with the fact that most, if not everyone, are capable of squatting considerably more weight to the parallel position than the full squat position, and you've set your body up for muscular imbalances, yet again.


Also good info here:

Debunking Exercise Myths, Part I
by Eric Cressey


Interesting quote from that article:

I guess that raises the question: what is "safely" below parallel? I know Rippetoe would say to stop before the lower back rounds. Does that seem like a reasonable guideline?


I squat, well squatted since I've been through surgery for a torn meniscus two weeks ago, past "paralel" but just before the calves touch the hams, that means I keep the tension in the muscle and a tight back arch. I feel it more in the legs that way too.

It really looks like an ass to grass squat but maybe an inch higher, just not to let the contact between my calves and hamstrings stop the motion.


Again with the ATG vs. 90 degree squat?


Look at Dave Tate's legs. Know how he built them? I've had the pleasure of watching many PLers do squats. They do not go ATG. And they lift heavier shit than most everyone here.

'nuff said.


Very good ideas Merlin. I persoanlly like the stretch I get in the quads doing ATG squats, but can't go heavier than 275. So incrementally going up in weight and shortening your ROM accordingly makes a lot of sense.


I think the best way is usually to just go as low as possible before the lower back rounds. It's helpful to have someone standing there to let you know when you've reached that point.

And if your knees are good, squatting to parallel or slightly higher is really good for building mass in your quads. The lower you go, the more you activate the glutes and hams. So to some extent it also depends on your goals.

From what I've seen in most gyms though, most people don't squat past the first 1/4 and call that parallel, which never fails to bug me.


YAWN. Apparently this thread is needed for you because you didnt learn anything the other 500 times this subject was posted. This thread seems to be about the use of ATG squats not whether or not a powerlifter is strong. We are talking about whether or not is good to use ATG squats.

Powerlifters are strong as shit but basically work on doing a bastardized good morning/squat hybrid so they can get the weight up. Not applicable to this conversation.


My bad. I didn't know strength was not an issue. Continue with your weak ATG's.


JillyBop is right, but that was a huge explanation.

Like Merlin said I think you should individualize. What works best is what's best. That is honestly what it comes down to.

And for that matter I really like front squats and parallel box squats.

I think if you wanna load up weight and go parallel, just use a box. It's maybe safer than just going parallel with free back squats.