When doing squats, how low should I squat down? Should your ass almost touch the floor?
My gym has a squat rack like this:
You are supposed to squat within the rack for safety reasons, and if you can't lift the weight, you can just drop all the way down and the weight rests on the parallel bars. But are the bars low enough to allow you to squat down far enough?
You don't necessarily have to go much past parallel (crease of your hip and top of your knee). There are some benefits of going that low (seems to work the vastus medialus better), but I've made gains equally fast both ways.
You're exactly right on what the rack is for. The spotter racks are there just to keep the bar from landing on top of you. They won't be in your way unless you're a midget. And if you are, that's ok. I like midgets.
I'm 6'1 and sometimes my bar hits the rack and kinda messes me up. I recommend going as low as you COMFORTABLY can though. I want to make sure I go down all the way. I could definitely go lower (ATG) but it isn't necessary.
As long as your thighs break parallel to the floor you will be low enough however don't be afraid to go even lower, just make sure you don't relax anything at the bottom. The goal is to go below parallel, anything farther is just personal preference.
As long as it is AT LEAST the depth of the this picture you are performing a good squat. In a powerlifting competition, you may not have to go this low allowing the use of more weight.
Does it though? Does it really put any significant added strain on the knees? I don't think it does, at least if you are squatting correctly.
The rounding of your lower back could be a very real issue though. You should only go as low as you can keep a tight arch. Keep practicing and that depth will improve (in fact you can make significant improvements in mobility simply by warming up correctly).
I have a squat rack like that at my gym as well, and with shoes on I'm 6'3 and sometimes it would hit the bottom. I was unable to keep a tight arch going hamstring to calves but didn't know it, so my back doesn't like me doing back squats anymore. Front squats though, I am able to go hamstring to calves easily, and that's usually the depth i feel my quads working the most.
When you relax your glutes, it does put a strain on your knee but your not supposed to relax your glutes.
As far as the knees going forward it really depends on the placement of the bar on your shoulders. With a higher bar, closer to olympic you can afford to let your knees go past your toes more than with a lower placement powerlifting style.
Problem is many people either lift or put plates under their heels. When doing an olympic style squat you shouldn't do that because it will cause you to lean forward and the bar's center of gravity moves forward past your feet. If your going to let you knees past your toes it should be because you have flexibility in your ankles and your back should not round and stay more upright then a powerlifting squat.
Personally I go a couple inches below parallel. I never even thought I went that deep, until I lifted with a friend at a commercial gym and squatted in front of a mirror. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
If you're squatting for bodybuilding purposes, I don't see why you would do anything but full squats. The VM doesn't really kick in til you're sitting on your calves.
If you're doing lots of full range leg presses and hack squats, and just want to drive up big weights with a powerlifting squat, I guess that's a good option too. But typically bodybuilders value their tight waists, and heavy power work, particularly belted, can thicken you up in the middle.
At my gym, when squatting in the squat rack, the bar actually touches the safety bars on the sides so it's annoying because I can go tiny bit lower. I just stick to the power rack for squats. I can adjust the safety pins to to where I feel comfortable with.
I only use the squat rack for good mornings, lunges, and curls. (Joking about the curls)
It does vary with the individual. While my squats aren't literally ATG -- the gap is about 6" -- they are as low as what my body is readily driven down to, and my knees don't go much forward at all. Another lifter at the same height might have his knees well forward. It varies.
Like many above, I actually find it more comfortable to go that deep than to reverse at parallel. It is also easier on my knees: therapeutic instead of taxing.