T Nation

Squats/Running Training

I’d like to send this question out to Mr. Staley but any help is greatly appreciated. I was doing squats with my girlfriend. Under the influenece of all her friends and their boyfriends the say squatting below parallel is bad and when you squat on the smith machine you should place your feet far forward. Now unless I’m mistaken, I thought squatting as low as you can go is okay. I thought squatting to parallel and stopping was tough on the knees. The same w/ the smith machine. If I squat off the smith I take a regular squat stance, I thought that putting your feet so far forward put a shearing force on the knees. Is this correct?

Last quick question. My girlfriends friend wants to train for a 5k race in less than a month and wants to do well. Generally I said weight training isn’t going to be her best option. I thought running and sprinting would be her best bet.


There is no problem with squatting to parallel; if you want your quads to grow, you better be squatting to parallel.

As far as the smith is concerned; a forward foot placement takes the emphasis off the quads as you begin to "sit" as opposed to squat. When you perform the concentric portion of the lift, you will likely press your back into the bar to aid in the lift. Obviously, it's a pointless exercise; it in no way resembles a "real" squat. Just think, what would happen if you decided to place your feet forward with a free squat? You'd be on your ass in 2 seconds...furthermore, if you pressed backwards into the bar on the way up you'd really be on your ass.

Having said that, I don't think the smith is a good choice for squating. Because the machine balances the bar for you and locks you into a set range of motion it does not strengthen your stabalizing muscle groups. This will set you up for injury when doing other upper leg exercises because your stabalizers are weak. Stick the the free squat.

I was talking about squatting below parallel.

How you squat or do smith machine all depends on what you are trying to emphasize. Putting your feet forward on the smith machine or squatting to parallel will not hurt your knees. Feet forward on smith machine is like hack squats- it emphasizes the quads. I have to disagree with Jason that it is a pointless exercise, unless you think isolating the quads is pointless. Squating below parallel will work your ass and hip flexors more; squating to parallel obviously will not do this to the same extent. As far as safety in squatting is concerned, I would have to say going very deep can be more dangerous because you can pull a groin muscle. You have to make sure to do a weight that you can handle while keeping smooth and steady form. If you squat to parallel only, you can get away with some more weight, which will end up placing more stress on the quads. In either case, it is a preference of what you are trying to work. Just make sure to do the amount of weight you can handle.

eh… Joel I mean… not Jason, sorry.

squat free weights, atleats a tad below paralel. More is up to you

Putting your feet forward on the smith machine emphasizes your hamstrings more. Think about it, when you do front squats you emphasize your quads more because your knees are more forward in comparison to your feet. When you do hack squats your knees are also more forward.

Ian King has written so many times that squatting all thee way down is a really natural movement & do it if you want. Just like anything else, if it hurts, don’t do it. As for the smith machine, they should all be melted down into barbells, dumbells, plates & anything else that can be used to build muscle. Leaning back against the bar takes all the stress off the hamstrings which stabilize the kneecap. It also puts a lot of stress on the ACL. Look on p.72 of your Poliquin Principles book.

In response to your comment about the smith machine working the hamstrings more: Smith machine squats work the quads more. The reason being that the quads extend the knee, not the hamstrings. Hamstrings work as knee flexors and hip extensors. When you are leaning into the bar with your feet forward your torso stay very upright, especially when your only squat to parallel, therefore there in minimal hip flexion, which requires less hip extension and less hamstring work. The knee in the joint that changes angles the most in the knee, which flexes. So in order to extend the knee the quads must fire. So minimal hamstring firing and larger part of the work load is on the quads. This is regard less of knee position. The importance of knee position once again goes back the angle the joint travels, the knees go forward and the angle between the thigh and the lower leg decreases, hence you get more quad firing. That also applies to hack squats and non-olympic front squats where the torso stays upright for the most part.

If your goal is doing as much weight as possible because you are being judged and there has to be a standard, go to parallel, aka powerlifting contests. if you want dynamic changes in your body, performance and appearance, structure and function, ass to ankles baby, nothing else. Smith machines are good clothes hangers.

What is squatting to parallel? Does that mean the bottom of the thighs are parallel to the ground or the top of the thighs?