There seems to be a lot of confusion among coaches and students as to whether squats should be done all the way down or just halfway down. In most gyms today, a common instruction during squats, deadlifts, and lunges (as taught by many personal training organizations) is not to allow the knees to roll past the toes. Doing so will eventually cause destruction to your knees! I disagree. There are certain instances where a partial range of motion (ROM) is indicated, but for the most part, I teach people the full squat for the following reasons:
* It is the most primitive movement pattern known to man; Our ancestors used to perform many daily functions (i.e. harvesting, gathering, hunting, cooking, eating, etc.) in a squatting position.
* Also, in case anyone hasn’t noticed, we spent 40 weeks in the fetal position (which is basically a full squat) before entering this world. Did we go out on bad knees?
* We must strive to train in full ROM for each and every exercise. The squat is no exception.
* Each exercise produces stress around a joint; the body adapts to this stress.
* Co-contraction of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gastrocnemius maintains integrity around the knee joint.
* Shear and compression forces occur around the knee joint (unlike shear forces only that occur in some lower body open kinetic chain exercises, such as leg extension), however, the Large contact area of the patella with the femoral groove (as knee flexion increases during the full squat) helps dissipate compression forces.
* Therefore, not only is the squat, as a closed chain exercise, considered a natural movement pattern with high functional drag, but it is also a safe exercise if done correctly (and that includes full ROM!)
* Drawer tests are performed at a 90 degree knee angle because there is a greater amount of laxity in the knee joint at that specific angle. So does it make sense to only go halfway where you’re most vulnerable, especially when bigger payloads can be used (because you’re so much stronger in this partial ROM?)
* According to Ironman contributor George Turner, the fulcrum moves toward the knee joint in a parallel squat rather than the quadriceps muscle belly in a full squat.
* Think about it, if you consistently trained in limited ROM, your chance of injuring yourself increases if one day you squat beyond your trained ROM.
* Partial squats performed on a regular basis will decrease flexibility.
* There is a low incidence of low back pain and knee injuries in Aboriginal and Eastern societies that perform full squats on a regular basis.
* Even Olympic weightlifters who practice full squats have fairly healthy knees compared to other athletes.
* Although you may find some research indicating that full squats are potentially harmful to the knees, only one study has shown this to be true. However, it was done on a skeleton; the same results are not valid with the surrounding connective tissue. On the other hand, numerous studies show the benefits of full squats.
Unfortunately, many personal training certification courses are teaching half squats as a safe version suitable for all people and this has now been set in stone. God forbid you deviate from this golden rule to do something our bodies are supposed to do! Read this carefully: Squats should be performed in a full ROM where the hamstrings make contact with the calves (so no light can be seen passing through your legs in the lower position). just don’t relax your knees in the lower position). In other words, keep your legs taut and try to stay as upright as possible throughout the exercise. So the next time a fitness instructor comes up to you at the gym and advises you not to dig deep while squatting, tell him you don’t know how to squat!