Squat All of the Way Down

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been exposed to a regular fitness facility for the first time in a while. People with good intentions wander around the room ready to implement either what they have read in mainstream magazines/websites, or what convoluted knowledge they’ve picked up over the years. It’s a shame that they have been misled by people who know better, but I guess it could be worse; they could be sitting at home. In any case, there are still some things that I see that make my eyes bleed. Alas! This is an unfortunate reality for many readers of this site. Hopefully my observations can prevent any readers from following suit.

In most facilities it’s rare to see someone squatting with a barbell. Hell, it’s rare to have more than one rack to do it in. It’s even more rare to see someone doing anything lower than a half squat…and this saddens me. Skinny guys weighing less than 160 pounds and wearing fingerless gloves load the bar to 185 or 225 (apparently it’s sacrilege to use the smaller plates) and bust out some hard fought half rep squats. These guys don’t have any business loading this kind of weight, and if they did an honest-to-god full squat, they would squat significantly less than my girlfriend. I’ve seen another guy who actually had some squatting experience put 405 on the bar (after I did) and squat it below the halfway point, albeit five inches high.

Shirtless, shaved, and half squatting with stop sign plates. Fuck.



If you can’t or don’t squat ALL of the way down, you don’t have any business squatting. I will personally kick the ass of any reader of this site who does a half squat. If there’s any doubt to the depth of your squat, then it was high. Yes, I’ve cut some reps off before (most people have), but making it a habit is unacceptable. Aside from looking like a complete poon, you’re wasting your time because you aren’t getting much benefit from half squats.

The “low bar” squat (as indicated in “Starting Strength”) necessitates proper depth. Growing up, proper depth was always considered to be at parallel (even though parallel isn’t clearly defined), but it should be thought of as the point where the hip joint is below the knee joint. Visually, that would be a point where the crease flexed hip is below the top of the knee (note: this gets harder to see when the lifter has more girth).



Lowering the hips below the knees does a few things. Specifically for the “low bar” squat, it ensures there is enough depth for the adductors and hamstrings to stretch so that they can subsequently contract with the aid of the “stretch shortening cycle“. Taking advantage of this “bounce” is vital for a strength trainee. If the depth is cut short, then the bounce isn’t possible because the related muscles aren’t stretched adequately prior to their contraction. Visually it will look like a slower rep than if the bounce occurred.

Squats at proper depth also train all of the musculature around the knees and hips through a full range of motion. There is no utility in training half of a muscle’s range of motion. Half squats at the high or low bar position handicap the lifter and severely limit their strength progression. They also make the lifter look like a fucking Nancy. If you’re gonna spend time lifting, you my as well do it right. If that means reducing the weight by as much as 50 to 100 pounds, then so be it. It is what it is.

And I don’t want to hear any shit about people doing half squats to make their lifts go up. 99% of people on this site don’t have any business dicking around with half movements anyway. Unless you’re Mike Tuchscherer, eating and squatting all the way down should be your only concern. Every time you don’t squat to depth, I pour a beer down the drain. And I HATE wasting beer.

Chris hits solid depth on this 585 double:


Leave a Reply

  1. Always good to remind everyone what “proper” squat form is. My favorite is when people swear up down and sideways that you’ll blow your knees out if you squat to depth.

  2. Justin, Ill tell you what, thanks to you and 70′sBig.com I no longer fit into my cargo shorts and jeans from last year. Besides getting insanely strong, my quads, hams and gluts have increased in size mainly from below parallel squats, heavy deads and increasing calories. BTW, my wife loves my new ass ;)

  3. I look forward to reading Brent’s article in this series, entitled “Shrug All the Way Up.”

    So wait. Justin, you’re saying that if I can’t hit partials with wraps wearing underarmor and someone bear hugging me to spot from behind…. I shouldn’t?

    You should only be doing said exercise IF you have a “are we or aren’t we” spotter.

    –Justin

  4. Good Article.
    Im gonna print this out and send it to my Gym owner to put in the monthly newsletter. Mind if i do that, as long as i credit this site and Justin Lascek?

    Btw..I was flipping through youtube and found this SICK video of…a BBer. Yes..i know 70s big isn’t very BBer friendly, but this guy obviously takes his strength training seriously.

    If you guys watch the set at 495, you’ll see what I’m talking about when I say shitty power bars flop around.

    –Justin

  5. BTW, since Justin is a fellow tall guy(6’0”+), I was wondering if you have written any previous posts about leverages in squatting, benching and deadlifting. Chris can throw around heavy weight, but not all of us tall guys are man enough to be 275. When do the leverages start to work for us and not against us? Im 195 lbs right now, and increasing, but I feel as if my height is affecting my squat and bench. I squat 250 for 3 sets of 5 across and bench 210 3 sets of 5 across.

    I apologize in advance for the double post.

    I’m 6′ even. How tall are you? If you cap your body weight at x, it’ll take longer to make similar increases in strength. This is when the patient persistence gets to work.

    –Justin

  6. Last week at the gym I had I guy ask me if I compete, cuz he saw me doing real squats. He was a former power lifter trying to get back into it, but raw this time. We had a good chat about real squats and how no one at our globo ever does them, so it’s pretty obvious when someone actaully knows what the fuck they’re doing. Good stuff.

    Made Gant’s CFS last night, damn good! I am most certain that it will be the reason I crush my next short-term goal of 300x5x3 on Thursday, can’t wait!

    @THE SCOTT – I second not being able to fit into old pants, I have some serious shopping to do for my new lower body

  7. Anyone else notice how much the rack shook when Chris racked the barbell in that video? THAT’S 70s Big.

    @Maslow, I’m holding a grudge against you for making me watch that video.

    And Justin, it’s important that the douchebag in the picture you posted squats as such, because otherwise he may become too big and bulky…duh!

    Out of curiousity, Justin, how old are you? I just found myself wondering this for some reason.

    37

    –A.C.

  8. Mr. Macdonald – don’t bother declaring war, vegan hippies have their heads buried so far in the sand that they can’t think clearly. You can buy meat on your own, right? If the PETA headquarters are conveniently located, you should eat a burger on their front steps every day.

    And by the way, Justin, I squat all the way down every time, or I don’t count it. I occasionally get concerned looks from the guys who do quarter squats on the Smith machine, but I just ignore them.

  9. @MrMacDonald-

    That’s no excuse when there are any number of In N Outs and Santana’s in the SD area, as well as Hodad’s in Ocean Beach. I suggest you become friends with those establishments.

  10. There is so much disinformation within the strength and fitness community it’s almost impossible to have a conversation with people who don’t “get it.”

    Therefore, I suggest the following approach when dealing with the deluded:

    Wanna B Swole: “Oh man, my knees hurt, I must be squatting too low.”
    Me: “You’re a dick.”
    [Skip away laughing]

  11. I feel your pain Justin. I hit a squat and press workout at a globo recently. It fucking blew my mind. Sure do get a lot of stares when you squat more than 4 plates, hell even 3 plates. Some kid came and 1/2 squatted & push pressed with a bench grip next to me. A for effort I guess.
    Dude explosive chest bounce benching less then I was pressing gave me a good chuckle though. Almost missed lockout on a press due to laughing cause of it.
    Anyways, not sure how some of you guys stuck in commercial gyms handle keeping your mouth shut in the sea of shit.

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  13. @ kittenSmash

    I’m fortunate enough to be able to go in the day, so it’s not as horrible as the peak hours. Still, seeing the Smith machine squatters and dudes yelling while doing quarter depth squats is tough to watch.

  14. Good article Justin, it’s always nice to have a gut check and remind ourselves of what’s important. I’m lucky that I’ve made friends with an Ex-College Lineman who comes in and dicks around, and can still squat 400+ after years of not doing anything. He keeps me honest as I’m trying to get stronger, and is hilarious to hang out with.

    **Question for anybody, I’ve noticed my sticking point in squats is getting my hips forward under the heavy weight. I get out of the hole, then stall as I’m trying to pull my torso back to vertical. Any suggestions for assistance work, or just ease up on the weights a bit to let my weak points catch up? If it makes any difference I’ve been lifting for real for around 7ish months, and am getting close to 400 on squat.

    Are you high bar or low bar squatting?

    –Justin

  15. @MrMacdonald & domjo

    My wife got her degree in nutrition and is working towards becoming an RD, and I feel the need to tell you that you have missed the entire point of that woman’s nutrition advice. She is not trying to tell people how to eat in order to recover from a heavy squat day. She is merely explaining how to portion out healthier meals so that some dumb asses don’t turn into fat pieces of shit while they are in college.

    Yeah you are right about it not being 70′s big, but then again its not even attempting to…

    Just do your squats, drink your milk, grow, and don’t worry about what other, less fortunate individuals do.

    Cheers!

    Yeah, nutrition for hard lifting, lots of conditioning, sedentary, and occasionally active are all different things (even though I don’t know what you guys are referencing but have an idea).

    –Justin

  16. I thought I would clarify. The school forces me to eat their food. They took $3000 from me which I credit towards food. I can’t get it back either (I tried).

    I do have a crock pot that definitely isn’t on the plate method

  17. shit, I always question my depth on squats. I know they’re not half squats, but I don’t think I’m getting my hip joint below my knees. I know my ass, muscles along the inside of my thighs, front of my thighs, and my ham strings get sore after squatting.

    i guess it is time to learn “low bar” squats. Learned “high bar” squats in football and it has stuck with me ever since. I’ve tried a couple of times, but was not sure of the placement of the bar and correct form.

    My last 5-5-5 set was 280. Is there a % to reset to, or just pick something relatively easy and start a linear progression again?

    The weight is dependent on the ability to do it correctly. It’s kind of difficult to learn if you haven’t read a book or been coached. If you’re high bar squatting and going to full depth, you will be all right.

    –Justin

  18. @ilcrawford- The standard is usually reset about 10% and work back up. With 280 it’d be simplest to go back to 250 and work on technique as you build the weight back up.

    Yes, but he was talking about learning the low bar.

    –Justin

  19. Whoa, whoa, whoa! If I didn’t know better I’d think that you were telling me my half-squat, Shake Weight superset was a waste of time.

    Just the half squat. Shake weight super sets are mandatory.

    –Justin

  20. @Justin- I’m squatting lowish? My bar is just above the middle of my shoulder blades.

    There are probably some sources online that explain the squatting style in “Starting Strength”. If that sounds like what you’re doing let me know because cues I give are different from high to low bar.

    In either case, are you leaning over too much in the portion of the squat that you get stuck in?

    –Justin

  21. So…is anybody gonna mention the dude in fingerless gloves and huge headphones that just wandered into Chris’s battle with the squat rack with Justin screaming like a maniac?

    That isn’t me screaming. That’s Mike.

    –Justin

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