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.
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: