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You do not NEED to be doing deep squats.
Old Wed, February 15th, 2006, 06:51 PM   #1
Skoorb
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Default You do not NEED to be doing deep squats.

Warning: this is a contentious issue. This thread will not possibly solve the question of squats at 90 degree, parallel, or butt-to-heel. I am providing something I've come upon lately in a hope it will benefit some readers.

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I've been doing squats for a decade or so. I've always done them to parallel because that's what all the bodybuilding sources say. Apparently if you're not going parallel (or even more manly, butt to heel), then you're a puss and not getting the most from the squat.

In some ways I agree with this. Definitely the quad can get a greater range of motion the more you go down. Although the weight has to be decreased (vs a squat that only bends legs to 90 degrees), the quad is well worked.

However, a recent run in with a sports physician and a scary MRI illuminated me to the fact that squats down to parallel are not necessarily for all of us. My doctor said that she personally thought squats were good if you did a 90 degree bend. Anymore than that she felt as bad. The physical therapist I saw (granted, these come in all shapes and sizes, but I found him quite competent) said the same thing.

As I've read tons about the anatomy of the knee, it's obvious why this is so. The contact points of the knee are basically the femur/tibia contact points (your bones) and then the menisci within each joint, which act as shock absorbers. These directly reduce contact pressure of the femur/tibia. As the knee is bent, they take on more of the stress. The medial meniscus, for instance, takes 50% of the load while the leg is straight and up to 90% while it's bent. The meniscus is a mostly avascular (meaning little or no blood supply) tissue. When it rips, chances are low it can be repaired. Generally a tear is dealt with by removing part or all of the meniscus. This then reduces the shock absorption of the knee, increases contact pressure of the femur/tibia, and predisposes a person to arthritis.

Common meniscus tears occur during a major trauma (like you got your leg kicked in during football) but have also been known to occur during deep squating (and also in many cases the menisci simply degenerate over a person's lifetime). In fact, encouraging a patient to deep squat is used by some physicians who cannot otherwise diagnose a meniscus tear.

So the basic gist of my post is, the lower you're going, the more stress you put on the meniscus. These can generally handle a pretty healthy load and were made to last a lifetime, but they were not necessarily made to handle repeated heavy deep squat lifts. Obviously, the majority of body builders and weightlifters who do these deep squats do not end up with meniscus tears and I have no idea how much more likely they are, but I have gone from being a proponent of deep squats to 90 degree only and will never personally do a deep squat again.

Some knee problems.
Named parts of the knee.
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Old Wed, February 15th, 2006, 07:43 PM   #2
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thanks for the info, it is very helpful!
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Old Wed, February 15th, 2006, 09:49 PM   #3
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I have trouble going deeper than 90 degrees. I tend to lose my form and, also, it makes it much harder for me to get up when below parallel. have tried reducing weights for below parallel problem but it hasn't helped me.

so, 90 degree is the cut-off I have adopted.

Hemang.
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Old Wed, February 15th, 2006, 10:05 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hemburger
I have trouble going deeper than 90 degrees. I tend to lose my form and, also, it makes it much harder for me to get up when below parallel. have tried reducing weights for below parallel problem but it hasn't helped me.

so, 90 degree is the cut-off I have adopted.

Hemang.
I imagine everybody has to lower weight a lot to do parallel but I've also always had a hard time moving much around. My legs are not super scrawny but I just cannot move any real weight when I go that low. I've also always had some patella rubbing when I've gone that low--something I don't get when I go higher.
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Old Wed, February 15th, 2006, 10:14 PM   #5
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Good information!

Personally, I agree with some of the context surrounding deep squats with HEAVY loads. Lighter loads is a different story. Before chairs were invented, and in many cultures today, the natural form of sitting is a deep squat position. When done correctly, it actually encourages flexibility of the ankles, knees, hips, and even lower back and also increases the strength of the joint.

The problem with deep squatting is that people sit in desks with their legs at an unnatural 90 degree angle all day, then go gung-ho and load heavy weights and go deep.

A natural progression will actually allow the joint to adapt.

I guess whenever I post, it's on a very different level than a lot of the philosophy here, which is fine. My philosophy is really health - fitness and living with a high quality of life. Many of the other posts are focused on bodybuilding, maximum strength maximum muscle. This isn't my goal, and I certainly would not force myself into a position to go into a deep squat with 300 pounds (I just really don't see the point). But I do deep squats all the time to build my joint strength, and this is something I was also encouraged to do by a physical therapist and orthopedic doctor. I use weights more in the 100 - 200 pound range, when my max squats are in the 300s.

Goes to show you that one person's injury is another person's therapy!

Jeremy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skoorb
I have no idea how much more likely they are, but I have gone from being a proponent of deep squats to 90 degree only and will never personally do a deep squat again.

Some knee problems.
Named parts of the knee.
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Old Wed, February 15th, 2006, 10:17 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JeremyLikness
I guess whenever I post, it's on a very different level than a lot of the philosophy here, which is fine. My philosophy is really health - fitness and living with a high quality of life. Many of the other posts are focused on bodybuilding, maximum strength maximum muscle. This isn't my goal,

Well dont let that stop you from posting as many peoples goals are the same as yours including mine so keep up the great posts.
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Old Wed, February 15th, 2006, 10:23 PM   #7
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Quote:
My philosophy is really health - fitness and living with a high quality of life.
I agree. I realized a while ago that I could not care less what my squat is. I merely want strong and functional legs that aren't going to be in wheelchairs when I'm 40. There's no nobility in blowing out joints and then having a 500 lb squat to look back on while you're stuck in traction!
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Old Wed, February 15th, 2006, 11:02 PM   #8
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People often overlook working on their ANKLE flexibility for squats.

Poor ankle flex can affect your squat form tremendously.

Both forward and backward flex.

What are the advantages of going deep?

Well technically, the only gain is that you involve the glutes and hams more on a deep squat.

From a leverage/shear point of view, the deeper you go past parallel the worse your leverage factor becomes.

(in the same way that if you moved your elbow and forearm to the fully closed position against your bicep, it would be not be as strong as halfway and you would have to exert more shear force for the same amount of weight.)
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Old Thu, February 16th, 2006, 07:10 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HevyMetal
What are the advantages of going deep?

Well technically, the only gain is that you involve the glutes and hams more on a deep squat.
That's a significant advantage. (I don't usually do deep squats...I'm just saying that that isn't a different you should just overlook.)
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Old Thu, February 16th, 2006, 07:22 AM   #10
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There's a significant increase in the hip musculature involvement when going below 90. (Speaking from a Physical Therapy perspective.) There are certainly instances in which you would not want someone to go ass to grass so to speak, but in many instances it is an excellent strengthening exercise. I have had multiple surgeries on both knees and make full squatting a part of my workouts. In a more flexed position, the ligaments that support the knee joint are providing quite a bit of support (granted, these ligaments have to be intact to do anything) They are beneficial for me because my glutes and upper hamstrings are one of my weak points. I started doing them with just a broomstick and have worked my way up to 65# 5x5. Could I do more weight going parallel? Sure. Is there a "Sticking point" below parallel that is difficult to get through if your glute activation isn't optimal? Absolutely. But when used in the correct situation and with the right person, full squats can be very beneficial. That said-do what is right for you!
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Old Thu, February 16th, 2006, 07:31 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JeremyLikness
My philosophy is really health - fitness and living with a high quality of life. Many of the other posts are focused on bodybuilding, maximum strength maximum muscle. This isn't my goal...
Not mine either. In fact, I haven't done squats in 18 months, and my knees (which were both damaged in three years as a high school wrestler) thank me for not subjecting them to squats. I have made just as impressive a stride in my personal goals utilizing alternative exercises.

Optimal? Who's to say? Perhaps it isn't optimal if strength and/or size was my goal. Bodybuilding is what each person makes of it. I do it for physical aesthetics, to feel good about how I look, and to maintain varying levels of leanness. Over time, that goal may change, but for now, it is what it is, and I'm happy with where I've been and where I'm going. What really irks me is the judgmental attitude towards those who simply don't believe in the more conventional approaches to bodybuilding.

People need to realize that bodybuilding is not one-size-fits-all. Some of us are willing to sacrifice the shortest distance between to points to enjoy travelling that distance between where we began and where we want to be.

-R
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Old Thu, February 16th, 2006, 09:07 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluestreak
Not mine either. In fact, I haven't done squats in 18 months, and my knees (which were both damaged in three years as a high school wrestler) thank me for not subjecting them to squats. I have made just as impressive a stride in my personal goals utilizing alternative exercises.

Optimal? Who's to say? Perhaps it isn't optimal if strength and/or size was my goal. Bodybuilding is what each person makes of it. I do it for physical aesthetics, to feel good about how I look, and to maintain varying levels of leanness. Over time, that goal may change, but for now, it is what it is, and I'm happy with where I've been and where I'm going. What really irks me is the judgmental attitude towards those who simply don't believe in the more conventional approaches to bodybuilding.

People need to realize that bodybuilding is not one-size-fits-all. Some of us are willing to sacrifice the shortest distance between to points to enjoy travelling that distance between where we began and where we want to be.

-R
What other exercises are you using? Do you happen to know _what_ you did to your knees as a wrestler...?

Frankly I'm becoming less and less interested in working my quads at all and relying on running and more importantly cycling to keep strength there, though I do want some weights in there. I will continue to work my hams using good mornings because they also hit my back.

Bluestreak, last year you mentioned that you'd suffered back pain for years and that it had mostly gone or entirely gone after you got serious about weights. I took that to heart and am happy to say that my lower back pain has subsided entirely. The thing is titanium now and does not bug me at all. I attribute it to fairly diligent good mornings and most importantly hyperextentions.
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Old Thu, February 16th, 2006, 09:19 AM   #13
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Bluestreak, what are some of the alternative exercises you do?

I like squats, but I have a ruptured lumbar disc that prevents me from putting much weight on there, even though I can do squats. But I also do barbell lunges, leg press, and hack squats.

And when I do squats I don't like going deeper than 90 degrees either. It hurts my back too much.
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Old Thu, February 16th, 2006, 09:32 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by treacherous
Bluestreak, what are some of the alternative exercises you do?

I like squats, but I have a ruptured lumbar disc that prevents me from putting much weight on there, even though I can do squats. But I also do barbell lunges, leg press, and hack squats.

And when I do squats I don't like going deeper than 90 degrees either. It hurts my back too much.
I know you didnt ask The Badgolfer but if I could not do squats I would do lunges.
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Old Thu, February 16th, 2006, 09:45 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skoorb
Do you happen to know _what_ you did to your knees as a wrestler...?
During a match, I was trying to block a bellly-to-belly suplex, planted one foot, and the other wrestler bore down on me with all his weight. It locked my knee and caused my right patellar tendon to rupture. Took four months to heal, three of which were spent in a straight-leg cast. The left knee was severely hyperextended during wrestling practice. After the second accident, I "retired" immediately and permanently from high school wrestling and picked up the guitar, never to wrestle again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skoorb
Frankly I'm becoming less and less interested in working my quads at all and relying on running and more importantly cycling to keep strength there, though I do want some weights in there. I will continue to work my hams using good mornings because they also hit my back.
I'm not saying you shouldn't work legs; I'm saying people should more judiciously choose exercises rather than the idiots who simply puke forth the old training idioms that if you don't squat, you can't get anywhere. That's bullshit, plain and simple. Your achievements are a function of your goals and not necessarily the exercises you use to get there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skoorb
Bluestreak, last year you mentioned that you'd suffered back pain for years and that it had mostly gone or entirely gone after you got serious about weights. I took that to heart and am happy to say that my lower back pain has subsided entirely. The thing is titanium now and does not bug me at all. I attribute it to fairly diligent good mornings and most importantly hyperextentions.
You may have misunderstood what I said at the time, or I was being melodramatic (which I could be accused of at times). I did have some minor trouble with lower back continuously being uncomfortable, especially after sitting in an office chair hunched over a desk/computer all day. I had bad posture, too. However, it was never a chronic or debilitating problem for me. I attribute it mostly to a weak/neglected core from more than ten years as a sedentary couch potato. As soon as I began working the lower back along with my abs, that problem has disappeared along with approximately 50-lbs; I'm sure the weight loss and core strengthening is the catalyst that eliminated that pain.

Quote:
Originally Posted by treacherous
Bluestreak, what are some of the alternative exercises you do?
I try to have at least six or seven exercises for each muscle group, and I try not to use the same exercises for two weeks/two workouts in a row so my muscles never adapt to my routine. For quads, I'll use:

-Leg extensions
-High-volume step-ups w/body weight only or light dumbbells in hand
-Lunges (there's several types of lunges to employ)
-Leg press
-Leg press (single leg)

I employ lighter weights and higher reps for most of these exercises. There's no avoiding stress on my knees; they're part of my legs! If I work quads, knees will bear significant load. I have found that I can cause hypertrophy from high rep, low weight exercises on legs... and this minimizes stress on my knees.

Legs/quads are essential to growth, body wide, if you ask me. As such, I believe they need to be worked frequently (at least once per seven days, if not more so with light weight/high rep programs) because of the growth hormones that this large muscle group causes your body to generate.

What I don't like are the asshats we get on this forum who think very little before opening the sewer under their collective noses, constantly berating people who don't use certain compound movements, squats in particular. Some of us, for our own comfort, can't. That's life. There are ways around certain "fundamental" movements, like squats, that allow for growth and gains. It takes an open mind and a little free thought to find those pathways, but I enjoy the exploration.

That's part of what I enjoy most about fitness. I love to find different ways to accomplish the common goals.

-R
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Old Thu, February 16th, 2006, 10:06 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skoorb
Common meniscus tears occur during a major trauma (like you got your leg kicked in during football) but have also been known to occur during deep squating
The only way anyone is going to tear their meniscus doing a squat is if they are "dropping in". This is what is known as "bad form". People need to learn how to squat properly, how to pick a stance that is comfortable for them, NOT a standard "feet 12-18" apart" or "feet shoulder-width apart" but the proper width that allows them to achieve depth naturally, comfortably, and in a position where they could sit "in the hole" all day. Vietnamese farmers will sit in a squat position for hours every day, even in their 60's, not too many meniscus tears going on there... there is no higher incidence of knee injuries among Oly lifters than other sports (in fact it's less)... guess it's all those "genes" again

That being said, if you don't want to squat, don't squat. If you wish you could but can't for back problems, look into hip belt squats. If you don't squat because of knee fears, don't think leg extensions are the answer - research has indicated that LEs are worse on your knees than squats. If squats hurt your lower back, it is most likely either (a) your low back is weak, and/or (b) you are leaning forward, either due to poor flexibility, too narrow of a stance, or too much weight (or combinations thereof). If you are 100% certain your form is flawless and still can't squat, don't. The gym should be passion and enthusiasm, not drudgery.
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Old Thu, February 16th, 2006, 10:29 AM   #17
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Quote:
I'm not saying you shouldn't work legs; I'm saying people should more judiciously choose exercises rather than the idiots who simply puke forth the old training idioms that if you don't squat, you can't get anywhere. That's bullshit, plain and simple. Your achievements are a function of your goals and not necessarily the exercises you use to get there.
Word!

Regarding back, I didn't think you were having SERIOUS problems, but that it was a continual annoyance. Mine was kind of the same way but it was getting a bit alarming feeling an ache every time I'd sit down or stand up or whatever. I was thin, fit, young. It was pathetic. I thankfully addressed it with back work.

I also do all high reps for legs now. I came upon that idea in the past several months. A 20 rep set of squats, for instance, burns the quads nicely. I have done 30-40 rep sets of extensions as well, though I am going to probably stop doing them. I think I'll build everything now around either 90 degree squats or single leg bodyweight squats. I find lunges also hurt my knees, like my knee is trying to drive through my patella.
Quote:
The only way anyone is going to tear their meniscus doing a squat is if they are "dropping in". This is what is known as "bad form". People need to learn how to squat properly, how to pick a stance that is comfortable for them, NOT a standard "feet 12-18" apart" or "feet shoulder-width apart" but the proper width that allows them to achieve depth naturally, comfortably, and in a position where they could sit "in the hole" all day. Vietnamese farmers will sit in a squat position for hours every day, even in their 60's, not too many meniscus tears going on there... there is no higher incidence of knee injuries among Oly lifters than other sports (in fact it's less)... guess it's all those "genes" again
That is meaningful about people who sit in a squat position all day and JLikness mentioned that as well. Chances are that nobody's going to be an olympic lifter without pretty robust knees, but the simple fact remains that the meniscus is a body part that will degenerate (at some unknown pace) over one's life and that in a highly bend knee it's taking most of the load, so if you throw a few hundred lbs on top, the meniscus can't possibly be thanking you for it.

I've also heard pros and cons about extensions. I think it's like upright rows--another endless debate
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Old Thu, February 16th, 2006, 10:58 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by treacherous
Bluestreak, what are some of the alternative exercises you do?

I like squats, but I have a ruptured lumbar disc that prevents me from putting much weight on there, even though I can do squats. But I also do barbell lunges, leg press, and hack squats.

And when I do squats I don't like going deeper than 90 degrees either. It hurts my back too much.
Sounds like you want to think about single leg work. Split squats, lunges, single leg squats, single leg deadlifts. A lot less load on the back.

I also think there is less twisting force on the knee, which allows it to remain in a stronger position throughout the exercise, which I suspect translates into less risk of knee injury.
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Old Thu, February 16th, 2006, 11:11 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zenpharaohs
I also think there is less twisting force on the knee, which allows it to remain in a stronger position throughout the exercise, which I suspect translates into less risk of knee injury.
That has to be the case and I had not thought of it, but if you're doing squats with both legs and can't properly lead them through the ideal plane of motion, they may be getting twisted to a small degree, but in single use they're more naturally following their ideal path.
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Old Thu, February 16th, 2006, 12:41 PM   #20
Gordo
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Join Date: May 25th, 2005
Location: Wpg, MB, Canada
Age: 43
Posts: 2,883
Sex: Male
Stats: STILL trying to count to a googol, man that's a big number
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If you don't squat because of knee fears, don't think leg extensions are the answer - research has indicated that LEs are worse on your knees than squats
No kidding....where in life do you commonly lift a weight from your ankles with your upper leg in an isolated position? The shearing forces on your knees are huge with heavier weights.

If you can't squat....for back issues....move on over to the leg press. Whatever works.

I think squatting as deep as you can go without breaking form is best but alot of times peoples inflexibility/improper or no warmup is what hinders depth. Breaking form will get you into trouble as well.

For instance...it was measure that with proper form, neutral spine...lifting a 50kg weight from the floor resulted in a 380kg load placed on the spine. Same lift with a round back resulted in a 630kg load placed on the spine!
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Finally to show all those who feel powerlifters are FAT that there just may be some muscle under what you may see as fat but we call leverage. Trust me. Getting lean is one hell of a lot easier than building it in the first place
-Dave Tate


one-third of all vegetables consumed in the United States come from just three sources: French fries, potato chips, and iceberg lettuce.
-Marion Nestle, What to Eat (2006)
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