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squats - parallel not necessary?

Discussion in 'Weight Training/Bulking' started by wh0rume, Dec 7, 2006.

  1. wh0rume

    wh0rume Senior Member

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    I've always done squats with legs parallel, or even atg...
    But my coach/trainer told me tonight it's not nessessary to go that low, and he said it explains why i have knee pain.

    Is it possible that it's not necessary to go parallel and maybe we're being all hard core for no reason?
    Or does it maybe depend on goals? (strength vs size)

    The guy has crazy education in sports physo, which is why im wondering about it.
    Just wanted to hear people's thoughts.
     
  2. zenpharaohs

    zenpharaohs Elite Member
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    It's not necessary to go past parallel to get some value.

    The muscle load in the squat increases until right around parallel, but then it doesn't increase much with further depth.

    The load on the ligaments in the knee increases sharply when you get past parallel.

    So even though this is the result of a relatively recent study, people sort of had that figured out when they came up with the idea of limiting squat depth to parallel.

    So unless you care about Olympic lifting, where getting low matters a lot, then beyond parallel is not that useful unless you need to load your knee ligaments for some reason.

    Now if you already have knee problems, then squatting to less that parallel is useful. You are still getting some of the muscle load, and not much ligament load at all. I would suggest increasing reps because as the muscle fatigues, you recruit additional motor units. But by keeping the squat shallow, you don't put much stress on the knee.
     
  3. betastas

    betastas Well-Known Member

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    Michael W. Krzyzewski Human Performance Laboratory, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA. rescamil@duke.edu

    PURPOSE: Because a strong and stable knee is paramount to an athlete's or patient's success, an understanding of knee biomechanics while performing the squat is helpful to therapists, trainers, sports medicine physicians, researchers, coaches, and athletes who are interested in closed kinetic chain exercises, knee rehabilitation, and training for sport. The purpose of this review was to examine knee biomechanics during the dynamic squat exercise. METHODS: Tibiofemoral shear and compressive forces, patellofemoral compressive force, knee muscle activity, and knee stability were reviewed and discussed relative to athletic performance, injury potential, and rehabilitation. RESULTS: Low to moderate posterior shear forces, restrained primarily by the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), were generated throughout the squat for all knee flexion angles. Low anterior shear forces, restrained primarily by the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), were generated between 0 and 60 degrees knee flexion. Patellofemoral compressive forces and tibiofemoral compressive and shear forces progressively increased as the knees flexed and decreased as the knees extended, reaching peak values near maximum knee flexion. Hence, training the squat in the functional range between 0 and 50 degrees knee flexion may be appropriate for many knee rehabilitation patients, because knee forces were minimum in the functional range. Quadriceps, hamstrings, and gastrocnemius activity generally increased as knee flexion increased, which supports athletes with healthy knees performing the parallel squat (thighs parallel to ground at maximum knee flexion) between 0 and 100 degrees knee flexion. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that the parallel squat was not injurious to the healthy knee. CONCLUSIONS: The squat was shown to be an effective exercise to employ during cruciate ligament or patellofemoral rehabilitation. For athletes with healthy knees, performing the parallel squat is recommended over the deep squat, because injury potential to the menisci and cruciate and collateral ligaments may increase with the deep squat. The squat does not compromise knee stability, and can enhance stability if performed correctly. Finally, the squat can be effective in developing hip, knee, and ankle musculature, because moderate to high quadriceps, hamstrings, and gastrocnemius activity were produced during the squat.
     
  4. wh0rume

    wh0rume Senior Member

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    ok ok... maybe i shouldnt have mentioned my knee, but thanks for the responses.
    I dont think i would ever consider myself an athlete with healthy knees, btw, looking at my history.

    What I was wondering is am i getting the same benifit strength-wise stopping like 15 degrees before parallel using heavier weight?
    Or would i be hitting some nessessary muscles when i go to parallel that i'm not hitting when i stop short?

    Is that what you meant by a 'shallow' squat, zen?
     
  5. chicanerous

    chicanerous Elite Member
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    As a cyclist, one school of thought is that, for the overall health of your legs, you should look towards strengthening the ROM that you aren't constantly using and avoid magnifying the stress you already put on the knees at the larger degrees of bend. This may be why your coach recommends the top quarter of the squat's ROM. It likely has nothing to do with what depth is appropriate for maximally inducing overall leg hypertrophy or strengthening.
     
    #5 chicanerous, Dec 8, 2006
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2006
  6. Jokat

    Jokat Well-Known Member

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    Hey there,

    My 2 cents. I have always squatted deep. As deep as possible, then my knee started to give me problems (lots of pain after squats). I went to my ortho and he recommended not squatting so deep.

    So I started squatting with a bench behind me, added a bit more weight to the bar and have never looked back since. My knee problem has all but disappeared and my legs are doing great.

    I am going very deep and heavy on the leg press machine to get my full ROM from at least one exercise, and it doesn't seem to hurt my knee at all.
     
  7. zenpharaohs

    zenpharaohs Elite Member
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    You're fine if you add weight and restrict the range of motion a little. It's not EXACTLY the same benefit, but it's a very similar benefit.

    There are no muscles that get really jacked up in the last few degrees before you get to parallel that aren't getting hit by the time you're at say, quarter squat.

    There is essentially nothing wrong with doing "hamstrings parallel" squats, which are not as deep as "quadriceps parallel" squats, which is what "parallel" is supposed to mean.

    You should also consider using lunges and split squats to ensure you have good balance between sides, and to strengthen core and muscles that provide lateral stability. That sort of thing will help your knee in the long run.

    The big thing is to not take chances when you have already been through a knee problem. Take things gradually, there is no hurry. A lot of being safe is making the progress slow enough that the nerves are always trained up and you have confidence that you can control the motion.

    I expect if you go after it consistently, then you will find that eventually you can squat parallel and even deeper, but that you will choose to keep it parallel and above almost all the time.
     
  8. zenpharaohs

    zenpharaohs Elite Member
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    I would lay off the really deep leg presses if you had problems in the past due to deep squatting. As far as the knee angle is concerned, the 4 degree leg press isn't that different from the squat. The lying leg press is almost the same as the squat.
     
  9. betastas

    betastas Well-Known Member

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    The legpress is a time bomb as far as I'm concered. I see so many people rounding their back on it, rep after rep after rep...
    I stopped using it myself.
     
  10. cajunman

    cajunman Well-Known Member

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    Knee pain in squats can almost always be eliminated with keeping the shins vertical. Stand facing a wall with your toes maybe 2" from the wall. Put your arms out to your sides. Squat deep. If you can't, you need to work on your hip flexibility and/or widen your stance. Have someone watch your knees from the side.

    Deeper squats activate the glutes and hamstrings. Quarter squats are all quad.
     
  11. zenpharaohs

    zenpharaohs Elite Member
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    Yeah that is asking for trouble. My gym has the lying leg press which is almost like squatting.
     
  12. zenpharaohs

    zenpharaohs Elite Member
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    Knee pain can be reduced but the stress on the ligaments still goes way up if you squat deep.

    There are excellent ways of activating hamstrings other than squats. Some people (such as myself) have almost no hamstring activation in deep squats compared to knee flexion exercise.

    Shallow squats are NOT all quads, at least not for everyone. I have big glute activation in partial squats, plus a good deal of lumbar extensor activation.

    You hear people push the hamstring part of deep squats, and even more commonly SLDLs. Well, for me, those are very indirect hamstring work. Knee flexion exercises, such as natural glute-ham raises or leg curls, hit the hamstrings quite directly. I've done SLDLs to the floor off a platform with a straight back (which means I have good hip flexibility and strong back) and it was all glutes. But my trainer said he was getting hamstring work just looking at me do those.

    I think the key thing for hamstring activation in hip extension exercises is the shape of the pelvis and how much leverage the hamstring has connecting to it. If you don't get much leverage for the hamstrings, then the glutes and lumbar extensors take over.
     
  13. wh0rume

    wh0rume Senior Member

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    I think this really applys to me, too.
    I never feel it in my hamstrings when i squat; it's all the muscles around my knee and my quads. (maybe the same muscle, who knows :))

    In my case, my hamstrings are almost double in strength & size in comparison to my quads, so i need to work on getting them equal somehow.
     
  14. cajunman

    cajunman Well-Known Member

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    There is no ACL tension in the squat, primarily due to the hamstring involvement. Greater ACL forces are present in the leg extension.

    PCL injuries should stick to quarter squats until rehabbed. If they want to squat deep, they can once the injury has healed.

    Of course there are; I never said squats are the best ways to activate the hamstrings. I am merely pointing out the difference between not going to parallel and going to parallel as far as muscular involvement in the squat.
    Muscle activation may depend on the individual; anomalies exist. However, generally studies have indicated greater hamstring and glute activation from increased depth. (Studies more conclusive on the glutes, hamstrings I've seen yes/no.)

    Is it possible to consciously perform a partial squat to shift emphasis on the glutes? Sure. Out of every single partial-squatter I've seen in the gym through the years, the vast majority have looked very quad-dominant (obviously I did not hook an EMG up to everybody). I would say if the partial squat is primarily up-down, it's quad dominant. If it is more "hips", ass moves back and down, then you might argue that you're hitting your glutes.
    Regardless, you would still hit your glutes even more if you went deeper.

    (I am not arguing whether anyone SHOULD go deeper or go shallow. Whatever works for you. However, deep squats are not the villain for every knee ailment - leg extensions, leg press, sissy squats can be more to blame or equal depending on the exact nature of the knee problem. Is there an advantage to going deeper? Depends on why you're squatting in the first place, I suppose.)
     
  15. wh0rume

    wh0rume Senior Member

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    What if my only goal is increasing my quad stength, and possibly size as a side-effect?




    And off topic - are hamstrings supposed to be stronger than quads?
    Where strength in this case is measuring the difference in weight with lying leg curls (hams) vs leg extensions (quads)...

    Here's what my routine looks like with weights for both:
    -------------------
    Extensions - 4 x 20 x 55 lbs
    Leg curls - 4 x 20 x 90 lbs

    That's a significant difference in my eyes.
     
  16. betastas

    betastas Well-Known Member

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    I still wouldn't consider leg curls and leg extensions opposite exercises. I would prefer to take an identical exercise, such as the squat, for comparison.

    An olympic squat is more quad dominant. A powerlifting squat is hamstring dominant. You will always be able to move more weight with a powerlifting squat, even to the same depth. However I do realize that there are different muscle activations in these cases.

    Strictly speaking, I would say that you will be able to do more weight with a leg extension than with a leg curl. This doesn't mimic how our body works with the muscles though.
     
  17. vatechguy

    vatechguy Elite Member
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    Obviously YMMV but my lifts stalled until I backed off about 25% of the weight I was going to parrallel with and put ATG. I'm already back up 10% in 4 weeks. I fully expect to be back to lifting the same if not more weight by the end of year - except taking it to the floor on every rep. (Knock on wood - my knees have never given me any trouble.)


    You left out Deadlifts. What are you doing there? You're probably disproportionate more from biking than anything else man. I ironically enough have the opposite issue you do. I can hit twice what I curl on leg extensions.
     
  18. mastover

    mastover Well-Known Member

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    It took a pre-contest calf tear for me to realize how effective squats and their variations are for complete leg development. After my tear I could do no other lower body exercise other than squats. No direct hammy work, and of course, no calves.

    To hit the quads directly I began doing high bar squats with my heels 6"-8" apart, A2G.

    To nail the quads AND hamstrings, I began doing pause style squats, feet shoulder width apart and going down in the hole and remaining there for a 5 count.

    For hamstring work (and inner quads) I did plie squats, toes pointed out and going deep.

    Now, where you feel an exercise or what areas they seem to target more effectively will have to do with mind/muscle connection, but more importantly the individual's unique bone structure and arrangement, as well as muscle length and insertion points.

    Knee flexion exercises never seem to work for me as RDL's and DB Stiff Leg Deads. The only time I see progress with leg curl variations is when I focus on the pure negative portion of the rep. This may have something to do with fiber makeup (more white twitch)
     
  19. jza

    jza Well-Known Member

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    Another thing to mention here is that not all machines are created equal. Back when I used to use machines, there were some that I could do (for the same muscle) way more in one as compared to another one.
     
  20. zenpharaohs

    zenpharaohs Elite Member
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    The PCL tension goes through the roof though. That Duke study that betastas pointed at is one source for this. And they found that the tension on the muscle goes up to a little past parallel but then doesn't go up any more. So deep squats are either for:

    1. Olympic lifters who need to get deep because they can't pull the bar higher.

    2. People who, for some reason, desire to put a huge load on their knee ligaments.
     

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