Monday, July 26, 2010


Squats are often called the “King of Exercises” because it is one of the best exercises ever created. Some even say that if you could only choose one exercise to do, make it Squats. It trains your hamstrings, quads, back and abs. It truly is a functional exercise that utilizes almost all the muscles in your body. Now when it comes to squats, there have been various debates on how low you should go. The most popular is where you come to a halfway point (where your thighs are parallel to the floor). This is not the best technique and if you want to get the most from your squats, you want to go below the parallel point as low as you can as long as you can maintain your proper form and balance – preferably all the way down or what most peopole call ATG - Ass to The Ground. Unless you have a specific reason not to go so low (like a power lifter who would go just below the parallel squat where your waist is below your knees) for all other purposes, you would want to execute a full squat.

To get the most of your squat, you want to ensure you do the full range of motion (ROM) and not just half way through. Many people disagree and say that a parallel squat is safer on your knees compared to a full squat. This is not true as most of squat injuries occur during lift off (where you lift the bar off the rest and take a couple of steps back to get into position) and landing (where you step back to re-rack the weights). Almost all squat related injuries come from poor technique and not because you go all the way down. You can get just as injured doing a parallel squat if your technique is wrong. So it has nothing to do with how low you go.

This morning I was totally stunned to see a PT in the gym who was training his client to do squats. They were using a Smith Machine (Smith Machines are not very effective – I will cover why in another post) and he loaded up the weights for his client (a lot of weights). During the warm ups when the weights were lighter, the client kept going almost all the way down. As it got heavier, his descent was less and less. And finally when they reached the max amount of weight, the client barely even reached the parallel position – and best of all, the PT did not say anything! If I had to call it a name, I would call it a quarter squat, since he only did a quarter of his ROM. Then the PT caught me looking at his client and he casually just said “lower”, but it still wasn’t even near the parallel position.

It’s not about how much weight you can slap on to impress others in the gym. It’s about how much you can do while maintaining proper form through out. You don’t see people doing a half curl (actually I have seen this weird phenomenon) or quarter curl (so far I haven’t seen this…yet), so why is it that this only happens with squats. You should give it the full range of motion just like other exercises.

Here are some tips on how to execute a squat properly.

Chest Up - Keeping your chest up makes lower back rounding impossible & tightening of your upper-back easier. Your chest should be pointing forward.
Forward Look - Look down & your back will bend. Look at the ceiling & your neck will hurt. Look forward.
Bar Position - Put the bar low, on the muscles of your back shoulders. Below the bone at the top of your shoulder-blades. .
Elbows Back - Don’t let them come forward during the Squat. Pushing your elbows back prevents elbows injuries.
Foot Stance - I keep my foot stance at slightly wider shoulder width.
Toes Out - Point your toes out at about 30 degrees. Your toes must always follow your knees.
Knees in - While descending, don’t let your knees go forward past your toes. Try to keep it 90 degrees with the floor as far as possible.
Weight on your Heels - Never get on your toes. Push from the heels.
Use a power rack. Power rack is like a cage and the best place for you to execute your squats safely. Smith Machines may look like it simulates the same movement, but believe me, its far from the same.
If you have never done squats, you might want to practice the movement on a broom stick or mop stick until you get it right before attempting it in the gym with weights. Getting it right is important to ensure that you avoid injury. So practice it properly until you get it right. I would normally recommend you to get a PT in your gym to train you, but after what I saw this morning, recommending a PT in your gym will be unfair to you.

Anyway, if you are not already doing squats, I hope you start soon. Squats are a must in anyone’s workout or else your workouts will be incomplete. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.


Aizan Suhaira said...

Great post! Will be doing squats for tonight's session. Shall make sure the ass is on the ground.

Rajan said...

Aizan: Good luck. Tomorrow is my squats day.

KevL said...

There are still plenty of people out there who doesn't exercise with full ROM and I just don't understand why they don't understand; I've always thought that it's common sense and one of the most basic things that people should know about when lifting. *shrugs*

I'm always more impressed with people who lifts with form, rather than people who lifts heavy but without form, or lifts in a half-assed motion.

Rajan said...

KevL: i dont understand either. Now even PTs seem to endorse it. Im with you. I have more respect for people who lift in proper form rather than those who slap on weights and grunt.

FatLouie said...

Aizan : how to do when we dont have the stand at home?

Rajan said...

Fat Louie: Aizan's home made squat stand is really impressive. Ingenius idea.

Kasey Brown Fitness said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Camron said...

Power rack is nothing but a cage and the best place for you to execute your squats safely. It has got many benefits in assisting for weight training. More power to your blog.