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When You Should And Should Not Squat A$$ To Grass

There are always those guys in the gym that are “ripped”, “shredded” and are
ridiculously strong. These guys are able squat with hundreds of pounds on their back
and squat so low to the ground their glutes almost touch the floor. Pretty impressive
right? Whether you see guys doing this in your gym, on Instagram, wherever it may be,
us viewers think we need to squat that low in order to get as strong and muscular. Well
think again. Let’s examine the kinetic chain one joint at a time and realize why squatting
ass to grass may not be the best idea.
Let’s start at the bottom with the ankle. Having sufficient dorsiflexion is crucial in
order to get in a position this low. Of course, most people lack the dorsiflexion to be in a
proper full squat. As we go about our daily lives, we depend more on our plantarflexors
than dorsiflexors. Thus, leading to the imbalance.
In reference to the knees, the most contact made between the articulating
surfaces (tibia and femur) is at the bottom of the squat. This places a lot of stress on the
menisci. Most people will experience some degree of discomfort in their knees without
being loaded by a heavy barbell. Plus, without strong hips and sufficient neuromuscular
control, your knees will cave in or out, adding on unfavorable stress (valgus/ virus
stress).

Now moving up to the hips and low back. At the bottom of a full squat, your hips
are in full flexion. This position places added stress onto the acetabular labrum and can
lead to impingement or tearing of the labrum with overuse. With the hips being in full
flexion, your back loses its anterior pelvic tilt and goes into a posterior pelvic tilt. Yes, it
is extremely important to be able to maintain a posterior pelvic tilt during our daily lives.
Although, the anterior pelvic tilt, and the slight lordosis that follows, is meant to protect
our lower backs while squatting. At the bottom of a full squat, we put our backs in a
vulnerable position.

Below is a frontal (side) view of a full squat:

Here is a frontal view of a 90 degree squat:

These diagrams demonstrate the range of motion differences between a full and 90 degree
squat.
So when is it okay to perform full squats? First, being able to perform a full squat with
your shoulders flexed (arms straight) above your head is an excellent screening tool to assess
risk of injury, movement limitations and muscle imbalances. Some of you may acknowledge that
this test is used in Tim Cook’s Functional Movement Systems. Next, performing a single leg full
squat is a good indicator of single leg strength, balance and flexibility. Of course, appropriate
progressive resistance exercise must be used in order to do so. Single leg box squats with
decreasing heights are good way to build single leg strength. Utilizing a medicine ball or
unstable surfaces are sufficient methods as well. Lastly, performing a full squat is reliable tool in
the process of ruling out a meniscus injury. As mentioned earlier, the menisci are stressed most
when in a full squat. If a person has abnormal pain or catching while performing a full squat, it
may be indicative of a meniscus tear.
The message I am trying to convey is squat safely and don’t always buy into what you
see other people doing. If those people performing full squats with heavy barbells aren’t in pain
now, they will be over time. There is a time and place for full squats. Remember, you only have
one body. Take care of it the best you can while pursuing your fitness goals.

Thanks for reading,
Dan