The 'Wrong' Way To Squat

14 Sep 2009 14:34

I thought by now that the truth about the knees over toes myth had made the rounds and it would soon be a ghost of training past. I realize the video is almost 2 years old but come on. That myth was being blasted before then.

In case you haven't heard the facts about this myth I'll list a couple deal breakers for you:
1) By restricting the knee from passing the toes there is a 22% decrease in knee torque and a 1070% increase in hip torque!1 Slightly good for the knee but 10 times harder on your hips.
2) If your knee is to never pass your toes, while the knee is in flexion, then why haven't lunges been outlawed? You may say to yourself "What? I always lunge so that my knee is at a 90 degree angle and stays behind my toes", but I never said anything about your front leg. The trailing leg's knee is well in front of the toes.

There are many more studies and reasons why this is bogus but for now I'll leave you with those. There is some more info on this myth on this page.

This whole idea of stopping at 90 degrees is kind of bunk. For strength and joint health, using the full range of motion on squats is more beneficial than squatting to parallel and squatting deep isn't any more hazardous to the knees than squatting shallow. If you look at these guys, he stops at 90 degrees but isn't even at parallel depth. Parallel is when the hip and knee joint are parallel with the floor, meaning you draw a line through the joints and that line is parallel with the floor. 90 degree knee flexion does not necessarily mean you are at a parallel depth and it does not mean it is time to squat back up.

A couple of big ticket items that they neglect entirely are mobility and stability.

Suppose you keep losing balance or you're falling on your butt, maybe your lower back is rounding as you try to get more depth, maybe you can't even go below parallel. You may not have enough mobility in your ankles or your hips. So now you begin mobility drills. You're doing some hip mobility drills while holding onto something, for external support, and suddenly you see that your lower back is perfectly set. You try your squat again but still have the problem of lumber rounding.

What gives?

What gave was your stability, not mobility. Its not witchcraft, you provided some external support and reduced the stabilizing role and revealed your mobility. But when you re-applied the load you were unable to stabilize it. If you can't stabilize yourself you can't transfer the load correctly. In instances of higher loads you can actually find yourself losing depth. This is a case of not being able to stabilize your joints and in turn those joints restrict their ROM, or lock-up, in order to remain stable.

Let's assume we're ready to move to squats with some external resistance, i.e. a barbell. So we hop in the squat rack, grab an empty bar and do some squats. No problems. Now we add a little bit of weight to the bar and we're squatting great. We decide to get a little crazy and load up the bar because it will most likely impress girls(right?). We begin our squat and run into some problems. Our balance is off, our lumbar is rounding, things aren't pretty.

We knew how to squat perfectly up until this, what happened? We hit our load threshold. We attempted a load which we were not prepared for. A couple of things factor into this. For one, we perfected our squats with our bodyweight and hopped right under a heavy barbell. Which may not seem like a big deal but to your body it is. We all have a centre of gravity and introducing a barbell changes, or shifts, that centre of gravity. Since we didn't bother working up in weight slowly we didn't give ourselves a chance to adapt and when we started off with the very light weight we didn't have enough weight to sufficiently change our CG and alter our equilibrium.

In the end a good and deep squat is all about mobility and stability. You need to be able to not only produce the position involved in a deep squat but you also need to be able to stabilize that position. BOTH need to be present and accounted for, if either one is deficient…well your squat will amount to just that, squat.

This is the thing that REALLY got me fired up, "Jacob is a little more advanced". He does a shallow squat, using both legs, and because he can put his arms anywhere that makes him advanced. Let's give Jacob a barbell to put overhead or take away one leg and see how well he does. Classifying that as an advanced movement or advanced progression is really nothing more than jargon meant to impress people that simply don't know better.

How a CORRECT squat should look


If you want to learn how to squat, read the GUS exercise descriptions or look up Dan John, don't listen to these guys. If you have specific questions or problems….the comments sections of my blog is generally pretty lonely so don't be shy. My inbox is always open, too.

This page created 14 Sep 2009 14:34
Last updated 19 Jul 2016 22:09

© 2016 by Eric Troy and Ground Up Strength. All Rights Reserved. Please contact for permissions.