Should We Squat Ass to Grass?
Here’s the thing with squatting: we know that it is great for gaining strength, gaining muscle, and losing fat. Yet – thanks to the internet – the skinny noobz on the forumz preach squatting ass to grass (super deep). There’s a reason why this isn’t a good idea for everyone, and it has to do with keeping your back and knees safe.
The hips and ankles are meant to be mobile. If there is any lack of mobility in the hips and ankles, your body will naturally look somewhere else for the movement. This means that you will either start to find the mobility in your knees or low back (places that should be stable instead of mobile). This is where we start to run into problems.
If you squat lower than your hips are capable of, you will either see knees folding in or the pelvis “tucking under” your body. Here’s an image of the tucking:
All that tucking will eventually lead to some not-so-sought-after back and knee pain down the road. This is not good. Some people fight through the pain in order to look awesome, but this isn’t necessary and should actually be avoided. Think of it this way: most people work out to look awesome so they won’t be destined to a life without a partner. They work out beyond their body’s capacity and fight through the pain to look good. Eventually, they find their partner, have lots of sex, then make babies. By the time they make babies, they will be so beat up from their workouts that they won’t even be able to hold their damn children without being in crazy amounts of pain. There is a name for this and it’s called “being a dumbass”. Don’t be a dumbass.
Squatting, Muscle Mass, and Athletic Performance
So, let’s say you have great hip mobility, should you squat ass to grass then? Maybe. It really depends on your goals. A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that deep squatting improved vertical jump height. There is also a few other studies out there showing that deeper squatting increases more muscle mass. If muscle mass or athletic performance is your goal, then squatting ass to grass may be an option for you.
My only caveat with deep squatting is that it puts a bit more shear force on the knee than only squatting to parallel. This means that people with knee problems may want to avoid squatting this deep with added load. Bodyweight may still be ok though.
Squatting and Fat Loss
As for fat loss, the difference between squatting to parallel and squatting deep is probably the difference between losing 50lbs and losing 50.2lbs. In other words: not a big difference. Play it safe and only squat to parallel.
What to do:
So, we know when we should be squatting ass to grass. Cool. But this article wouldn’t be complete without a super cool tip, right? Here is my preferred squat progression. Once you master the first one, move on to the next (and so on). The cool thing about this progression is that the higher up you go, the less safe it generally is to squat ass to grass. In other words, it’s much safer to squat ass to grass on a bodyweight overhead squat than it is for a full back squat.
- Bodyweight overhead squat to box (for depth; don’t actually sit on the box, just pretend that you are about to sit on a baby but you don’t actually want to injure it)
- Bodyweight overhead squat
- Goblet squat to box (for depth)
- Goblet squat
- Anderson Front Squat
- Front squat to box (for depth)
- Front squat
- Anderson Back Squat
- Back squat to box (for depth)
- Back squat
This progression is super similar to one that I learned from Geoff Girvitz last summer. It’s a pretty awesome progression that everyone should follow.
Everyone should aim to be squatting to a depth where the thighs are parallel to the floor. Obviously, not everyone should be starting here, but it is the goal to be reached. Using the progression given above (start with number 1), only go as deep as you can without your pelvis tilting or knees caving in. This is your safe squat depth. The more you practice squatting, the deeper you’ll be able to go (this article will also help you out a bit: http://www.jmaxfitness.com/2012/01/23/who-else-wants-to-squat-deeper/).
In summary, not everyone should squat ass to grass. Not everybody has the mobility in the hips or ankles to get down this low. Use the progression given and work your way towards squatting to parallel. If advanced muscle mass or athletic performance is your goal and you have not had a history of knee pain, then you may want to work your way towards squatting ass to grass. As always: stay safe, perfect your form, and you will thrive.