Is It Safe to Squat Below Parallel?
“She doesn’t squat right!”
“What makes you say that?”
“She goes all the way down to the bottom. I thought you weren’t supposed to squat below parallel and let your knees cross over your toes.”
I had this conversation with two of our female training clients the other night and it got me thinking…this would be a great blog topic to write about.
This controversial topic has been debated about for years with strong opinions on both sides of the fence. I want to take some time today to share my opinion on the topic with you.
Make no mistake, our bodies are designed to have full range of motion in all of our joints. It’s only as we get older, stop moving as much, neglect our flexibility and range of motion, that we lose the ability to squat all the way down, A$$ to grass.
Take a look at the picture below of a baby with perfect squat form.
Photo Credit: http://nicktumminello.com
In order to squat like this, it requires full range of motion in your hips, knees, and ankles. After years of sitting in a chair, often times with bad posture, it’s all too easy to lose that range of motion in those specific joints.
So is it safe to squat below parallel? Well the answer is, for most people…no. If you lack the flexibility in those joints and try to squat down low, a few things will probably happen.
Common mistakes we often see are heels raising up, rounding of the low back, and chest falling.
The good news is that there are ways to improve your flexibility and range of motion again to eventually squat all the way down.
I personally struggle with my hip flexibility as well. After years of cycling, thousands of miles on my road bike, and constantly skipping my post-workout stretching routine, I’ve lost a lot of range of motion in my hips and my squat form has suffered.
It got so bad at one point that I was having hip pain just sitting in a lower chair for an extended period of time.
There are a few temporary solutions that can help you squat lower:
Slide small weight plates under your heels when you squat
Buy weightlifting shoes with a raised heel
Unfortunately, those are temporary solutions and never did anything to ease my hip pain or improve my range of motion long-term.
The best thing I did was pick up a copy of Becoming a Supple Leopard written by Dr. Kelly Starrett and practice the mobility exercises week after week. Pick up a copy for yourself. If used correctly, it will drastically help you improve your range of motion in all of your joints, not just your hips, knees, and ankles.
So, long answer short, if you lack the mobility and range of motion in your joints, squatting below parallel is not a good idea. For those of you blessed with full range of motion, feel free to squat all the way down…with good form, of course.
Yours in health,