The Truth About Full Squats
The Truth About Full Squats jerrywear
08-19-2006, 08:55 AM
I'm just back from a fitness convention where I attended three lectures by Charles Poliquin (do a google search if you don't know who he is). The following is taken from his notes on full squats.
I've always been a believer that full squats are better than half (parallel) squats, but the following information really blew my mind.
If you don't want to read this, the conclusion is DO FULL SQUATS.
First of all, a full squat is where the trainee goes down until the bottom 15 centimetres of the hamstrings touches the top 15 centimeters of the calves (alternatively, you should squat until one can no longer see the light between the hamstrings and the calves in the bottom position).
The Advantages of Full Squats
the following informationis based on data collected by Charles Poliquin himself on 7 Canadian Natioanl Teams preparing for the winter olympics (Albertville, Lillehammer and Nagano).
1. Reduction in groin pulls and tears
2. Reduction in lower back injuries
3. Reduction in hamstring tears (900%)
4. Reduction in knee surgeries (reduction proportionate to number of years of full squatting).
5. Increases in knee stability
6. Better increases in vertical jump
7. Improvements in 30 and 60 metre times.
8. Improvements in vertical and penta jumps (penta jumps are 5 jumps in a row)
9. Improvements in 17 out of 23 measures of knee stability (the other movements are in a different plane so the squat does nothing for them).
10. Improvement in ham/quad ratio from 57% to 79% in 11 weeks. The Ham/Quad ratio is the best predictor of prevention of ACL injuries
Disadvantages of Half (Parallel) Squats
1. Decrements in hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors and piriformis flexibility.
2. Lower transfer to athletic tasks such as vertical jumping.
3. DECREASES in 18 out of 23 measures of knee stability
4. Worsening of ham/quad ratio.
5. Increased incidence of knee injuries in soccer, bobsleigh, speed skating, American football, volleyball and alpine skiing.
How to Full Squat Correctly
1. Stand in front of the squat rack set up so that you can back out and return easily from it.
2. Using your thumbs, set up the reference point on the bar, use the knurling to determine the width of the grip.
3. Duck under the bar and place the thickest part of the trapezius in contact with it.
4. The hands should be as close as possible to the body/outside of the shoulders.
5. The Elbows should be pushed forward so that they are aligned right under the bar.
6. The chin should be slightly up. Focus your eyes at a point on the wall that is slightly higher than eye level in order to maintain proper neck alignment.
7. Set your foot stance shoulder-width apart with toes pointing slightly outwards (15 degrees). [Personally, I think that this is up for discussion. Taller people will have difficulty with such a narrow stance]
Full Squat Descent
8. Stand upright by straightening your legs, take ONE step backwards to clear the racks.
9. Knees move forwards maximally before the hips are lowered.
10. Hips are then lowered, keeping the back as erect as possible, chest held high.
11. The body is lowered under control until such time as the hamstrings come in contact with the calves.
12. There should be a conscious effort to keep the elbows under the bar throughout the movement to ensure that the load is kept as close as possible over the centre of gravity.
13. The knees should be travelling forward and over your toes throughout the descent.
14. Inhale through the mouth during the descent.
Full Squat Ascent
15. The trainee should first raise the hops, and concentrate on keeping them forward throughout the ascent (i.e. thrust your hips up and forwards)
16. The torso should remain as upright as possible, particularly at the sticking point.
17. Exhale throughout the entire ascent.
18 Concentrate on acceleration.
Points to note
1. For people with poor ankle flexibility, a wedged board may be placed under the heels to allow proper hip alighment. However, you must work on ankle flexbility so that the board is not requried
2. The hips should stay under the bar for as long as possible.
3. Be careful of excessive forward lean and hip extensors involvement.
4. No buckling in of knees
5. NO BOUNCING at the bottom
6. Face the rack, NEVER back into it.
7. Tight quadriceps, psoas, and Achilles tendons & compensatory forward bending - extra flexibility work will be required if these are issues.
8. As soon as technical breakdown occurs, you must cease lifting.
9. Do not pre-fatugue the abs and/lower back before doing squats.
10. Do not squat to a bench or box as the athlete may relax the lower back and cause injury
11. Do not use towels or padding to take the pressure of the barbell. if the bar hurts, grow some traps - I don't allow my clients to use pads by the way. I make them suck it up. Furthermore, using pads/towels pushes the bar higher onto your spine and shifts your centre of gravity forwards - a great way to wreck your back.
12. Looking up excessively disrupts the natural curves of the spine and can cause injury/trauma.
13. Concentrate and focus on exactly what you are doing - i.e. when you're squatting you shouldn't be thinking of other things. I don't even use headphones when I train, and my clients definitely don't.
14. PNF and Survival Stretching are recommended before squatting but static stretching is NOT. Don't static stretch for about 4 hours after your squatting session. Static stretching causes microtears in a muscle and that slows down the recovery process.
Charles went on to answer questions and one of the questions he was asked was what the ham to quad ratio should be. Many of us believe that the hams should have 66% the strength of the quads. However, his opinion is that is should be 80%. For elite sprinters, the HAMS should be 125 % the strength of the quads. He uses the ratio of the front squat to the back squat to determine ham to quad ratio. THe ratio should be 85%.
For people with tight calves/ankles, perform standing calf raises, and squeeze your glutes at the bottom of the stretch. You should also do seated calf raises.
This information re-inforces all of my beliefs on full squatting, but the way it's presented is much better than I could have done. The statistical figures presented are shocking. Apparently the first study done on the dangers of full squatting was done by a guy who was doing his phd. He was thrown out of college for making up the results and falsifying his thesis. But the 'results' he found were taken as read for years.
While this is good information, lets discuss this topic - Are full squats dangerous or more dangerous than partial squats. My belief is that full squats are far safer and more effective than parallel or half squats. I've always belived that, in order to effectively engage the hamstrings, particular the Vastus Medialis - the most important knee stabiliser - and glutes, it is necessary to do full squats. I've always believed that parallel squats increase the stress loadings on your knees.