After having a conversation early today with a clinician for whom I have a TON of respect, I started getting all fired up and I felt it necessary to rant. So here we go.
I believe that one of the easiest places to highlight the roll of biomechanics and good coaching in the training field is in the argument surrounding squatting below parallel. Depending on which side of the argument you stand on, either “never do it, you’re going to destroy your knees!” or “Ass to the grass is the only way to squat!”, there is a plethora of research to back your opinion. The fact of the matter is both sides are as much right as they are wrong. Is it safe to squat below parallel? It depends. Do you have the ankle dorsiflexion necessary to stay heavy on your heals? Do you have the requisite fib/tib rotation to allow your arches to stay high and you knees to track between your big toe and second toe? Can your adductors open far enough to create space for the hips to sink that low with a steady anterior tilt? Are your psoases supple enough to allow for that external rotation of the femur while maintaining lumbar stability? Do you have the glut strength necessary to create that external rotation while producing the force for extension? Is your anterior core powerful enough to maintain a rigid lumbar spine? Do you have the thoracic mobility to keep an upright torso without effecting your lumbar stability? Are the lats, rhomboids and lower traps strong enough to maintain your thoracic position? That doesn’t even touch on the necessary type of shoulder mobility required depending on whether you are back squatting or front squatting. As if those basic principles didn’t provide enough contributing factors they still must be combined with varying experience levels, external stressors, preexisting S/I joint disfunction, possible leg length discrepancies, etc. There are enough confounding variables that you are bound to find studies that agree with you one way or the other. If it’s this hard to figure it out based on clinical evidence there can’t be any surprise that everybody has plenty of anecdotal evidence backing up there personal preference.
This is a classic case of the answer falling very clearly on “it depends”. It all comes down to what your goals are and how hard your willing to work on the prep work to get there. The key is to have a good set of eyes watching your movement that can pick out where your compensation patterns are kicking in, what the limiting factor is that’s leading you to using them, and most of all how to fix the dysfunction. Far to many trainer/coaches out there will prod their clientele to stay heavy on the heals but never address the disfunction that’s leading to the anterior weight shift in the first place. It’s infuriating. I’ll tell you right now that squatting below parallel isn’t the problem, it’s how you’re squatting below parallel and how heavy you’re trying to do it that’s leading to pain. Get the right coach, commit to your homework, get better and save the clinical studies for your power point presentation.
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