Give me another inch. A little more. Get Lower! Any of these cues sound familiar? If so, we need to talk!
Squatting is one of the most important movements any human can perform and one of the main movements our program is based around. The squat is the quintessential functional movement necessary for life; in and outside of the gym!
We squat every time go to the bathroom, sit down for dinner, or get low to move an object. Do you have back, hip, knee, or ankle dysfunctions? Some form of squat is most likely part of a good therapy program. The strength and flexibility developed from squatting allows you to maintain functional human movement.
The movement we are looking for during a full squat is the "crease of the hip passes below the top of the knee" at the bottom of the squat and "full hip and knee extension" at the top of the squat. But just because we're asking you to "break parallel" on your squats doesn't mean this is your true bottom position.
If you're fortunate enough to have amazing mobility and core strength, your bottom is probably going to be much lower than our defined bottom. If you fall on the unfortunate side of mobility and core strength, then your true bottom may be above parallel. If this is the case for you, fixing this needs to be a priority because there are way too many benefits to getting low.
One of the biggest benefits to breaking parallel is your ability to recruit more muscle and skeletal tissue. Getting below parallel in a proper squat allows you to recruit your posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, and back) and it distributes the force of the squat through your hips and back. Getting your hips below your knees actually moves the stress of the squat from your knees to your hips and back; that’s pretty cool considering most doctors tell you not to squat below parallel because “it’s bad for your knees.”
Once we get our hips and back loaded in the squat, it’s important to brace your spine and keep it in a fixed position; this is where core strength comes into play. Good core control allows you to maintain a flat midline and keep your torso upright. Not only is this important as we add load, but being able to stabilize your core properly is important to all functional movement.
Squatting to depth also forces you to put your hips, knees and ankles through a full range of motion, which is movement our bodies are designed to do. Maintaining full range of motion is vital to the health of our joints, specially as we age. Performing a full squat will reveal any dysfunctions within these joints; an overhead squat will test the range of motion in nearly all of our major joints throughout the body!
A full squat will also test the strength and mobility of our quads, hamstrings, and glutes. A lack of mobility in any of these muscle groups may not allow you to maintain proper positioning through the squat. If your knees track in or you have a butt wink, this is something we need to address. A full squat will also maximise muscle development through your core and lower body; I don’t know about you, but I like being stronger!
And my favorite reason for being able to perform a full squat is it releases tension on the puborectalis muscle on the rectum! That’s right, a full squat allows you to do your business faster and more efficiently, and as CrossFitter’s isn’t that what we’re all about?