By Rob Marten
The squat is the single most useful tool in the CrossFit box (“box” is CrossFit lingo for gym) and our most valuable tool for building strength, power, and speed. For it to really be the most valuable, it has to be performed correctly and include a full range of motion. In CrossFit you will often hear the coaches say that the bottom of a squat should be below parallel. We are going to talk about why that is important.
A correct squat perfectly balances all the forces around the knees and hips, using the muscles the way the skeletal biomechanics are designed to be used, over their anatomically full range of motion. With full range of motion, you not only use all the muscle groups for their intended purpose, but you are also lubricating your joints and increasing mobility. During a correct squat you are keeping your knees, hips, and back in a safe and stable position.
The correct depth for a squat is the crease of your hips below the top of your patella, or the front of your knee. The hamstrings, adductors, groin, and gluteal muscles activate and stretch while at full depth. The stretching of the hamstrings counter balances the forces exerted on the knee by the quadriceps. A partial squat, or anything above parallel, would be considered a quad dominate movement which lacks balance and can compromise the low back and knees. The tension that you feel at the bottom of your squat is your hamstrings and adductors fully stretched ready to straighten and extend the hips. The tension is also a support mechanism for the stability of the pelvis.
A full range of motion squat, over time, results in stronger hamstrings. Stronger hamstrings protect your ACL during activities inside and outside the box. The ACL is responsible for stabilizing the knee during physical activities. It keeps the tibia from sliding forward relative to the femur. This is the same action that your hamstrings do at the bottom of a squat. Essentially the more you squat, the stronger you are and the less prone you will be to other injuries.
This important balance, where all of your muscles are activated, is only achievable when you squat to full depth. Full depth is and always will be with your hip crease below the top part of your knee. As a CrossFit athlete achieving the full depth squat is a skill to work towards and maintain over your lifespan as an athlete. We invite you to come in to learn more about squatting, the lingo, and CrossFit in general.
2016 08 07