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I have been following Stronglifts 5x5 method for a week now. I am way too overweight: Age: 21yrs, Weight: 95kg, Height: 5ft6in. I started most of the exercises with lower weights than recommended by the program. So on 4th session/workout I had completed 2 sets (5 rep each) of squats with total of 25kg. The Gym instructor brought me aside & told me that if I continue with my current Squat technique after a few more sessions, I would injure my knees so bad that I would have to undergo an operation after which I wont be able to come to the Gym again in my life.

He told me to follow his technique. He told me to Squat until only the point where my knees will not ahead of my toe. Basically that's not even half the length of Stronglifts method. So while following his technique on 3rd rep my muscles gave in while going up & I fell down. Now he is blaming it on the damage caused by my previous method.

So I am a bit scared of the consequences & want to ask:

Is going below parallel (but not too low) bad for my knees?

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He's correct that your knees shouldn't go past the front of your feet when squatting, but that shouldn't mean you can't squat parallel. If your size/weight is preventing you from doing the exercises properly then you may want to consider cardio and diet changes to lose some of it before starting a strength training program. –  Anthony Grist Jul 8 '13 at 9:42
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Mehdi gives an answer to this question in the Stronglifts Report. It is not based on actual science, but rather anecdotal evidence, I quote it here. (Page 58)

Watch out by the way with people telling you to do half Squats instead of hitting parallel. Half Squats are NOT safer for your knees, they can actually destroy them because they cause muscle imbalances (lots of quads development, but little hams/glutes). Your body is designed to Squat below parallel. Why do you think babies naturally sit in the bottom Squat position when playing with toys? And if this was really bad for your knees, wouldn't your body be designed in a way to prevent you to Squat parallel in the first place? Indeed.

The whole “Deep Squats Are Bad”- myth is spread by gym bros who hurt their knees by doing Squats wrong, which is how the large majority of gym goers do it. I challenge you to find 10 guys in your gym who Squat with proper technique. When these guys now go get help for their painful knees, those dumb doctors wrongly conclude that the exercise was the cause instead of the bad technique. I've only met one doctor so far who recommended me to Squat parallel. Frankly, I was stunned. But then again, he did Squats. All other doctors, past and present, told me that lifting weights is bad for your health, even though the American College of Sports Medicine – the largest sport medicine & exercise science organization in the world – recommends weight lifting.

I talked to a sports medicine doctor and he agreed on this. As long as it isn't painful and you watch for correct technique, deep squats are safe. This means, focus on correct technique instead of increasing weight. If things get too heavy you are likely to adapt a bad technique that brings your knees in trouble.
Another thing is that your joints and bones are not growing as fast as your muscles. If you just started out with doing sports you might want to take it a bit slower as they need some more time to adapt to the new circumstances.

There is also a video Medhi made where he explains (and draws) how to properly deep squat.

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Hi @Informaficker, Thanks for your answer! Yes I have watched that video atleast 10 times. But the problem is that he does not shoot from the front i.e. does his knees go little sideways also or just do they go straight ahead? –  user5447 Jul 7 '13 at 16:52
    
Thanks for the advice on focusing on technique rather than increasing the weight. –  user5447 Jul 7 '13 at 16:53
    
@Cool_Coder ExRx has some information on the Full Squat: "Knees should point same direction as feet throughout movement." When I do squads I have my feet at a slight angle, this feels more natural than pointing them straight forward. Simply try an unweighted "Asian Squat" and see how you would squat without a barbell, afterwards take the barbell and try it again. –  Baarn Jul 7 '13 at 17:28
    
I can't answer the question regarding your thighs, just keep in mind that you cannot spot reduce fat. But as the squat is a whole body exercise I am pretty sure that over time you will see improvements, I recommend taking photos every now and then. –  Baarn Jul 7 '13 at 17:34
    
as mentioned by Anthony in a comment to the question, do your knees stay behind your toes? Is it bad that my knees are going ahead of my toes? Thanks! –  user5447 Jul 8 '13 at 14:26
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