When I front squat to 90 degrees my back folds like an accordion then the squat becomes a two phase exercise Leg lift>Back extension.

If however I squat below the knee, until my legs touch my calves my entire back remains vertical.

Everyone says that deep squats will destroy your knees, but normal squats seem to destroy my back while I feel no discomfort in deep squats.

I'm also able to use way more weights on my deep squats simply because I don't have to extend my back against that weight.

Should I do some drills to perfect my parallel squats or doing deep squats is just fine? When I front squat to parallel it looks like something between the first and second figure, when I squat deep it looks exactly like in the third figure. enter image description here

  • 1
    It's hard to say which would benefit you more without seeing/knowing you. Optimal technique differs from person to person. For me, I go to parallel and no further, because if I go ass-to-the-grass (which I can), the whole weight just hinges and hangs on my knees, and it's uncomfortable to get back up. For others, this is just fine. – Alec May 1 at 10:17
  • To clarify, when you say "squat deep" and "squat below the knee", is that referring to a front squat as well? Or a back squat? – David Scarlett May 2 at 0:39
  • Front squats... – user28458 May 2 at 7:18
  • it a myth that knee can't go over your toes. most important think is to lift with full foot, and try to push knees out. If you feel that weight push you forward, work on your ankle and hip mobility. Try to squat without weight, deep as possible. and find your most comfort position. that position will be your squat position – dpa May 30 at 13:25
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I'll zoom right into this line from your question:

Everyone says that deep squats will destroy your knees...

"Everyone" in this case is patently incorrect and repeating gym nonsense. According to the prevailing logic of gym goers we should all curl and bench press, maybe doing the leg press or smith machine when we notice our legs look pencils. Then back to curling in the mirror.

Mark Rippetoe (author, trainer) has written extensively about the benefit of full depth squats for your knees. From Rippetoe's writing:

The muscles on the front of the thigh are the quadriceps. They attach below the knee to the “tibial tuberosity” – the bump at the top of the shin bone – just below the kneecap. When they pull this bone forward, the knee extends and the force at the tendon attachment is directed forward relative to the joint. In contrast, the hamstrings pull backwards on either side of the knee at their attachments, which balances the forward force from the quads. This happens in a correct squat when the hips move back and the torso leans forward. The balance of forces is optimum at a position just below parallel, and protects the joint so well that a correct squat can be safely performed even without an ACL – a person like me.

You should go as deep as you can without rounding your back, and this will be deeper on a front squat because of the load placement. Your hamstring (bicep femoris) attaches to bottom of your pelvis as shown:

enter image description here

For most people, as you drop down in your squat position your hamstrings will pull on your pelvis and cause your lower back to round. That depth: where you are "bouncing" off your hamstrings", is the typically recommended bottom depth. Your spine is neutral, you've fully engaged your hamstring, and your knees are healthy.

Interestingly enough, the squat is actually a terrific hamstring and hip stretch for the above reasons. If you're squatting deep, you can probably put your fingers (and maybe your knuckles or palms) on the ground while keeping your legs straight.

This is answer but also will leave a lot hanging. I had the same problem for a while until after enough practice I managed to fix the posture. While doing this there a couple things in play such as your feet width, some people fold over if there stance is in a position in which it is much harder for them to control the weight. The second thing to pay attention to is you core flexion having loose muscles along your entire body will also cause you to fold, make sure the muscles in the core are nice and tense.

You probably can get the hang of the parallel squats, if not you can do the deep squats I guess however in just my opinion I wouldn't. One should always go down all the way but there is a certain point where the knees are taking too much of the weight and so it depends how deep you really need to go to feel comfortable.

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