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  1. #1
    Registered User aestheticsound's Avatar
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    are ATG squats bad for your knees?

    are they?

    Random people keep telling me that they're bad for my knees (in my head thinking just jealous n00bs who can't go as low at same weight)
    but I've been reading about it saying it's actually less stress on your knees in comparison to parallel as once you break parallel, weight transfers to hips.
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  2. #2
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    Originally Posted by aestheticsound View Post
    are they?

    Random people keep telling me that they're bad for my knees (in my head thinking just jealous n00bs who can't go as low at same weight)
    but I've been reading about it saying it's actually less stress on your knees in comparison to parallel as once you break parallel, weight transfers to hips.
    I cant do parallel squats as it feels like im being stabbed in the knee, but atg im all good.
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  3. #3
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    theoretically, a squat done to exactly parallel places the least stress on the knee joint.
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  5. #5
    Registered User tidnab's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by LegosInMyEgos View Post
    theoretically, a squat done to exactly parallel places the least stress on the knee joint.
    Wrong.
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  6. #6
    vegan LegosInMyEgos's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by tidnab View Post
    Wrong.
    I know you are
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  7. #7
    Never Be Satisfied JohnRainbo's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by jz416 View Post
    I cant do parallel squats as it feels like im being stabbed in the knee, but atg im all good.
    Wait a minute, what?
    "You can always be thinner... look better"
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  8. #8
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    Originally Posted by LegosInMyEgos View Post
    theoretically, a squat done to exactly parallel places the least stress on the knee joint.
    I thought that a squat done exactly to parallel put the most[ stree on the knee joint, since all the acceleration must be done from only one side of the joint - at the point where the lever arm is the longest?
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  9. #9
    vegan LegosInMyEgos's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by PeterGibbons316 View Post
    I thought that a squat done exactly to parallel put the most[ stree on the knee joint, since all the acceleration must be done from only one side of the joint - at the point where the lever arm is the longest?
    No, you need to factor in the posterior pull of the hamstrings vs the anterior pull of quads. Torque is the key factor here, and the safest position to accelerate out of is going to be the one which places the least torque on the knee joint (remember forces can partially cancel each other out).
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  10. #10
    Registered User aestheticsound's Avatar
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    sounds like a physics problem to be calculated
    wow i can actually apply what I learned to something useful..
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  11. #11
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    Originally Posted by tidnab View Post
    Wrong.
    Elaborate, please.
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  12. #12
    Registered User tidnab's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by LegosInMyEgos View Post
    No, you need to factor in the posterior pull of the hamstrings vs the anterior pull of quads. Torque is the key factor here, and the safest position to accelerate out of is going to be the one which places the least torque on the knee joint (remember forces can partially cancel each other out).
    That would only apply for a low bar squat. And for a low bar squat, when you reach the point where the hamstrings are fully stretched you've reached the end range of the ROM. Which for most people is right around parallel. So really you don't have a point here -- the general rule is still that squatting to a fuller ROM is better for your knees than stopping at some arbitrary point.
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  13. #13
    Registered User tidnab's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by -Lucifer View Post
    Elaborate, please.
    Aren't you another low bar guy? Let me be clear that I am advocating squatting to a full ROM, which for low bar is right around parallel. For other kinds of squats it is below parallel. Anyway, reasoning:

    ""More squat myths?!?
    We’ve all heard it, if you dip below parallel during a squat, your kneecap will blow off and land in the front desk girl’s mocha latte. Well it just ain’t true! What’s that, you need a little more evidence? Ok boys and girls, its time for today’s episode of Fun With Musculoskeletal Anatomy.
    The knee has four main protective ligaments that keep the femur from displacing on the tibia (ACL, PCL, MCL, LCL). These four ligaments are most effective at their protection during full extension and full flexion. Full extension would be when you are standing; full flexion would be when there is no daylight between your hamstring and your calf. When the knee is at 90 degrees of flexion (the halfway point), these four ligaments are almost completely lax and cannot exert much if any of a protective force at the knee (Zatsiorsky V. Kinematics of human motion. 1998 - published by Human Kinetics - p.301).
    Unfortunately, the position where the protective ligaments of the knee are not doing any protecting is the common recommended stopping point of a squat. Therefore, as it as it turns out, this is the exact worst place you could reverse the motion under load.
    If flexibility allows (heels staying planted, torso not flexing forward past 45 degrees), then a full squat where you lower yourself all the way to the ground is far safer on the knees than the traditional half squat. Guess what joint angle most leg extension machines start at? If you said 90 degrees, give yourself a pat on your healthy knee. This makes a full squat even safer than a leg extension machine (Wilk K et al. A comparison of tibiofemoral joint forces and electromyographic activity during open and closed kinetic chain exercises. Am J Sports Med; 24(4):518-527).
    So am I telling you never to do parallel squats? No! Am I saying that you’ll injure yourself on a parallel squat? No, again! What I’m trying to do is simply make an argument for the safety of full squats, thereby relegating squat myth #2 to the fiery pits of hades."

    - Marc MacDougal, Precision Nutrition


    Now, as LegosInMyEgos has correctly pointed out (but applied too broadly) in the low bar squat you also have the stretch of the hamstrings coming into play to stabilize the joint when you reach parallel. That stretch does not occur in the other types of squat because you do not sit back as much and it is incorrect to apply that reasoning to other types of squats.

    It's also worth mentioning that since this discussion is about "ATG" squats, we're clearly not talking about low bar squats since you would never do a low bar squat to ATG depth.
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  14. #14
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    fulls squats if flexibility allows. go low until you sit on calves. OLY lifters sit in between them but thats another thing. no knee problems here..

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    Objective optimist Xuaxace's Avatar
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    interesting stuff posted so far
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  16. #16
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    Originally Posted by jz416 View Post
    I cant do parallel squats as it feels like im being stabbed in the knee, but atg im all good.
    Same here.

    If I stop midway through, all the pressure seems to be right at my knee. I can't imagine that's better for you. That said, we are all built slightly differently so what works for me may not work for others.

    Originally Posted by squatnoob405 View Post
    fulls squats if flexibility allows. go low until you sit on calves. OLY lifters sit in between them but thats another thing. no knee problems here..

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  17. #17
    Registered User aestheticsound's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by squatnoob405 View Post
    fulls squats if flexibility allows. go low until you sit on calves. OLY lifters sit in between them but thats another thing. no knee problems here..

    interesting points everyone. Seems like more people lean towards going PAST parallel for less stress on knees.
    I don't think it's a coincidence that the less experienced people I see at the gym are the ones telling me to stop at parallel. Everyone wants to be a fitness expert...
    I see bigger guys always going past parallel, but they tell me nothing.. haha

    Also, Ive never seen squats done like this. looks interesting may start trying that.
    sitting on calves, pausing, then exploding (controlled) up.. good for mass and strength? i hope so
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  18. #18
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    Definitely go as low as you can with good form. I don't feel extra pressure on my knees when I go below parallel, it's just harder to come back up lol. Some people including myself can't go fully atg though, I can see my back rounding if I go past a certain point.
    There is NO excuse, however, to not at least hit parallel.
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    Originally Posted by Xuaxace View Post
    interesting stuff posted so far
    Always is around here.
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  20. #20
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    Originally Posted by JohnRainbo View Post
    Wait a minute, what?
    I've met a few olympic weightlifters ( no olympic level but competitors in the sport) That can squat fine with oly style all the way down but stopping above that is basically like throughing a gear in the works, its girnding, its painful and they avoid it.
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    Registered User tidnab's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Retardo-pex View Post
    I've met a few olympic weightlifters ( no olympic level but competitors in the sport) That can squat fine with oly style all the way down but stopping above that is basically like throughing a gear in the works, its girnding, its painful and they avoid it.
    It's not uncommon. Once you get used to going below parallel stopping at parallel feels very unstable by comparison.
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    Originally Posted by JohnRainbo View Post
    Wait a minute, what?
    Well when i first tried squatting and went to parallel it literally felt like being stabbed, Still get that feeling everytime im stupid enough to try leg extensions.

    tried atg, and the knee pain went away.
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    I think the trouble comes from not properly activating your adductors and external rotators because of poor technique.
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    Originally Posted by Retardo-pex View Post
    I've met a few olympic weightlifters ( no olympic level but competitors in the sport) That can squat fine with oly style all the way down but stopping above that is basically like throughing a gear in the works, its girnding, its painful and they avoid it.
    Just an example of when you've done something thousands of times, doing something different feels strange since your body isn't used to (programmed for) it.
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    Originally Posted by tidnab View Post
    Aren't you another low bar guy? Let me be clear that I am advocating squatting to a full ROM, which for low bar is right around parallel. For other kinds of squats it is below parallel. Anyway, reasoning:

    ""More squat myths?!?
    We’ve all heard it, if you dip below parallel during a squat, your kneecap will blow off and land in the front desk girl’s mocha latte. Well it just ain’t true! What’s that, you need a little more evidence? Ok boys and girls, its time for today’s episode of Fun With Musculoskeletal Anatomy.
    The knee has four main protective ligaments that keep the femur from displacing on the tibia (ACL, PCL, MCL, LCL). These four ligaments are most effective at their protection during full extension and full flexion. Full extension would be when you are standing; full flexion would be when there is no daylight between your hamstring and your calf. When the knee is at 90 degrees of flexion (the halfway point), these four ligaments are almost completely lax and cannot exert much if any of a protective force at the knee (Zatsiorsky V. Kinematics of human motion. 1998 - published by Human Kinetics - p.301).
    Unfortunately, the position where the protective ligaments of the knee are not doing any protecting is the common recommended stopping point of a squat. Therefore, as it as it turns out, this is the exact worst place you could reverse the motion under load.
    If flexibility allows (heels staying planted, torso not flexing forward past 45 degrees), then a full squat where you lower yourself all the way to the ground is far safer on the knees than the traditional half squat. Guess what joint angle most leg extension machines start at? If you said 90 degrees, give yourself a pat on your healthy knee. This makes a full squat even safer than a leg extension machine (Wilk K et al. A comparison of tibiofemoral joint forces and electromyographic activity during open and closed kinetic chain exercises. Am J Sports Med; 24(4):518-527).
    So am I telling you never to do parallel squats? No! Am I saying that you’ll injure yourself on a parallel squat? No, again! What I’m trying to do is simply make an argument for the safety of full squats, thereby relegating squat myth #2 to the fiery pits of hades."

    - Marc MacDougal, Precision Nutrition


    Now, as LegosInMyEgos has correctly pointed out (but applied too broadly) in the low bar squat you also have the stretch of the hamstrings coming into play to stabilize the joint when you reach parallel. That stretch does not occur in the other types of squat because you do not sit back as much and it is incorrect to apply that reasoning to other types of squats.

    It's also worth mentioning that since this discussion is about "ATG" squats, we're clearly not talking about low bar squats since you would never do a low bar squat to ATG depth.
    There is no readily apparent difference in the law of combining torque forces for a high bar squat.

    The lower distance traveled by the hips will be made up for by additional knee travel.

    Also, I don't understand how you can make the blanket statement that the hamstrings are fully streched at parallel. I know mine are nowhere near fully stretched at parallel, and that that occurs about 4 inches below parallel for me. It can and will be highly specific to individual flexibility and biomechanics.
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    Originally Posted by LegosInMyEgos View Post
    There is no readily apparent difference in the law of combining torque forces for a high bar squat.

    The lower distance traveled by the hips will be made up for by additional knee travel.
    That's not right. The difference in the stretch of the hamstrings is night and day because of the difference in the angle of the torso. Try it and see for yourself. Or better yet, try it with a front squat and it should be even more obvious that your hamstrings aren't stretched near parallel.

    Edit -- now that I think about this is where you have it wrong: the stretch of the hamstrings is determined by the angle of the hip, not by the angle of the knee. Forward knee travel does nothing to create additional stretch of the hamstrings. There is more forward lean in the low bar squat, therefore there will always more more of a stretch in the hamstrings at parallel in a low bar squat than in a high bar squat (or any other kind of squat that involves a more vertical torso.)

    Also, I don't understand how you can make the blanket statement that the hamstrings are fully streched at parallel. I know mine are nowhere near fully stretched at parallel, and that that occurs about 4 inches below parallel for me. It can and will be highly specific to individual flexibility and biomechanics.
    Of course, but I never said parallel, I said "right around parallel".
    Last edited by tidnab; 12-10-2012 at 06:17 PM.
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