Updated: Apr 11, 2019
If you were like me when you started CrossFit from the "bodybuilding" or "hybrid" workouts, you questioned the criticism you heard from across the gym in a squeaky voice.."Go deeper!" or "Full Depth, Otto!"
Good grief! Aren’t these trainers smart enough to understand and know I can no longer go past parallel? Don’t they know I’ve had 7 knee surgeries to reconstruct my right knee and repair my left? The scars are right there! Look!
Ahhh. My ignorance was so blissful back then. I never really squatted past parallel even when I was bodybuilding either. My doctors and rehab specialists were validated in my mind. How was I to know or think otherwise? My physical therapist told me never to squat below parallel again. During my recovery of operations, I was to build strength with the leg extension and the leg curl machine. That’s what was in the therapist’s rehab space in the hospital. They couldn’t possibly tell me something wrong!
I took this attitude to the bank and across the world. My excuse for not going full depth in squats was because I had a valid reason. Mmm hmm! When I got to CrossFit, I had a rude awakening! I was told what I was doing weren’t even squats. Ouch! I was in CrossFit occasionally for about a year. Then I committed to going as much as I could handle and, in the process, decided to find out about this full depth BS. I always has workout gear in my garage so I worked on full depth.
I researched full depth versus not. I didn’t like what I found, kinda. I was a certified personal trainer for goodness sake. I know how to squat and understand the benefits. Or so I thought. I came across the CrossFit Journal and one particular article, Squat Clinic. Here’s a quote I’ll never forget from Greg Glassman:
“The squat is a vital, natural, and functional component of your being. In the bottom position, the squat is nature’s intended sitting posture.” Note 1
Bottom position where?!
It rang true to me. Although surprised and unvalidated in so many ways, I felt what I was reading was correct. Nature’s sitting position, ugh?? Let’s go work on that.
Remember that gear in the garage? I had a power rack and knew exactly what to do. It was what any red-blooded, masculine, American man would do. I promptly set up the bar with 2 45’s on each side (225 pounds) and attempted to do a full depth squat. I’ll show you what I got for you, Nature! Nature immediately responded letting me know she was in charge.
I got to the bottom of the squat and couldn’t move. Stuck where I should be at the bottom of a squat and I did not have the strength to get out of it. My ego defeated and thank goodness I was alone, I dropped the weight off my back and decided to take a conservative approach.
I researched more on the squats and again, came across another CrossFit Journal article, Just Squat by Greg Glassman and Staff. I found this little gem:
“If you find yourself down in the bottom of the squat and you’re just kinda chillin’, you’re probably not squattin’ right.” Note 2
Where was this a few days ago? The article also says, “Do this well and everything else you do will fall into place.” Note 2
Sounds good to me. I’m hooked!
My warm-up, no matter what, was air squats, A to G baby! I got to the point of increasing weight with my back squats. For other reasons beyond my understanding, my front squats improved. My improvements expanded to my gymnastics and pull ups, to other weightlifting and deadlifts. My entire CrossFit game had improved by simply improving my mobility in my hips, increasing my range of motion in my squat, and keeping my midline tight throughout the movement. I guess the article was right.
I am hitting PR’s I never came close to 20-25 years ago. And I’m talking 400+ back squat, 500+ deadlift, and a 350# front squat. It didn’t take a week. It took hard work and discipline. It took humbling myself to realize I was wrong. It took a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer to tell me I couldn’t squat. I am grateful for the criticism. It helped me change my path in fitness to a more positive one, putting my ego aside and listening to my trainer.
Whenever I teach a new comer during fundamentals, the squat is the first thing I evaluate. I recently had an acquaintance tell me her trainer told her to never go below parallel. Yes, it was a certified personal trainer. It’s a shame people are still passing out that information. However, I taught her the correct movement and points of performance. She walked away very appreciative and I was glad to have helped.
So to answer the question at hand and my take, Full Squat or Not?
Full Squat all day long, baby.
Squat Clinic by Greg Glassman
Just Squat by Greg Glassman and Staff