2 September, 2021
Arse To Grass Or It Doesn’t Count?
Or does it? 🤔
I was brought up in the fitness industry with the belief that if the squat wasn’t so deep that entire surface of the calf muscle was being pressed up against the hamstring, it wasn’t deep enough. Without question, I just accepted this, and enforced it on myself and anyone who trained with me.
But this isn’t actually correct. You see, the only place squat depth is officially judged, is in powerlifting competition and also in strongman competition (on the rare occasion that they include the squat as an even in strongman competition), and the rule across all federations is that the lifter must squat down until the hip joint is lower than the knee joint. Now technically this is BELOW parallel, and if the squat is only AT parallel, I’m afraid to say, it is technically “high”, but the powerlifting legal depth is not quite “arse to grass” either. So when we talk about whether or not a squat is “deep enough”, the only people who are actually measuring squat depth are competitive powerlifters – and they’re not even doing arse to grass.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are definitely very useful applications for full depth squats, mainly for the sport of weightlifting where a lifter will need to catch a barbell in the deepest squat position possible, and it makes sense for these athletes to develop strength in this position.
I also think that even if the squat isn’t being performed by a weightlifter or powerlifter, watching someone squat a heavy barbell to full depth gives a “gym cred” rating, quite possibly higher than any other exercise that can be performed in the gym (disclaimer – this is just my opinion, and if you don’t share the same opinion as me, that’s fine, you’re just wrong 😜).
But here are some facts that you must know if you like to squat in the gym. The squat is simply a tool that we used to develop strength, primarily in the lower body. My belief is that taking the squat to full depth (rather than partial depth) will yield the most overall strength and muscular development, however, everybody has different bone lengths, proportions and joint structures, and some bodies are not actually suited to squat arse to grass, and if you try and force it, you may actually be harming the lifter. A lifter’s safety should always be of top concern.
Something else worth knowing is that there are other alternatives to barbell squats that allow you safely develop leg muscle and strength. They may not be as bad arse as the barbell squat (and if you’re avoiding the squat simply because it’s hard, you’re probably just a pussy 😝), but technically, if you’re not a weightlifter or powerlifter, you don’t actually NEED to perform the barbell squat.
BUT!!!! If you are a recreational lifter and you love the exercise and want to reap the most benefits from your barbell squatting – my recommendation is to squat as deep as YOUR mobility allows, while still being able to hold a neutral pelvis and therefore a neutral spine in the bottom position. For some people this will mean arse to grass, for others it might squatting until the hip crease is just below the knee (or on the rare occasion, it could mean a parallel squat or higher). Using appropriate footwear and having a good understanding of correct squatting technique will allow you to achieve the most optimal position for YOU, but understand that individual differences do exist, and if you’re forcing full depth squats with a body that’s not suited for them, you may be causing more harm than good. Training in a way that is right for YOUR body will always yield the best results.
Happy squatting fams ❤️💪