Although we all include squats in our workouts, many of us only ever perform parallel squats, where your butt goes down to being level with your knees (about 90 degrees). You may never have done a full (or deep) squat. This could be for many reasons; it might be that you struggle to get your butt lower than your knees while still keeping your feet flat on the ground, or it could be because you've heard the myth that full squats are bad for your knees.
Various studies have found that there is actually no difference between performing parallel squats and full squats in terms of the impact on the front knee joint though.
In fact, according to a number of squat study journals, full squats may actually increase knee stability. This is due to there being less pressure on your knees if you follow the squat movement all the way through to as low as you can go; holding the squat in the parallel position could put more stress on your knee ligaments.
Performing squats incorrectly could harm your knees though, so check that you are doing them right. You need to have your weight distributed correctly, and you also need to maintain correct posture throughout.
Not only are full squats better for your knees, but squatting below parallel has the additional benefit of significantly increased activation of the gluteal muscles...a study in 2002 found that the gluteus maximus (your butt basically) is 25% more engaged during full squats than during parallel squats! The deeper you squat, the greater the glute activation.
So if you want that 'bubble butt' then you need to go deep.
But what actually is a full squat?
This is where the hips (and butt) go well below the parallel level of being horizontal with your knees, until you are almost in a crouching position (but with your feet flat on the floor).
Getting an awesome butt isn't the only benefit to full squats though; these amazing health benefits should convince you to start going deeper with your squats.
Let's countdown the top 5 benefits:
5. Strengthened ligaments (resulting in fewer injuries)
A full squat, with your feet flat on the floor, requires good flexibility; mostly at the ankles and hips. Don't worry if you aren't yet flexible enough to go all the way down yet though as getting into, and maintaining a full squat, is a great way to improve and strengthen your ligaments, and your flexibility. Strengthened ligaments lead to fewer injuries.
4. Relief from back pain
During a full squat with the correct posture, your pelvis rotates backwards, allowing the spine to elongate. This not only stretches any tightened or shortened muscles in the lower back, but it also creates more space between the vertebrae, resulting in less back pain.
3. A better butt
This is arguably the most commonly known benefit of squats. The gluteus maximus is one of the largest muscles in the body, and is often the one many women in particular would like to work on. The full squat has been reported to target the butt even better than a parallel squat, so you could improve your butt even quicker.
2. Increased muscle throughout your body
Squats are well known for helping to build your leg and glute muscles, but they also encourage your entire body to build muscle and burn fat. This means that it's not just your lower body that you are targeting. Squats can actually help to improve your upper body too.
1. Better posture
Squatting in general is great for your posture, as you need to ensure that your back is straight with your shoulders pulled back. Managing to do full squats with the perfect posture is somewhat more difficult though, as the body naturally wants to curve your back in a way that you would then be able to curl up into a ball. Combatting this and being able to full squat while still maintaining the perfect posture will in turn help to correct your day to day posture though.
Do you really need any more reasons to start going lower with your squats?
Many of us only go as low as a parallel squat because it has become physically impossible for us to keep our heels down when squatting past that level. Correctly performing a full depth squat is a sign of good mobility and strength, and would be a great goal to add to your targets for the next few months.
If you only do partial squats, then you can only receive partial benefits. Don't stop your squats at parallel, push all the way, and you will see the benefits.
Have you seen our real-time fitness series The DailyHiit Show? We post full-body workouts daily! And what's even better, they're FREE. Check out the video below (and subscribe to our email list) for the latest in fitness and weight loss.