What Should A Strength Program Include: Performance Principles
If you are in search of how to structure your S&C program, take a look at the Performance Principles Article. It will put in perspective what should be included when designing programs for your athletes. Of course every athlete has different needs as well as different positions require different movements, but if you build your program around these basic principles, your athletes will be in good hands.
It seems that the majority of articles recommend ATG. The pressure remains on the knees if you only go parallel. If you go ATG the pressure is not on the knees below parallel. Plus with ATG you engage the hamstrings.
ATG squats or parallel squats in general are a touchy subject. Depending on what you are working on and who the particular athlete is will determine if you will ATG squat, parallel squat or even squat at all. A pre-screening evaluation should take place to see how much stability and flexibility the athlete has at the hip joint, knee joints as well as thoracic extension. Training experience will also determine if the athlete should be squatting or doing squat variations. Athletes with limited hip flexion, poor thoracic extension or quad dominant firing will not be a good case for ATG squatting. Exercises to increase flexibility at the hip, foam rolling or thoracic extension exercises will help as well as adding some hamstring/glute firing exercises.
It's tough to really load the bar during a squat because it becomes a low back exercise instead of a leg exercise. Most of the athletes that train at AB do Deadlifts, Deadlift variations, SL work or Split Squats. This saves their lower back but still allows them to recruit the musculature needed to apply force to the ground. A common mistake when an athlete ATG squats, the lower back will most likely round off, increasing stress at the lumbar spine. Since most female athletes are quad dominant and have trouble firing their glute and hamstrings, it will be tough for them to fire their hamstrings/glutes to drive them out of the ATG position. Another common mistake is for the weight to be shifted onto the toes. This will cause shear force at the knees (direct stress on the ACL) because the ACL prevents anterior translation of the tibia in relation to the femur. If an athlete is advanced enough, ATG would be a decent exercise to implement but only if the athlete is performing this with body weight or training bars or if the focus was on negatives (eccentric contractions).
Other recommendations would be Deadlifts, Sumo Squats or Sumo Deadlifts, Single Leg Squats, Split Squats, Lunge Variations, RDLs, Band Squats. These lifts can be modified and the major muscle groups will still be receiving the same attention it needs.
Last edited by austinwass; 12-14-2011 at 11:17 AM.
Agreed. It all depends on who you are training, previous injury history, previous training experience, and if their body actually allows them to squat correctly. Modifications can be made if necessary. The squat is not the only exercise that has to be implemented in everyone's workout.
It seems that the majority of articles recommend ATG.
There are very few absolutes in the gym, but most of the people who insist that ATG is the only way to squat are generally those who want to be perceived as 'hardcore'.
Not every body was intended to squat through the same range of motion as every other body and for many of us, the way we squat today is not the way we could squat 20 years ago. Could the limits be the result of poor squatting techniques or overexertion in the past? That's possible, but when talking about 15yo athletes, less is often more with respect to using weight training in strengthening their young bodies now without setting them up to break down in their mid-30s.
While it's wrong to assume that every young athlete's body is created equally with respect to tolerances, if people wish to believe otherwise, they're entitled to.
I'm not going to get into a debate with anyone here about physics, physiology, and the weight room.
There are enough variations on the basic squat movement such that most athletes could derive some benefit from including them in their training. You find out what works for your body by executing the movements properly and as a trainer, you find out what works best for your athletes by having them execute a variety of movements. Beyond that, I'm not getting caught up in what other people might swear by for their success.
Several articles state that the knees are weakest at the point of being parallel to the ground. Below parallel there is hardly any pressure on the knees.
I agree with this. I would also like to add that squatting all the way down is a completely natural movement that as adults, we tend to get away from. Look at toddlers and young children. When they squat, their butt is as far down as it could possibly get.
The following was written by Eric Cressey
Salem and Powers (2001) looked at patellofemoral joint kinetics in female collegiate athletes at three different depths: 70 degrees (above parallel), 90 degrees (at parallel), and 110 degrees (below parallel) of knee flexion. The researchers found that "Peak knee extensor moment, patellofemoral joint reaction force and patellofemoral joint stress did not vary significantly between the three squatting trials (2);" there was no support for the idea that squatting below parallel increases stress on the patellofemoral joint.
It's important to also note that squatting depth should be determined by the athlete's flexibility and goals, as well as the nature of his sport. If one doesn't have the flexibility to get below parallel safely, then the rock-bottom squat shouldn't be part of his arsenal; this athlete's attention would be better devoted elsewhere and possibly supplemented with squats at or above parallel.
It stands to reason that different athletes will have different goals in light of the demands of their sports, too. For instance, Olympic lifters and rock climbers would require positions of deep closed-chain knee flexion more often that offensive linemen and marathoners. Then again, the nature of some sports requires that deep squatting be used to offset the imbalances that result from always working the knee extensors in the 1/4 and 1/2 squat positions; this is one reason that cyclists, hockey players, and athletes who do significant amounts of running (e.g. soccer players, marathoners) ought to prioritize deep squatting and single-leg movements early in the off-season.
Finally, it's important to remember that while a full range-of-motion squat will offer noticeable carryover to top-end strength, 1/4 squats will not yield strength increases in the lower positions. Effectively, you get more bang for your training buck by squatting deep, which is one reason why this modality is the best option for those purely interested in looking good nekkid.
About the Author
Eric Cressey, BS, CSCS has a Master's Degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science at the University of Connecticut. A competitive powerlifter, Eric has written over fifty articles for publication in various online and print magazines. He has experience in athletic performance, rehabilitation, human performance laboratory and general conditioning settings. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. GJ Salem and CM Powers. Patellofemoral joint kinetics during squatting in collegiate women athletes. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon), June 1, 2001; 16(5): 424-30.
Last edited by crystlemc; 12-15-2011 at 12:46 PM.
Reason: Edited for brevity