I was all ready to throw up another blog entry that I have drafted up here at the Bodyweight Files. I was just waiting to get some pictures taken. Then Gubernatrix threw up her latest blog entry and it just grabbed my attention. I was going to post a rely but realizing I had so much to say on the subject, I realized that I had a timely blog entry instead. Plus, this interesting article in T-Nation kind of dovetails nicely into the topic at hand. More on that later...
Now, my favorite feminine-fitness blogger is usually pretty lenient in her assessment in how far down someone should squat. I'm far more opinionated. I think that, regardless of the demands or rules of your sport, you should always squat all the way to the ground. Ass to grass. If you can, you should. If you can't, then you should be working to get yourself there.
If you can't do that, then there's a problem. I never thought about this until I read yet another, really good article about it in T-Nation a while back. We were all born capable of achieving ATG squatting. If you watch young children, most of them can do this without a problem. However, us Westerners and office dwellers i do so much sitting that we lose the ability to ATG squat. We're only capable of ass-parallel squats because that's pretty much the extent of what we need our hamstrings to do for us. Since when did muscle weakness, shortness and stiffness become acceptable? Maybe it was the iron gamers who realized that you can lift more weight in partial, parallel squat than an ATG squat. Oh, ego has always been a good reason to pass along bogus training information! To top it all off, nobody's ever picked up a date from having well-developed hamstrings. Wow, NICE HAMSTRINGS!!!
Why the focus on the hamstrings? Follow the muscle and remember, a muscle pulls its ends together or releases them in a controlled manner. So, if you're going to get your tush to the turf, your hamstrings are going to have to bring you down there. If you've got short and/or stiff hamstrings that never do anything but get you to the seat of the chair, then this is the reason why you can't ATG squat. Keep something else in mind too: your hamstrings are in the same line of fascia that your lower back muscles are in (FYI, superficial Back Line). They're tied together. If your hamstrings aren't right, then your lower back could suffer as a result. So, this goes beyond simple Squat PR lifts.
There's a lot of good advice out there on how to re-develop this all-important capability within your hamstrings, including in the articles that I hyper-linked to. The one that I liked best was to kick aside your chair now and then and drop down into this squat whenever possible. Or, get yourself as low as possible. Practice it more often. If you need to look at something at knee level, then this is the perfect opportunity. I did this at work when doing some of my rounds and it's really served me well. I could get down there but I couldn't stay there comfortably. Now, I can stay down there for prolonged periods of time, if needs be.
I'm sure that this will continue to spark hot debates by armchair quarterbacks and PR-obsessed squat freaks but as far as I'm concerned, there's not a whole lot or room for conversation. ATG isn't a gift that some are born with, it's something that we lose from inaction. That never flies with any other physical endeavor in the fitness world and squatting should be no exception. That's wrong and runs contrary to what fitness is all about.