Should You Squat All The Way Down?

This is a common question I have gotten as a personal trainer, and one that is “controversial.”

I thought of this post after I saw elite runner Lauren Fleshman post a video of her team mate doing a barbell squat. Someone commented that she should be going all the way down, and then debate ensued. Well, Lauren answered with a great, informative response, and others were debating. I’ll post her answer in a bit.

The question I always get is, “Should I squat all the way down?” (Ass to grass if you will).

how low should you squat

You may hear this a lot (that you should), but I’m going to tell you that you shouldn’t (my opinion). Here are 2 reasons:

You don’t have the flexibility or mobility to do so. Your hips might be tight. Your lower back might be tight. Or your core may not be strong enough. If you try to squat lower than you can, you could end up hurting yourself, and your form will definitely suffer.

The “tuck.” If you don’t have the flexibility, then your lower back will certainly tuck under, which puts a lot of stress on your lower back. Here’s what this looks like:


What causes the tuck? Here’s what trainer Tony Gentilcore says:

A vast majority of people (not everyone) are sitting in posterior tilt all day, and as a result the hamstrings tend to get stiff(er) relative to the anterior core.

Ask someone to take a video of you squatting, so you can determine if you have a tuck. If you do, Tony has some great videos to help fix the problem.

I urge you not to force yourself to squat lower than you are able to! At the same time, don’t be one of those people who loads up the bar with weight, and just squats a few inches. I read somewhere that doing loaded squats and only squatting like 1/4 of the way down puts way more pressure on your knees than going parallel. So if you can’t go parallel OR a little above parallel, work on mobility first, and then attempt to squat.

If squatting to parallel is an issue for you, try out front squats.

The different placement of the bar helps you use your core more, and it helps a lot of people go deeper than a back squat. You could also try placing plates under your heels in a back squat, to help you go a bit lower. I did this with my brother, and in a few weeks he was able to remove the plates.

Okay, back to Lauren Fleshman. So someone told her to squat all the way down, and she told that person that he didn’t know about runners mechanics and why they don’t squat all the way down. I asked her to explain and this was her response:

lauren fleshman


I squat to 90 degree, mainly because I can’t go all the way down yet. But for me, I think 90 degree squats are fine. Trust me, you will feel it. It is tough. To recap, here’s what you can do to improve your squats:

  • Work on flexibility and mobility. Foam roll! Foam roll right before squatting too to help with range of motion.
  • Put plates under your heels to help you go a little bit lower. The plates elevate your heels, which helps if you lack flexibility.
  • Try a front squat. If you’re intimidated to try it with a barbell, try it with a kettlebell first.
  • Go to parallel or slightly above – nothing wrong with that.
  • If you can’t squat at all, work on bodyweight squats to get the form down, then slowly add weight with dumbbells. Also do other leg exercises instead, like lunges, split squats, leg press, etc.

Do you do barbell squats? Have you tried front squats?

Would anyone like a post going more into depth about squat variations, perhaps with a video?


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Health/Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day

So how much snow did you get? Or are you one of the lucky ones who is in warm weather? We got about 11 inches…hoping this is the last snow storm of the winter!

Here are your health links for today:

  • Front Squat Benefits And Technique (Tony Gentilcore) – I have a love/hate relationship with front squats-they’re so much harder for me! But they really are a great exercise.
  • Tuna Cakes With Greek Yogurt Dill Sauce (Minou Girl) – Actually just made these for lunch and can’t wait to try them!
  • 15 Minute Mushroom Stroganoff (Amuse Your Bouche) – Just found this blog and can’t wait to look through all of the recipes. This looks like a great one for meatless Monday :)
  • Dynamic Warmup For Runners (Miss Zippy) – If you’re running in these cold conditions, then a warm-up is crucial! I do all of these moves before I head out for a run.

Have you tried front squats? Which do you prefer-front or back squats?


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The Importance Of Warming Up

Yesterday, I was reading this post by Tony Gentilcore on pre-workout warm-up steps. I have to admit, I’m pretty bad at warming up before runs, but when I’m in the gym lifting, I make sure to warm-up every single time.

The thought of lifting heavy weights and putting that load on my joints before warming up makes me cringe. And yes, I will try to warm up more before runs too ;)

warm up tips

Why You Should Warm-Up

Tony states:

Taking the time to warm up properly is crucial not only for optimal performance on the field, but also for continued progress in the gym—and it serves several functions:

  • Increases body temperature.
  • Improves joint lubrication.
  • Engages the nervous system to a larger degree.
  • Improves extensibility/flexibility of muscles.
  • Grooves movement patterns.
  • Better prepares you for a back-alley fight against a pack of zombies. You know, just in case.

Given that many of us spend an inordinate amount of time hunched over a desk in front of a computer on a daily basis, the warm-up should target the areas of the body that tend to be most problematic: the glutes, hips, thoracic spine, shoulders and core, to name a few.

How To Warm-Up

I used to just run on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes as a warm-up, but now I do that and make sure to get in some dynamic movements as well.

Tony suggests starting off with foam rolling because, “we tend to accumulate knots, adhesions and scar tissue in our muscles, which affect their extensibility, or ability to lengthen fully. If left unattended, these knots can become problematic and lead to muscle strains and other injuries.” Therefore, foam rolling before lifting helps release some of those knots, and get your muscles to fully lengthen.

Here are the exercises he suggests doing in your warm-up:

I usually change my warm-up depending on whether I’m training upper body or lower body that day. For a full-body workout day, I suggest you try out Tony’s warm-up.

Here’s how I warm-up for lower body days:

  • 2 min incline walk, then 5-10 min jog.
  • Slow body weight squats (10-15 reps)
  • Glute bridge (10 reps), then single leg glute bridge (5 on each leg).
  • This is all in one move: forward lunge, step back into reverse lunge, then feet together for a squat. Repeat 5x.

Upper body days:

  • Same treadmill warm-up.
  • 10 push-ups, then 10 knee push-ups
  • 10 Dive Bombers
  • 10 small arm circles, forward, then backward, 10 large arm circles, forward then backward.

But That’s Not All…

Do you think your car would perform optimally if you walked out on a 20-degree day, turned on the ignition, and then ramped it up to 60 mph on the highway without first letting it warm up?

Once you do the warm-up, you still continue the warm-up before doing your sets. For example, before setting up to do a bench press, I usually do lighter weight dumbbell presses to get my body ready. Tony discusses this in more detail in his article.

A good warm-up only takes about 10 minutes. Make sure to go through the exercises slowly, and it will help you lift heavier when you get to your main lifts.

Do you make sure to warm-up before every workout?

How do you warm-up?


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Health/Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day

I love going through my Bloglovin feed every week and finding great links to share with you.

Here are your health links for today:

What blog reader do you use to stay up to date with your favorite blogs/find great content? I used to be all about Google Reader but really like Bloglovin!


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Health/Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day

I feel like it’s been a while since I did one of these, but here are some great finds I found on the internet!

Here are your health links for today:

Do you drink packaged juices like Naked Juice? I picked one up once and was astounded by how much sugar it had!


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