Should you squat ass to grass? Or stop at parallel? 🤔 It’s a question that many of you have asked and we’ll provide our answer today. Many things need to be taken into account when determining squat depth. Most importantly, you need to determine your lower extremity mobility (specifically of the hips and ankles), your comfort with varying squat depths or squat variations, and finally your training goals.
Naturally, you might presume that the further down you go the better because more is better right? In a recent 2017 study by Conteras et al, they investigated the EMG activity of various muscles in women who did resistance training and compared the PARALLEL SQUAT vs FULL SQUAT vs FRONT SQUAT (they used high bar). One of their big findings contradicted previous research while having a much better methodological data collection. They found that there is that there is SIMILAR glute (upper and lower fibers), bicep femoris (a hamstring muscle), and vastus lateralis (a quadriceps muscle) muscle EMG activity between all 3 squat variations.
So, NO. ❌ Full squat depth does NOT mean more gluteus maximus activation. However, when it comes to resistance training for HYPERTROPHY, it is widely agreed upon that using a ⬆ greater range of motion leads to more hypertrophic changes, most likely due to the increased ROM/longer eccentric muscle activation. So while the full and parallel squat styles might elicit similar gluteal EMG activities, if your goal is HYPERTROPHY, you should go for a FULL squat depth.
But can everyone perform a full squat? Hell no. And if you have individual morphologic variations or pathologies (i.e. femoroacetabular impingement) or restricted ankle mobility into dorsiflexion, the full squat is NOT a viable option for you as it could lead to losing lumbar lordosis and injury over time. So keep working on your hip and ankle mobility and in the meantime stick to a parallel squat, cause you get the same glute activation 👍
In summary, if you’re unable to perform a full squat, you aren’t necessarily missing out on any additional gluteal activation. However, for hypertrophic and strength training gains, it’s advantageous to get as low as your anatomy allows you. As with any exercise, let your anatomy and goals determine your individual squat depth!!