Ever since I started lifting weights I always thought traditional squats, when your thighs go down to the same level as your knees and create a line parallel to the floor, were the preferred method of squatting. I assumed crossing parallel, when your thighs go below the level of your knees, were better left for the professionals and could potentially cause more risk for a knee injury.
That’s what I thought until a couple of weeks ago at least, when someone at the gym told me I was actually going to hurt my knees if I continued doing traditional-style squats. I was fairly surprised to hear this, and decided the subject was worth formally looking into… does crossing parallel prevent knee injury?
Basically I’ve gathered that when properly performed, deep squats will evenly and proportionately strengthen all of the muscles which stabilize and control the knee. Partial squats, on the other hand, will cause your quadriceps to become disproportionately stronger than your hamstrings which can result in:
- Damage to your patellar tendon
- Increased chance of pulling your hamstring
- Poor acceleration and jumping abilities
- Potential for a back or spinal injury from using too much weight
Looks like most serious and experienced weight-lifters recommend crossing parallel… so I’ve decided to change my ways. I have had to drop my weight from 175 pounds to 155 pounds in order to pull this off… but as Mark Rippetoe says,
“If it’s too heavy to squat below parallel, it’s too heavy to have on the back!”