Does Crossing Parallel Prevent Knee Injury?

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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?

Well according to Mark Rippetoe from Starting Strength, Jason Shea from Dean College, and 3 different “meat heads” at the gym… it does!

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

even Arnold loves deep squats!

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!


6 thoughts on “Does Crossing Parallel Prevent Knee Injury?

  1. This is interesting thanks, it would appear that I’ve been squatting all wrong – eek! Like you, I thought any deeper than the ‘conventional’ way led to injury. Thanks for re-educating me, will def be trying it the other way in future. Love me some squats 🙂

  2. another way to save your knees is to do box squats. A lot of people that I have trained that have had knee injuries i have do box squats. Also with box squats you can sit back further so it trains more of the hips and keeps the knees from shifting forward. A lot athletes and powerlifters do box squats now for various reasons but one of them is, that a correct box squat can be done more often because it stresses the knee way less.

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