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Squats – Ass To Grass Or Not?
- Updated: July 25, 2015
By Andy Bruchey – There are plenty of exercises that have become widely recognized as staples of the bodybuilding world. These movements have long been associated with strength and hypertrophy, and thus, have been with us for decades. Bench presses, overhead dumbbell presses, bicep curls of any kind, and last, but certainly not least, squats.
The squat exercise has a long and fabled history, and has also enjoyed the honor of being the second most often posed question amongst rival strongmen and novice meatheads alike. “How much do you squat?” The first, of course, being “how much do you bench?”
Strength, physique, and anatomical balance aren’t based upon how much you can squat, but rather how you squat for your specific body type. “Ass to grass” is a bravado fueled cliché when talking about squatting, but is that what’s best for you? Can your patellar insertions support that? Can your TFL’s, Piriformis’, and gluteal muscles handle that extra stress? Those who have a genetic predisposition to gluteal imbalances, will usually find that descending to approximately 70 degrees, or so, will generate far better results and all the while, minimizing the potential for injuries. “Ass to grass” is great on paper, but it’s certainly not for everyone.
Some people can, and should go very low on their squats. They have ample pliability, and a solid foundation of strong hip flexor, gluteal, and quadracep muscles to support this range of motion. However, not everyone is equipped to do this, and would be wise to avoid the cliché simply because it’s an adage thrown around the gym.
The squat, when done properly, is a very beneficial exercise. It’s categorized as a compound movement, meaning it works different muscle groups all the while targeting one specific one. Wide stance squats, for example, will involve a lot of gluteal muscles, as well as hamstrings, and adductor muscles. Employing a narrow stance will accentuate the quadricep muscles, with an emphasis on the sweep of the thighs, otherwise known as the vastus lateralis. Neither is superior categorically speaking, but like anything else in the fitness world, it simply depends upon your needs and individual anatomical structure.
There has been much debate concerning how the squat compares to other leg exercises, particularly the leg press. In a nutshell, it doesn’t compare because it’s an entirely different thing. Yes, you can target the same muscles with either movement, but the approaches are so varied, that it becomes a comparison of apples versus oranges. While both movements require a strong psoas, the squat requires a stronger set of spinal erectors, and core muscles to avert injury. This is not to say that it is superior generally speaking, but individually speaking, it very well may be.
Squats have been such an enduring exercise in the fitness world simply because they work. That said, they are not for everyone. Some people would be far better off choosing alternative leg exercises, such as lunges, presses, etc. We are not all built the same, nor do we all respond to things the same way. Everyone has their own particular set of tightness’ and imbalances that must be catered to and worked around until they are resolved in order to achieve the best possible results, as well as to avoid injury.
Andy Bruchey is the founder of the Austin Fitness Center and has been a personal trainer for 20 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org