Those who squat - how far do you go?

The general advice as we all know is to go to “just below parallel”. But that’s not cycling-specific. As cyclists is it worth deviating from this norm? Should we drop shallower to more accurately match our normal range of motion in the bike? And potentially be able to lift more, or potentially damage knees less? I am not an expert…

My gut feeling is “no”, and that it’s best to stick to the larger RoM, but I’m curious if anyone here knows better.

1 Like

Full ROM, or don’t waste your time


Too many people “ego lift”, and instead of dropping the weight to perform the exercise correctly, it’s done half-assed. Often times, form goes to crap, and injury ensues

Lots of theories on this. As a lifter with knee issues from multiple surgeries, I’ll tell you that I hit parallel and call it… the other camp will say “A2G” or nothing.

Realistically, I think you could create more issues in the long run going deep. Go for RoM, stay the course, and make sure you engage the hip/glutes.

1 Like

To be clear, I’ve always done full RoM, in just questioning whether I should stick with that. I’m not looking for someone to verify my bad habits :smile:

I was an “ego lifter” many years ago. Thanks to an L4L5, L5S1 injury, I’m now the wiser. It irks me to see crap deadlifting and squatting form

Check out starting strength’s squat guidance.With back squats you should have no knee issues if your form and muscle activation is correct. Most knee issues appear when you’re not correctly utilizing the posterior chain to get up out of the hole.


Strength training is making stronger muscles. Your sport influences which muscles you need to develop (both for performance and to address imbalances introduced by your sport, since we have to live with our bodies even off the bike), but my take is that sport-specific training is usually going to include a bike. Anything less specific than “on the bike” is general preparation, so make it general.

I don’t think lack of depth helps the knees, and my read is that most strength coaches don’t think it’s lack of depth that hurts the knees either. As for being able to lift more - if the goal is related to cycling, then the numbers don’t actually matter. The training effect matters. All the experts I’m aware of agree, the training stimulus is better with more range of motion. As you adapt, the weight will go up - to continue to provide a new stimulus, NOT to see bigger numbers.


All the way down…

1 Like

Agree. I had hip surgery and 90 degrees with a loaded bar was out of reach for a long time for me.

Just below parallel for me. A2G is way too much stress on the knees IMO. Anything less than parallel is inadequate, again, IMO. I generally prefer to front squat for less stress on my back. Since I’m not concerned with moving maximum weight these days, front squats and goblet squats work well.

I always squat hamstrings to calves but it requires, not just good form but also, good ankle and hip flexibility. I definitely wouldn’t say that everyone should squat that deep but I would say you should squat as deep as your form allows. And most people would probably benefit from being able to squat deeper. This to me is the difference between flexibility and mobility. A lot of people are flexible enough to get in a deepish squat, but not many can push weight from that position.

Full range of motion which for me is almost all the way down so my hamstrings touch my calves.

often said “ass to grass”

It’s been many years but, the strength and conditioning coaches where I went to University coached us (alpine ski racers) to go down about 90 degrees or a little less IIRC. The same staff worked with all the div1 sports including football. So right or wrong, form wise we did what the football guys were doing.

A2G or even close would have gotten us kicked out of the facility. To be fair we were lifting heavy compared to most. Very few reps as well so going after huge power…

What I think hasn’t been said is that there are two types of squat. There are olympic squats and powerlifting squats.

Olympic squats are meant to better isolate the quads, for these you use a narrow stance, high bar position and your butt goes as low as you can.

Powerlifting squats are meant to work the entire posterior chain and lift the maximum amount. For these you use a wide stance, lower bar position and your legs make an approximately 90 degree angle between hamstring and calf.

Unless you have a reason as to why you want to specifically hit your quads(bodybuilding, wanting to get into olympic lifting, etc.), you probably want to do powerlifting style squats because you’ll recruit more total muscle.


I switched from doing squats with the bar on my shoulders to in front of my clavicles. The weight is quite a lot less, but it is supposed to be better for core strength. I’m not sure sure what effect It has on squat depth, I suspect it is higher because balance is harder.

All I do is break 90. Any further and can put to much strain on my knees

Ass to grass…
JK it depend on your mobility and the type of squat.

High squat you can go much lower than low squat. High squat uses your quads more than low squat which utilizes your lower back more.
Front squats is probly the easiest to go all the way down.

But either way the risk to reward to squat lower than parallel is not worth it IMO.

1 Like

The type of squat really dictates the proper depth for it. A low-bar back squat will be shallower than a front squat, but the full range of motion for that squat. In such a squat many lifters will be doing it perfectly properly and their quads might only break parallel. That’s because it’s the depth at which the primary movers in that squat hit their strength shortening cycle.

People who are really good at squatting usually do lots of all of them. So I guess my answer would be all of them.

Back squats should be done with a wider stance, and really emphasize the glutes, hamstrings, and spinal erectors.

Front squats really emphasize the anterior chain, I.e., your quads, abs, etc. They’re much deeper, well past parallel quads.

You can also Olympic style squat, which is a very high bar on the back with a significantly narrower stance than a normal back squat. The normal stance lets you go much deeper, your hamstrings should completely cover your calves. Some people’s ability to do this is limited by limitations in ankle flexibility, but you’d an compensate with a raised heel.

I think it is also valuable to do very narrow stance squats on a raised heel ramp. This isolates the vmo, which can get out of balance with the other muscles in the legs.

That being said, it’s not as complicated as that sounds. Even if you’re squatting just once a week you can just rotate which ones you’re doing every 1-6 weeks.