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September 09, 2021 9 min read
Squats: we all love them. However, like the popular bench press, the form can be difficult, vague, and intimidating.
Still, squats, among bench presses and deadlifts, are considered one of the topmost effective compound movements, making them a must in every leg day routine. The typical squatter knows they should aim for parallel depth, but perhaps an ass-to-grass approach is more beneficial.
Before we can discuss ass-to-grass squats, or ATG squats for short, we must first establish some knowledge about squats in general. What makes them so important? What muscles do squats target? What is the right way to perform a squat?
Squats are a strength training movement that targets the lower body as well as the core. Traditionally, you’ll see people utilizing a barbell for squats. However, you can use a Smith machine, a kettlebell, dumbbells, or even just bodyweight, making them a very accessible type of movement.
Squats are a compound movement, meaning they work multiple muscle groups rather than isolating one muscle group.
In total, squats work your:
While nearly any form of physical movement is packed with benefits, there are a number of reasons you should integrate squats specifically into your fitness routine if you haven’t already.
Knowing how to do a conventional back squat is imperative before we can even begin discussing varied depths like the ATG squat. To do a squat:
The real question of the hour: should you be doing ass-to-grass squats? First, let’s discuss exactly what ATG squats are. ATG squats are a type of very deep squat in which you lower your hips as far down as possible, surpassing parallel. Other than the depth, the form is pretty much the same as your conventional squat.
Everyone’s ATG depth is different as you should aim for a depth that is your personal maximum possible depth.You may be interested to know that it was Olympic weightlifting that made this type of squat more mainstream. Olympic weightlifters use ATG squats in order to complete certain movements, like the snatch and the clean and jerk.
It was powerlifters who created the idea of reaching parallel as it became the standard in powerlifting competitions. Squatting to parallel is a good way to compare competitors, eliminating any squats that don’t reach parallel. Furthermore, less movement allows for more weight movement, so you’re likely to have a lower ATG squat than you would the more mainstream parallel-depth squat.
In short, the depth you choose is up to your personal preference and what works for your body. While there is no proper squat depth definition, although this is a very hot debate, avoid squats that are too shallow. Anything above parallel, known as a partial squat, is typically a waste of your time, unless you are moving particularly heavy weight and don’t care much about building a good range of motion.
If you wish to see a great bit of development all around, ATG squats are the way to go. Furthermore, even if you want your quads to develop well, ATG squats can be an effective way to achieve this. You’re just far more likely to see development in the other movers, as well. Quads will be especially highlighted with ATG squats, which may be an attractive aspect to bodybuilders.
ATG squats are also great for improving your balance and stability. Your core will be working overtime to keep your body stable, especially once you’ve reached a deep depth. Additionally, you will increase your lower body flexibility. If you’re training for Olympic lifting, ATG squats would be a great addition to your training program.
It will help you prepare for numerous competition movements, like your snatch and clean and jerk. You build your power from the deep depths of your squat in these positions, so it is helpful to be strong in this aspect. Training for a full range of motion is important in improving overall bodily functions. So, if you wish to achieve a wide range of mobility, choose ATG.
Of course, your choice to do ATG squats may come down to your personal anatomy. If ATG squats are painful (in a bad way) for you to perform, you may not have the proper structure to get the most from this squat variation.If you love your conventional squats but feel stuck in your progress, implementing ATG squats can help work parts of your lower body that may be weak and thus halting your progress.
ATG squats can also help you learn certain parts of the conventional squat form, especially for knee movement.ATG squats are great for working on muscular activation. You can even perform them at bodyweight for your squat warm up, working on really feeling each muscle contract throughout the movement.
The extent of the depth not only allows you more time to think about the muscles you want to activate but will also allow these muscles to activate more intensely.One often overlooked ATG perk relates to climbers. Climbing is an extremely agility and mobility-demanding sport.
Furthermore, the number of times a climber needs power in deep knee flexion can be often, depending on the climber’s level. Additionally, well-developed quads are highly beneficial for climbers. If you’re a climber and need to boost your climbing game, ATG squats may be your answer!
ATG squats are particularly hard on the knees as they require intense and deep knee flexion. If you have knee problems or feel knee pain when doing ATG squats, it is best to discontinue this variation. You can always increase the muscles around the knee joints by doing parallel squats and then move on to ATG squats in the future. This is also true of your ankles, as you also require good ankle mobility.
If you are a squatting beginner, ATG squats will feel extremely difficult and may be impossible, especially with free weights. You should have a good bit of stability, balance, and strength already established before performing ATG squats.
Otherwise, lifters may open themselves to unnecessary risk of injury. Even if you can perform ATG squats, your form may be off. Watch especially for any rounding of the low back, or lumbar area. Like a conventional squat, your back should remain aligned and straight.
Think about what makes the most sense for you, as well. If you’re an Olympic weightlifter, then ATG squats will help you boost performance. However, if your activity does not mimic the movement in an ATG squat, an exaggerated squat depth may be a waste of your time.
If you are focused on lifting heavy loads, ATG is not typically the way to get there. While you can utilize these squats as a tool to boost your parallel-depth squats, you will likely not be able to move large amounts of weight.
ATG squats can be amazing when utilized correctly. To get the most from your ATG squats, there are a few things to focus on:
The depth of your squat depends on your specific goals and desires. Of course, taking a functional approach, or looking at your everyday activities and where you should be strongest, is a great way to decide whether ATG squats are for you.
ATG squats are most useful for Olympic lifters, but if you find yourself in need of lower body mobility or stronger quads, ATG squatting is essential. However, steer clear of ATG squatting if you fear they are bad for your knees!