A common question about squats is whether you should only go on parallel or do a full squat instead.
A full squat with flat feet on the ground is a natural position for humans and everyone should be able to do it. If you cannot get in that full squat position, there is something wrong in terms of flexibility and you should definitely work on increasing your range of motion in that position.
This holds true for when you’re doing just your bodyweight or a light weight. But what about heavy weights? People usually avoid doing a full squat with heavier weights for two reasons.
One of the reasons is because of powerlifting competitions. In these they go to parallel and stand up after that, instead of going for a complete rock bottom squat. The judges are looking for the thighs to get parallel and the green light is given after that. This isn’t a bad thing, but the problem is that people take a rule which is created for a specific competition and apply it to their training routine.
Secondly, your lower back is more than likely not completely straight when you do a full squat, which is not the case with a parallel squat. The lower lumbar rounds at the bottom position for most people. Now this is somewhat debatable, and I would say that a full squat is just fine if you are using light to moderate weights, but for heavy ones go for a parallel squat in order to prevent back injuries.
What is better for all around athleticism? As long as you have the full range of motion and flexibility required, doing parallel squats are fine to build strength. If you’re really looking for something that will increase your explosiveness and power in various sports realize that seldom if ever are you doing even a half squat. Usually various athletic stances involve only a slight bend in the hips and knees. Therefore, heavy partial squats are more useful than full or even parallel squats.
In case you’re looking to take your squat training to the next level, find out more about the Ultimate Guide to Bodyweight Squats and Pistols.