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When it comes to squatting, determining the depth to which the lifter should go to is of highest importance. First, this creates a standard to which everyone can work with. Secondly – and more importantly – it determines how efficiently the squat is used as arguably the most important strength builder.

Various forms of depths in the squat exist, and if your fantasy is rich, you could call any form of squat depth a valid squat if it fits your own reasoning.

On the other hand, there are better ways to squat and by simple logic explain why a certain squat depth is used, and why others aren't used.

Let’s start with the latter: at Strong For Life, we neither squat “a** to grass”, and neither do we squat too shallow, which in the most ambitious case is a very-short-range quarter squat. Deep squats (sitting down on the floor, "a** to grass" basically) are inefficient squats as the hamstrings, glutes, and quads have to relax at the bottom position. This reduces tension, and thus builds a reduced amount of strength. Another major drawback of this type of squat is that it requires a relatively high degree of ankle flexion so your knees can travel forward at the bottom. This represents an issue for a certain part of the population, and therefore this type of squat cannot be standardised for everyone in a barbell training gym.

Quarter squats – residing on the other end of the depth spectrum – allow you to lift a much heavier weight than any squat going lower than this. The major drawback is that this type of squat doesn’t recruit as much muscle mass as a correct squat, places unwanted pressure on the lower spine and knees, and simply does not develop strength over the most beneficial range of motion.

At Strong For Life, our squat depth is set at below parallel – which means that the crease of the hip is moving just below the top of the knee cap or patella tendon. This results in two major outcomes: One, the gluteus maximus and upper part of the hamstrings most efficiently kick in at the position right below parallel. Anything that is a shallow squat does not recruit enough fibers of these muscles. Two, the “bounce” out of the hole is magnified. This uses the so-called stretch reflex in the best possible way. Picture the stretch reflex this way: your quads, hamstrings and glutes are charged with elastic energy as you descend in the squat. As you drop below parallel, the mechanical efficiency and thus the potential for releasing most of this elastic energy is the highest.

In order to obtain this squat depth, three things need to fall into place: a forward lean in the trunk, knees pushed out, and knees set just in front of vertical. The forward lean enables the lifter to stay in his or her hips at the bottom, allowing it to drop below the top of the patella. Pushing the knees out opens up the hips – allowing for greater depth. Setting the knees to just in front of vertical prevents a knee slide. If your knees slide forward excessively at the bottom of the squat, your hip crease cannot drop below parallel.

The squat is a highly technical movement that requires a good amount of years of coaching to get even close to talking about mastery.

Get in touch with us to learn more, and we help you squat correctly within your first training session.

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