There is No One, Acceptable Squat Depth

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Squat depth is a highly debatable topic.

Everyone seems to have an overly strong opinion on squats and how low that they should go.

I believe that this is because trainers/coaches are pushing their own agendas on clients to prove some kind of point.

I also think that everyone just needs to take it easy when it comes to squats and depth.

Olympic lifters should squat way below parallel and powerlifters should squat to parallel. Everyone else kind of depends.

A 40 year old person that has never performed a squat before, let alone exercised in the last 10 years might not be able to drop into a full squat for a while. Should that person not train until they can get into the full squat?

Some still forget that a training effect is required to get something out of a workout. Spending the entire time working on foam rolling and hip mobility will not get that training effect. Even after that the person may still not squat according to textbook.

A squat requires good ankle mobility, stable knees, exceptional hip mobility, strong core, good t spine extension, and shoulder range of motion.

Those are a lot of things that need to align for a good squat. Most people will not have a couple of them.

One of the most famous arguments for full squats is that it will prevent injury. For who?

When is an adult going to need to get their hips below parallel, like an athlete might?

The real verdict is that people should squat as low as they can while it still looks good.

This is a good squat

This is a good squat

back-squat 2

and so is this

 

A lot of times squats look really good until the hips start to go below the knees in which case the back rounds, shoulders come forward, and the knees cave in. That is not a good squat and I wouldn’t want anyone doing that.

On the other hand, I don’t want people to be stuck using an unloaded bar trying to add a centimeter of depth because of some guideline that exists due to two lifting sports.

The unfortunate truth is that most people will not do the things that they need to do outside of the gym to get on an agenda that doesn’t fit them. Someone may spend 3 hours in the gym per week. That is 165 left in the week to not make progress toward the goal.

Like I said before, the goal is to make progress and not fit in someone’s agenda.

There are also a lot of limiting factors that go into squat depth. Injuries can exist without even knowing about them. If something is not really bothering the person it often gets kept to themselves.

Someone with FAI, for example, will never squat below parallel.

They actually will probably just make their condition worse by squatting at all.

Most people are not qualified to make that distinction and the surgery for it is probably too extreme for most people.

The following list are some things that go into someone’s squat depth.

  • Do they know how to squat?
  • Do they have any injuries?
  • Do they have any structural limitations?
  • What does a bodyweight or lightly loaded squat look like?
  • Do they have any pain from squatting?
  • Are they giving the exercise enough attention?
  • Do they really care about how well they squat?

That last one is important. If the squat is good enough to qualify as more than a ¼ squat and the person is not excessively loading the bar, then I would imagine the injury risk is low.

Most people do not have the answers to all of these questions and they probably do not want to find out.

The goal is always to get below parallel. How much will be determined by your background and experience. This is not a one size fits all approach, however.

Some people’s squats turn into a disaster once they get past parallel. Maybe they shouldn’t go any lower because their body can’t handle it. Some people can drop right into the hole, no problem. Great, then go nuts.

Before we dig more into the individual then there is no need to have mighty debates on squat depth. Everyone is different and needs to find what their limits are.

Do not overload the bar, do not find excuses for high squats.

The bottom line is that everyone cannot squat to the same depth and shouldn’t be expected to. It is individual and will vary depending on the person.