How low should you go… [Squats!]

Squats

Squats!! One of my all time favourite exercises. Pretty much always included in my programmes, in one form or another. And most of you who have attended a session with me will have at some point heard me say: LOWER!!!

But the question arises, How low is low enough?

And of course, the answer isn’t simple. But “It depends” on a number of factors.

Let’s start with:

What’s your objective?

For most of us, the objective is some combination of: get fit, lose weight, build muscle, get stronger. In this case, the best solution is to perform lots of different types of squats. You can vary the squat by:

  •  Changing the weight: A lower weight should allow for deeper squats. But heavier weights will help you get stronger, build more lean muscle.
  • Changing your stance: a wider the stance and or toes pointin out should allow for deeper squats
  • Changing the position of the weight: a front loaded squat generally allows for deeper squats than a weight loaded on your back

For others, the objective might be improvement in sports. In this case, you should use the squat in the way that it best mimics the movement in the sport you wish to improve in. So for example, hockey players, any sport that involves jumping, weightlifting or powerlifting (which has it’s own rules on required depth) would all benefit from deep squats. As low as you can go, with the required weight. Having said that, participants in sports would also benefit from a periodised programme where weights and depths and reps are varied according to the compeititive phase… [Wanna know my programme? Ask in the comments!]

There’s another critical factor though…

What can you do?

Let’s face it, we’re not exactly spring chickens [who knows a song about that?]. Chances are that we have some injuries, niggles or limitations to how deep we can squat. And in any case, we all have incredibly different body shapes and, particularly, hip sockets that will affect how we can move. This is why everybody adopts very different stances when setting up the squat. So the recommendation in this case is: do what feels comfortable.

However having said all that, there are some key principles to aim for:

Key principles

  • Mobility is a key component of fitness. And this is why I always encourage my mums to go lower… Increasing range of motion, in this case the depth of squat, should be a goal for most of us.
  • Variety is good! It’s good to try different stances, different depths and different weights. In our training groups we do this by incorporating variations such as body weight vs weighted, sumo squats, 1 and 1/4 squats,, split squats and so on.
  • If you find you’re stuck on a particular weight or range of motion, it’s a good idea to change on of the parameters (stance, weights, type of squat) to help get unstuck.
  • You can improve your squat depth by working on ankle mobility, hip mobility and core strength. In fact, when I took the photos above I noticed I seemed to leaning forwards too much which suggested foot / ankle stiffness. And in the deep squat, I have lost a bit of stiffness in my back, a sign of weak core, also known as butt wink.

Want to learn some tips about how to improve your squat depth? Add a comment and I’ll be happy to write it up!