This week’s 5 Reason’s To article is going to be based on why you should squat deep, and by deep I mean as low as you can with proper squat mechanics with the goal to be at least to get the hip crease below the knee. Beyond the obvious concept of full range of motion being better than a partial range of motion, there are a ton of reasons to squat deeper rather than shallower but today I’m going to hit on 5 important or controversial reasons.
The first thing that has to be addressed is what does proper squat depth look like and what does improper squat depth look like.
The first squat done is too deep or low as you can see the lower back round and the butt tuck underneath the hips (also known as buttwink). The second is too shallow (not deep enough) as the hip crease remains well above the knee and all sorts of benefits are being left down on the floor. The third and final squat is spot on for squat depth and should be your depth goal; the hips are below the knees yet the back is still flat and the hips stay in proper alignment.
Proper squat depth is defined as low as YOU can squat with the back in proper alignment and the hips and upper back positioned properly. If that does happen to fall above what is known as parallel (hip crease even with the knees) then mobility and stability should be your main focus while you continue squatting to grind in that pattern. Check out our YouTube videos on ankle, hip, and thoracic spine mobility for more information there https://www.youtube.com/user/NCPrecisionfitness/videos.
Now that we have defined proper depth, and that it can differ from person to person, let’s look at the reasons to squat deep:
1) It has become much more accepted that deep squats are no more dangerous on the knee than partial squats over the past few years. The greatest shear force on the knee occurs in the first 30 degrees of the movement and from 30 to 120 degrees that force does not change. The next level of this occurs from the contact between the knee cap and the femur during leg flexion. As you squat deep, the contact area between the two increases creating a larger surface for force to be distributed, when you are squatting shallower more force is being put on a smaller area creating more damage to the sub-patellar cartilage, aka degeneration.
2) Squatting deep causes more activation from the erector spinae and rectus femoris, which translates to your body working harder to create proper back and hip positioning while you get lower in the squat. Stopping higher up in the squat may be easier to keep proper positioning, but going deeper will have a better carry over to every other aspect of your life as you stability keeps improving.
3) Some people want big legs, they want more size below the belt line and the squat is the best way to accomplish this goal. Squatting down halfway will give you some size, squatting down deeper will create more muscle activation leading to more muscle. It’s simple, the more muscle you get to work, the more damage you can create, and the bigger the muscles become after proper recovery. Don’t short change your muscles trying to move more weight over a smaller area, go to full depth and get every muscle to work.
4) To go along with the fourth point, hip extensor torque (hamstrings and glutes) increased as you go lower into your squat. Stopping a squat part way down loads the quads almost exclusively, but as you descend down below parallel the torque is shifted to the posterior chain making the glutes and the hamstrings take over more work to come out of the bottom of the squat. A lot of people already fight muscle imbalances in the legs being quad dominant, don’t increase the imbalance by cutting the squat shorter, instead build those iron glutes but getting your hips low.
5) The last point to make here is that your athletic performance will improve more so than you would with partial reps; specifically your vertical jump which is all power. Better motor control of your muscles leads to more muscles firing on time, which turns in to more power being produced by your body. Want to move more explosively then squat deep and get all your muscles turned on ready to move right away.