VIDEO: Find Out Exactly How Low To Squat

If you hang around a gym or read the social media of workout fanatics, you're probably confused by differing opinions about how low to squat. Should you squat to parallel? Should you squat just past parallel? Go ass to the grass? Or is there another answer…

Here's the thing: at the end of the day there isn't one rule about squatting that's suitable for everyone. We’re all snowflakes, etc.. etc… So any posturing that argues that there is only one 'legit' way to squat is - to put it politely - a lot of hot air. And since the promotion of ideas that injure people really gets under my craw, I've written about this before.

But what I didn't write about in that piece are the key details that determine how low YOU should squat.

So, here it is. There are only 3 points.

  1. Avoid pain. This is pretty self explanatory, but squat within a pain free range of motion. If you have knee or hip issues, this could change slightly day to day.

  2. Don't let your feet move, even a little. Establish a 'tri-pod foot'. In other words, maintain active pressure into the floor with your big toe, little toe and heel. The idea isn't to crunch your toes up. But imagine your foot is a suction cup that you're to smoosh into the floor. As soon as you start your squat to the moment you've returned to the top, the weight distribution on your foot shouldn't change - not even one iota. When your foot moves, you lose stability and usually put excessive strain on your ankle or knee.

  3. Maintain an active, neutral spine. If you go too low based on your body control and flexibility, you will inevitably compensate by bending (flexing) your spine. That's not a good thing to do under load. Only go as low as you can with a neutral spine. This problem is commonly referred to as 'butt wink', and I filmed a real time training session with a client to show how to fix it.



How low to squat: a few OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

In my experience, most people have the potential to squat below parallel while maintaining those three points above. Some can do it easily on day one. Others need months of practice. It's fair to say that a deep squat is an indirect sign that you have decent hip and ankle mobility and good body control. It's also a great bang-for-your-buck exercise for many people.

Having said that, not everyone is build to squat. If your femurs are very long, or your hips sockets are very deep, you won't be able to deep squat as well as someone who’s not build that way. That's just life… and physics. 

The good news is that the squat, like any exercise, is just a means to an end. If you can get some training value from it, great! If you need to modify it to fit your body, do it. If other exercises are simply more effective for you, stick to those.

If you compete in a sport that requires a specific range of motion in the squat, i.e. you do CrossFit or Powerlifting, then you need to get comfortable with that sport's standard. If it's a sport you compete in, you probably want to find a way to cheat the movement and shorten it up as much as possible while still passing the range of motion. After all, you don't get extra points for exceeding the minimum requirement.