Squat Depth: How Deep Should You Squat?

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Workout Of The Month: How Deep Should You Squat?

It’s about that time again for the workout of the month. Each month we take a look at a different exercise and break it down by movement, how to do it, and discuss some of the positive vs. negative impact that it can have to you and your level of fitness. Some workout’s of the month breakdown how to do a common exercise, other’s feature a more detailed look on how movements can affect our bodies. For this month’s workout, we’ll be addressing the age old question: how deep should you squat?

How Deep Should You Squat?

I like squatting, it’s one of those basic functional human movements that if executed properly can benefit your entire body. Did you know it’s estimated that over 200 muscles are involved when performing the squat. The worst part about squats is, everyone has an opinion about how to do them. The general consensus by most people is that squatting low – or deep squats – is priming your body for some type of injury. Some of the common sayings are: you’re going to hurt your knees squatting low or you’re going to hurt your back squatting like that. There’s also the common, you’re going to be in a wheelchair by the time you’re fifty from squatting low. Because of this common misconception, traditionally you’ll see people only partially performing squats, ex: not all the way past your knees.

For competition purposes the definition of a squat is when your the crease of your hips falls just below the crease of your knees. Yet in gym after gym, the common mantra is: deep squats are bad for you.

How Low Should You Go When You Squat?

Squatting – so easy a kid can do it. Hip crease below the knee crease and a neutral, straight and aligned back. People were made to squat. A lifetime of not paying attention to mobility and stretching will wreak havoc on your form.

Luckily, for everyone who reads this, you don’t need to rely on crappy gym advice to tell you that doing deep squats is bad for your knees and back. In 2013 a huge review of scientific literature encompassing a review of over 164 different articles pertaining to squat form and how it has an effect on your knees and back found that full range of motion squats will not increase the risk for knee problems despite what so many people claim.

Findings Of The Study:

1. Evidence suggesting that low deep squats are bad for your knees is unfounded.
2. The most pressure exerted on your knees in a squat position is when your knees are at 90 degrees – or when your legs are parallel to the floor. As you squat deeper, pressure on the knees decreases.
3. Knee pain, osteoarthritis, and osteochondritis (when when a piece of cartilage comes loose from the end of a bone) claims from deep squats is unfounded.
4. With the same weight loads as deep squats, half and quarter squats are more likely to favor degenerative changes in the knee joints and spinal joints in the long term.

Can Your Hurt Yourself From Deep Squats?

You can hurt yourself from just about anything, that includes squating, whether it be squatting in any form. A lot of people lack the patience to allow their body to adjust to proper body mechanics.

Here are a few things that will increase your risk for injury from deep squats:

1. You don’t have the flexibility to perform a deep squat with just your body weight. What makes you think you’ll be able to do a deep squat with a weight strapped to your back?
2. You can’t perform a deep squat with your own body weight without rounding your back forward. In that case, you need to do some muscle imbalance corrections: core strengthening and stretching your hip flexors – see six reasons you can’t squat .

Squats are a type of exercise and body movement that take time to accurately develop and strength gains should increase gradually. That guy at the gym who squats three hundred pounds without doing a full, deep range of motion – ask him to do a deep squat with the same amount of weight. It’s not going to happen.

The truth is that most of our bodies are so jacked up in the hips from a lifetime of sitting, not stretching, and other factors that it takes a lot of mobility work to be able to properly perform squats. To sum it all up however: deep squats are not bad for your body.

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1. Hartmann H., Wirth K., Klusemann M. “Analysis Of The Load On The Knee Joint and Vertebral Colum With Changes In Squatting Depth and Weight Load.” Sports Medicine. October 2013. Web. 8 Sep. 2014.


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