How Deep Should You Squat?
I am a person who knows how to appreciate the huge variety of squats in our world. High squats, low squats, front squats, back squats are all great. And yet, people on the Internet love to argue about which squat is the best. So here’s a quick guide to squat depth and how to find the squat that’s right for you.
Before we start, I would like to invite you to think about why you squat because there might be a very simple answer here. Are you competing or just trying to get stronger, whichever suits you best?
If you are a powerlifter
Powerlifters compete in squats, bench presses, and deadlifts. If you do these three movements, it can be beneficial for you if you do them (at least sometimes) according to competition standards. Thus, if you ever decide to participate in a competition, you will already have memorized patterns of movements and you will know how strong you are in specific competitive exercises. For the bench press, this means a pause at the chest. For squats, this means you need to hit depth.
Check your federation’s code of practice, but usually the rule is that the crease of the thigh should be lower than the top of the kneecap. Roughly speaking, this corresponds to having your hip parallel to the floor, so people will describe this position as “parallel.”Here’s a video showing what this depth means and how the judges see it:
If you’re preparing for a competition, it’s best to ask your trainer or an experienced athlete to take a look at your squat.
Some powerlifters tend to squat an inch below parallel . This means you don’t move more than you need to, and the extra inch gives you a little room for imagination in the event of harsh judgment or imperfect positioning on your part. (Remember, there are no mirrors on the platform.)
Others prefer to squat as low as possible and try to bounce off the bottom of the squat. Greg Knuckles recommends this in his extensive squat guide . The exact position here will depend on the size of your legs (some people’s thighs touch their calves earlier during movement) and where you feel comfortable.
If you are a weightlifter
If you are competing in weightlifting (snatch and clean and jerk), no one but you evaluates the depth of your squat. Squats are an aid to this sport and are only there to help you get stronger in basic exercises.
In general, weightlifters find themselves in a very low squat position during cleansing and snatching, so they often squat deep to fit. But this is probably not necessary to build strength, and therefore there are many weightlifters who will only squat parallel or slightly lower.
If you’re just training for strength
Okay, so what if you’re not involved in any squat-oriented sport? Here’s the dirty squat secret: then it doesn’t matter .
No squatting police will come to arrest you if your squats are too high; however, some of your gym buddies may pester you about this because why don’t you go deeper?
You can lift more weight if you only do partial squats, and there are people in every gym who will tell you about their huge PR squats, but then it turns out that they don’t even come close to parallel. If you read squats to show off your numbers, you have to swallow your ego and squat in parallel .
Likewise, squat police won’t come for you if you squat very low (ass to grass, as they say) … but about once a week a stranger will tell you that you are kneeling squat. like this. You can ignore them. Low squats are not inherently bad for your knees, so if you feel good you can continue. We discuss this myth in detail in our squat guide .
However, if you don’t enjoy squatting low, but you’re doing it because someone told you “should,” feel free to drop that advice and squat to your desired level . Squatting doesn’t make you better.
If you can’t squat as deep as you want
Often times, people ask about squat depth because they want to squat deeper but can’t get it.
Ankle mobility is often an issue. Squatting requires our ankles to bend so that our feet can remain on the floor. If your heels come off the floor as you get closer to depth, you may need to fix an ankle problem.
An easy solution is to raise your heels . Hard heel weightlifting shoes exist specifically for this. They will help you stay stable (much more than running shoes) and keep your heels high enough to get you into the desired position without any problems.
Another trick is to place several cargo pancakes on the floor and prop them up with your heels. I don’t like this for heavy squats as you have to get into place with a heavy bar on your back, which seems unstable to me. But some people swear by this trick, so try it (light weights first) if you think it might work for you.
You can also work on your ankle mobility over time with stretching and foam rolling. And try different rack widths and different types of squats (front squats, goblet squats, high bar, low bar) to see which ones are more comfortable for you than others.