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The Deep Squat – Why are you doing that?

Over the past 10 years strength programs have gone from big biceps to deep squats. This is due to the switch from the old bodybuilding fad into the realm of “Olympic lift” training. It has been a slow progression, starting mostly with the “power clean” and merging now into overhead squat warm-ups, deep front squats and squat presses, also known as “thrusters.”

As programs have evolved and attempted to develop more athletically-focused, injury preventative, range-of-motion-increasing, multiple muscle fiber type activating routines, I think a lot of people get caught up in the race to please parents and imitate the local powerhouse. I really believe that we need to stop what we are doing every once in a while and ask – “why are you doing that?”

I get asked this all the time by young kids or far-too-inquisitive college athletes. We can see it as a nuisance, especially when it’s asked about every single exercise being done. Listen kid, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to understand your training, but seriously – shut up and lift.

But back to the topic at hand: why, in fact, are we squatting so low?
I walk by weight rooms and hear coaches preach: “get lower!” and “you gotta go below parallel!” and more of the like. But really, MUST you go lower?

Most people that I know who try to squat below parallel right away lift up their heels, hunch their back, tuck their tail between their legs and nearly fall down! (wow, that’s really athletic…). Yes, I know with more training we can get them there, and yes, I know that deep squats help get you stronger in a larger range of motion.

But here’s the thing about training – you have to TRAIN things – not just DO them.

I see so many athletes loading up plates on the bar in order to “out-perform” their buddies in the rack next door, only to watch their legs wobble and knees kick in and core kick around like they are juggling a hula hoop – until their buddy helps them finish standing up – and they call that a good rep!

Here’s my stance – squat to the depth where you are powerful. If you don’t look powerful at any depth, then you’ve got a lot to cover before getting your butt below your knees. Fix your problems and start to stress the depth at the point where your powerful form is tested – not where it is obliterated! For example: if you’re doing five reps, hit a more questionable, but still pretty powerful depth for about 3 of the reps and then hit the “good form” powerful rep on 4 and 5. You want to keep your eyes on the goal (ie. doing 5 reps of squats), but you can always work on smaller aspects of training (ie. depth). After doing this over and over, your squat depth will start to etch toward the word “deep.”

All in all, there’s nothing wrong with squatting deep. But there’s also nothing wrong with questioning why you are doing what you are doing. Make sure that what you are doing in the weight room can transfer onto the field of play!

Watch The Squat Profile for more information.