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The depth of your squat is one of the most important aspects of your leg training that you can get right. Not doing so will have you facing the repercussions on your body, particularly as you continue to attempt to add weight to the bar. In this video, I’m going to show you the best way to determine how low you should squat and more importantly, what to do to fix whatever is holding back your depth so you can start getting down as low as you should.
It starts with an evaluation of the joints of the knees, hips and lower back. I can tell you this, while you may have heard the advice that squatting ass to grass is never a bad thing for your knees I can tell you that is blatantly bad information. If you have a meniscal tear, full depth squatting is one of the absolute worst things you can do for your knees.
That said, if your knees are healthy or you simply have tendon related issues that are holding back your squat depth then learning how to squat differently will help to offset those stresses and get you back to full depth in no time. Regarding the hips and lower back however, you need to focus on another obvious point of feedback as to how low you should go. I’m talking about the butt wink.
For those not familiar with the butt wink, it is the rapid transition at the bottom of the squat from a neutral or anteriorly rotated pelvis to a posteriorly rotated position. The amount of ballistic stress this places on the L4-L5 and L5-S1 vertebrae is dangerous, and is likely to lead to a disc pathology down the road. That said, you will want to intervene and correct the cause of this prior to continued loading so you can avoid the repercussions and learn to benefit from full squatting (the right way) sooner rather than later.
The potential causes of this are as follows (time stamps included to help you more easily navigate to the issues that are affecting you and the things you will need to do to fix your problem).
Hip Capsular Mobility (5:04)
Hip Anatomy Restriction (6:42)
Pelvic Muscle Tightnesses (9:25)
Ankle Mobility or Flexibility Deficits (11:39)
Decreased Pelvic Stability (13:49)
Be sure to not perform the standard test that many recommend for ruling out the first three. That test, as shown in this video, is critically flawed and not taking into account the proper angle of the torso and the actual amount of hip flexion that is occurring during a squat. If you do the test the right way and get your torso closer to the floor you will learn whether or not you still might be dealing with one of the first three main causes and can drill down from there as I show you, to determine the root cause.
If you are able to perform this revised test without losing your ability to maintain a non-posteriorly rotated pelvis then you can skip ahead to the ankle mobility and pelvic stability portion of the video. If you do have one of the first three issues, you will have to watch the remainder of the potential causes since it is not uncommon to still have additional factors that are playing into your butt wink and making your low squats unsafe.
The key is identifying what is wrong with your squat form and then being willing to fix it over time. It didn’t take you a day to develop the issues that are likely preventing you from squatting ass to grass without butt wink. It won’t take you a day to fix it. If you are committed to improving your squatting form however, you will see significant changes that are going to fortify your body in the squat and prevent you from getting injured doing this critical leg exerise in the future.
If you are looking for a program that puts the science back in strength, head to and get the ATHLEAN-X Training System. As a physical therapist and a strength coach, it matters not just what you do in the gym but how you do it! We take this into consideration in every workout we do.
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