How Low is Low Enough?

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In this article we will break down squat depth and discuss just how low is optimal.  Simply put, a squat is defined as an individual lowering their hips from a standing position down then standing back up. 

There are two depths we will define in this article, full depth and breaking parallel.  A full depth squat is just how it sounds an athlete’s full range of motion in the squat.  Breaking parallel is simply defined as having your femur break parallel with the ground.  Both squats are optimal in different sports the question is just how far down should you descend before rising back up.  

First we will eliminate the misconception that squatting full range of motion or depth is bad for the knees.  Athletes that have generally healthy knees should not sustain injuries in full depth squats as long a proper loading principles and technique are in utilized.  Squatting to full depth with poor and lazy technique is not advised and will welcome injury at some point down the road.  

As always in the world of exercise science squat depth depends on each athlete as an individual, the demands of the sport they compete in and their range of motion.  A basketball player performing a barbell ass-to-grass squat is not necessarily needed to improve performance, versus an Olympic weightlifter needing to drop to full depth to clean his or her maximum amount of weight.  

Squatting is one of the basic movement patterns that a lot of people disagree on in terms of  depth, however, two things are universal.  You should primarily load the range of motion that you will be doing in competition and that anyone should be able to complete a full depth body weight air squat.  Key word there is should, there are plenty of people that do not have the mobility to drop to their full depth in the squat.  Those who cannot drop to their full depth would greatly benefit from working in extra mobility work to improve this.  

Case in point always keep squatting, but load the range that is specific to the sport you are competing in and only if you can maintain proper technique throughout the entire movement.

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