Everybody knows that squats are important. And most of the people know its benefits. Every sports app, every fitness video or sports magazine tells you to squat. And there are many good reasons for that.
What is a squat?
Sitting down and standing up is one of the most natural movements in life. And from a training perspective, just about everything from your fingertips down to your toes works has to work hard to make a squat happen. This easy, natural movement is a good recipe for building full-body strength with just one move. But it’s usefulness is not the problem.
How does it look the proper, perfect squat? This is the question
There is no doubt that squats have lots of results. But the actual debate starts when it comes to the perfect way to do squats.
What many people don’t know—and what those magazines and websites don’t often tell you—is that your squat form might not look like the ones you see in the pictures or those little “squat form demonstration” illustrations.
Actually, if you try to remake those how-tos might be why your squat doesn’t look like it is proper. Or perhaps this is the reason why squats feel so painful sometimes.
As a result, this is the reason why you are so often tempted to skip this move in your workout. Even though it is a pity not to do it as frequently as possible.
The secret doesn’t stay in SQUATTING DEEPER
The more that you read up on the squat form, the more likely you are to find conflicting information. And also not see the importance of this exercise. Talking about squats is a lot like talking about politics: every person has his or her version of doing this popular exercise. Especially when it comes to squat depth.
These persons can be grouped in few “teams”.
So, there are the purists, those guys who tell you that you must squat as-to-grass, to obtain the best results. At the opposite end of the spectrum, are the overly cautious types. They tend to worry that squatting too low will damage your knees (which is actually false). Also, there are other people who will prefer stopping at seemingly every other point in between—thighs parallel to the ground, or just below it, or well above it (known as quarter squats), and on and on.
So, which is the right answer?
Squat Rules to consider
Before we even begin, it is important to remember that none of the rules above is correct.
“There’s no one right way to squat—and there’s no one wrong way, either,” says Dean Somerset, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. “It’s all about finding what works for your body.”
Before considering this statement as a non-answer, you need to understand that “what works for your body” is actually true and it can completely change your approach on sports. Because if you don’t, squats can be very painful and cause injuries.
Everyone’s body is different, so, as a result, everyone’s squat is different. When it comes of what is right for one or other, it depends on their goals, strengths, levels of mobility, so variables that will determine which squat is the perfect one for you.
So, first thing first, it is our body’s bone structure that can affect how you move. This is why the perfect squat cannot exist in everyone’s case. Many standard squat cues you hear about tell you where your feet should stay, which is the right direction they should point and which is the right level of going low. We will show you which is the right answer in your case.
First of all, you need to clear your mind from the “one-size-fits-all” opinions. There are a lot of ways you can go about fixing squats when they hurt. We are going to help you find the right range of motion for your body, set aside the dogma and focus on what matters the most: doing a powerful-building exercise and getting the results from this essential human movement.
Remember to keep in mind everything you read below so you will know how low to squat
The Deep Squat: the key for a great movement
(Lifting is not necessarily)
The ATG fans will tell you one thing: Being able to execute a full deep squat is a good thing. Doing the move requires a full range of motion at all four of the body’s major load-bearing joints (the ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders) and proper mobility throughout the spine. This way, your muscles, and your brain all have to work together to achieve the perfect position.
That statement comes from Georges Dagher, C.S.C.S, who is a chiropractor and strength coach based in Toronto. He likens the deep squat to brushing your teeth. “From my perspective, the deep squat movement is a toothbrush for our joints, ensuring they are all moving without any sticky or restricted areas,” Dagher writes in the Journal of Evolution and Health. It’s like a daily habit, such as brushing your teeth every day. Dagher suggests performing at least one bodyweight squat per day, but as deep as you can. This is his thought.
Ok, firstly, it looks like there’s some stress about it. As we know, there are lots of people who have strength or mobility issues that can make achieving a deep squat challenging—at least at first. The good news? By simply working on your deep bodyweight squat form, daily, going as deep as you can with control and holding as long as you feel reasonably comfortable, you’ll be able to improve all the mobility issues and help address.
“The positions we place our bodies it will have an effect on various elements such as muscles, which can improve our comfort in the squat,” Dagher says.
Secondly, you can also get more comfortable by adjusting your stance. Somerset explains that the standard squatting position— “stand with your feet shoulder-width apart…” —doesn’t apply to everyone. It’s more of a general recommendation or an average, he says, not a hard-and-fast rule.
In order to help his clients reach a deeper, pain-free squat, Somerset suggested that they should experiment lots of different stances until they find one that feels right and brings them the best results.
“Think of it like going to the optometrist, when they put the lens in front of your eyes and ask which one is better,” Somerset says. “There’s no one standard prescription. It’s about finding the right one for you.”
In Somerset’s statement, there are two main elements that he asks clients to adjust when they dial in their stances for ideal squat form:
- The direction of the toes: this is one of the most important elements of squatting. The toes should stay at 12 o’clock, let’s think like that. Then squat as deep as you can. Then turn the feet outward slightly – think left foot pointing at 11 o’clock, right foot pointing at 1. Then deep squat again. It’s time to angle them even farther outward, to 10 and 2. Squat again. After all these steps, notice which position feels the most natural and allows you to sink the deepest. This way you will know which squat is the correct one for you.
- The second idea comes with this advice. Width of your feet: Start with them set shoulder-width apart. Gradually try wider distances, and give each the bodyweight squat test and noticing which feels the most natural. One thing to always remember: The wider your stance is, the more the exercise will emphasize your glutes (the muscles in your butt).
The good news is that even your range of motion is lower than expected, you probably squat more throughout the day than even expected. “Most of us can squat to at least a 90-degree angle,” says Dagher. “We do that every day, every time we climb into our car or get up from a chair.”
Take all these moments as great opportunities to practice squats, and lower into a 90-degree squat with control. You can think of them as box squats that you practice during the day; don’t just plop onto the cushion, says Dagher. Doing this throughout the day can shore up your stability and make you a better squatter in the future.
Why it feels like the body is against the deep squat motion
Although many of us would say it is not natural for the body to do deep squats, with the right adjustments, everyone can do it, in the end. Of course, when it comes of weighted squats, there is a different story: “For some people, their squats fall apart under a certain amount of loading,” he says.
And the explanation comes from science and genetics. Some people are built with better squatting hips than others, this is why it might not be as comfortable—or as powerful—at the deeper end of the squat as you’d like, says Dagher.
As the human anatomy is explaining, the place where the femur (the big bone in your thigh) meets your hip, called the hip socket, looks something like a spoon going into a bowl. The top of the femur (called the femoral head) neatly fits into the pelvic socket (acetabulum) and is held in place by ligaments.
People are different, so everyone’s hip sockets are different. Some of them are deeper than others. The deeper your socket, the harder it will be for you to squat, since the femur bone will hit the pelvic bone. To go back to our “spoon in bowl” analogy, the stem of the spoon (your femur) runs into the rim of the bowl (your pelvis).
An interesting fact is that people of Scottish and French heritage typically have deeper hips, according to world-renowned spine expert Stuart McGill. But meanwhile, people from the Ukraine, Poland, and Bulgaria tend to have shallower sockets that allow them to painlessly sink into the deep part of the squat. As a conclusion of this discovery, just think that Eastern Europe is home to some of the best Olympic lifters in the world. Is it a simple coincidence? Of course not.
And a deep hip socket is not only an disadvantage for doing squats. It is also very helpful when it comes to walking and standing and also producing rotational power. That type of movement you make when playing golf or when you need to hit the baseball.
How can I test my squat perfect form?
There’s a simple and also fast way to gauge the depth of your hip sockets. Simply get onto your hands and knees in an all-fours position. First, engage your core, and slowly rock your hips back toward your heels. You can see Dr. McGill explain how to do the move at the 2:50 mark of this video (although the entire clip is worth a watch if you have the time).
Even if you can’t do it exactly as the theory says, just try to move under the guidance above. For an easy approach, simply set up the smartphone, hit the record and start moving.
As lower as your hips are going, you are close to reaching a point where your lower back starts to round. It is called the “spinal flexion.” When it happens while you’re squatting with a barbell on your back, the position is known by the delightful name “buttwink.”
Squatting under load can be really bad news, as this is the moment when your hips stop moving and your start compensating with your back instead,” says Dagher. A bad squat can cause disc injuries or even fractures of the spine.
So How Deep to Squat?
First of all, the deepest squat, also known as the buttwink is not a thing to aspire to and it isn’t something everybody should be able to do.
As McGill says, a lot of great ATG squatters “chose their parents wisely.”
“The extreme amount that I see people deep squatting is just unprecedented,” McGill says. “The risk is greater than is justified by the reward. No one is going to give you an extra million dollars for squatting deeper. If you need to do that for competition, then that’s one thing. But if your objective is health, then it’s pretty hard to justify.”
Just pay attention to this steps: where your back begins to go into flexion when you’re doing the all-fours test, that’s where you’d want your descent to stop if you were performing weighted back squat. If that means you can only squat as low as a box, and it is no problem.
If the box isn’t high enough, you can take a cue from Jim Smith, C.P.P.S, and stack mats on top of the box until you reach the right height. As more as you practice squats, as better your mobility will be. It doesn’t matter what weight you reach, as long as your objective is a single one: the control.
Not everybody is meant to have a deep range of motion. Actually, many people who try to make deep squats can harm themselves. Less depth doesn’t mean less strength or power. As long as you are creating tension in the muscles, challenge the body to work, do your best and find the perfect squat position for your body, it is impossible not to have results.
“Keeping the squat controlled is more important than the depth or the amount of weight being used,” says Somerset.
Last advice is important for your health. Hit the hight that’s really good for you, that you can truly manage. Then start working with the deep bodyweights squat and you will soon improve the squat form. You will move better, feel better and become stronger.