Squat Depth

This being my first article for my website I thought I should discuss one of the widely debated topics of squats and most importantly squat depth. I'm going to look at some of the science behind the argument, myths and draw on my personal experience with both athletes and general population to aid in the argument. 

So some of the questions and opinions that come up in this topic are below but these will be discussed in other articles:

  • Ass to grass is the only way

  • My knees shouldn't come over my toes

  • Squatting deep is dangerous

  • Butt winking

  • I only sumo squat

  • Squatting deep is good for my glutes

  • Squatting deep has no correlation to sports performance

  • I'm not a weightlifter so why should I squat

  • It increases the ACL strain

First thing to get out of the way is what depth is “deep”? If you read journal articles you will see authors talking about degrees of depth. This is generally related to the knee angle not the hip or ankle. So when someone talks about hitting a depth of 90degrees they are not actually referring to a depth of parallel.  A parallel squat would be about 105 degrees of knee angle. A deep squat would be described as a thing over 110 degrees of knee angle.  

Parallel depth is when “the lifter must bend the knees and lower the body until the top surface of the legs at the hip joint is lower than the top of the knees.””. In competitive power lifting the hip must be lower than the knee for it to be a successful lift.  

Found with a google search - basically what I wanna show in a photo

Found with a google search - basically what I wanna show in a photo

So for the purpose of this article a deep squat is defined by deeper than 110 degrees and if you don't have access to technical measuring equipment such as …….. you're gonna just have to draw on your experience and eyeball it, basically just below parallel. 

So now that we have defined what I mean by a deep squat it's now time to have a look at the effects of squat depth on the body and most specifically the knee as this is where a lot of the research has been carried out.  

So one of the original studies conducted in 1961  by Dr. Klein was looking at how “loose” the knees were when they were in a deep squat. This study concluded that the knees become “loose” as the depth of squat was increased increasing the risk of injury.  This was probably the start of myths that we know of today and all the research that has been carried out trying to replicate this study has conflicting results to the original work.  Back in the day equipment was limited and Dr. Klein did the best he could, but basically fucked up the research to result in decades of bullshit about the knees!  

Squat depth and forces at the knee - simple the deeper you squat the larger the forces at the knee, see a nice photo below.  HOWEVER how significant are these forces and will an increase in force be beneficial?  We will look at 2 different types of force , compression and sheer force at the knee.  

ompression force – the application of force to an object that causes it to become squeezed, squashed or compacted. Basically it's the compression of the femur on top of the tibia.  

Sheer forces – the application of force to an object along a plane that is parallel to the direction of force.  Basically a sliding movement.

So, the photo nicely outlines the forces at the knee but what we need to know is if these forces are significant and are they going to cause injury? Well, we don't know if they cause injury as there hasn't been any significant research into the area. What a crap answer to that! 

What we do know is that making any conclusions on the subject will be speculative at best. Only in those with existing knee pathology (e.g., osteoarthritis) and/or those who had post-surgical intervention (e.g., meniscectomy, PCL reconstruction) would squatting at high flexion angles potentially be risky.

I would also point out that those that can't squat with #goodform will be exposing themselves to injury! Get someone who knows how to train the squat to properly teach you, not your mate but someone who is qualified! 

So what depth do my athletes and clients squat to if they want/need to squat deep?  The answer is simple for me. Can they move into the correct bio-mechanical position of a squat without compensation through the kinetic chain (the combination and interrelation of the nervous, muscular and skeletal systems)?  

If yes, they squat deep, if no we increase the performance of the kinetic chain to get a deep as we can without compensation.