The squat is one of the most used exercises in the world of strength training. It is a useful exercise if you want to be able to provide more strength from your thighs, for example, while jumping. There is a long discussion about how deep you should actually go during the squatting. One camp of expert says that deep squatting is too stressful for your knees, while the other camp of experts calls a squat a squat when you go with your ‘ ass to the grass’.
As with many other questions about strength training, there is actually no clear one size fits all answer to this question. That is why I am going to explain the advantages and disadvantages of a deep squat (below 90 degrees).
For us Europeans, deep squatting cannot be taken for granted, while in some countries such as India and China there is even a relaxed position. This difference is because we are used to sitting relaxed on a chair and a Western toilet. And because we are not used to taking this squat position, it is a challenge for us.
Mobility is something that you only get or keep by making a movement often. Increasing or maintaining mobility in your ankles and hips could, therefore, be a reason to go deep into squatting. Another advantage of a deep squat is that the hamstrings and buttocks (buttocks) are activated more than with a half squat. Furthermore, a deep squat can be essential for your sport. As a cross fitter, you are obliged to squat deep during a race and as a weightlifter, you can not get a big weight in the air without lowering. So it only works in your favor if you train the deep squat.
Despite all kinds of discussions, it is a myth that deep squatting is bad for your knees and hips, and that it causes injuries. Nevertheless, it is wise not to force it in a knee or hip pain and to keep it in a squat within the pain-free zone.
Furthermore, it is important that you do not start squatting until you can keep the natural cavity of your back while you are lowering. If this does not work, your pelvis tilts backward and a ‘butt wink’ appears (right figure). This causes an increased pressure on your intervertebral disc which can cause injuries.
It is not for everyone
However, not everyone is able to squat deeply. The shape of your hips affects how deep you can squat. Someone with a ‘shallow’ bowl will find it relatively easy to take a deep squat compared to someone with a deep bowl. In addition, the shape of your ankle joint also plays a role. If you can not bend your lower legs in relation to your feet, a squatting with your feet flat on the ground will not work.
You also have to wonder why you would want to squat deeply. In the case of a few types of sport, muscle activity takes place below the 90-degree knee angle. A deep squat is therefore not necessary for most sports. So you have to wonder why you would train something if you did not use it. A professor at the Department of Physical Therapy at California State University looked at more than 70 studies with the subject knee biomechanics during the squat. He saw that a squat up to 90 degrees is enough to find high activity in the quadriceps, so in short enough to make your thighs stronger.
- A deep squat can have advantages and in principle does not cause injuries. Keep in mind that you may not (yet) be able to technically perform a good and safe squat and you better do extra exercises first.
- Listen to your back. Do not go lower than the point where your hip tilts backward and where you lose the natural cavity in your back. This is also called ‘butt wink’. As soon as this happens, you increase the pressure on your intervertebral disc.
- If you want to squat deeply, make sure that the mobility of your ankles and hips is in order. If this is not the case, it is wise to first address this by improving your mobility.
- Never train through your pain. If you feel pain while making a deep squat, do not go below the point where you feel the pain.
- If you wonder whether your squat is technically good, take a video and show it to a (good) strength trainer or physiotherapist. So you can together see if you may need extra exercises to work towards a deep squat.