Does Everyone Need to Squat (Deep)

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In a word: No!

In my latest T-Nation article I tackle the often controversial topic of squatting.  Why it’s controversial I really have no idea.  Squatting is a basic human movement pattern that I feel provides a gulf of benefits – everything from improved performance on the playing field to helping to offset many of the postural imbalances that we get from sitting on our rumps all day long.

The rub is that most people have the movement quality if C3PO on a good day. LOL – see what I just did there?  You see, C3PO is a robot and he doesn’t move well and……

…..okay, never mind.

Essentially, when loaded squats start to enter the picture and we start to debate safety, well, that’s just a different conversation altogether.

Moreover, squat depth is a rarely discussed topic.  Well, I take that back.  People are always arguing over squat depth.  On one end of the spectrum you have those who feel if you’re not squatting ass to calves (ass to grass in BroSpeak), you should just go home and watch The Notebook.

At the other end, you have those who have no idea what proper (or even “safe”) squat depth is.  Here, I’m referring to all the world renowned squatters on the internet who “claim” to squat 500 lbs.  For reps.

With a two inch range of motion.

All kidding aside, all squats aren’t created equal.  Likewise, squat depth is going to be a highly individual component depending on one’s training experience, pertinent injury history, so on and so forth.

In this article I discuss why I looooooove squats, but more importantly how to “screen” appropriate squat depth.

Check it out HERE.

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Check it out HERE.



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Comments for This Entry

  • Recommended Reads | Spurling Training Systems

    [...] Does Everyone Need to Squat (Deep) by Tony Gentilcore [...]

    December 29, 2012 at 10:35 am | Reply to this comment

  • Dan Pope

    You're right, most people don't have the mobility to squat to depth. Now we're going to load them up and yell at them to squat deeper. Sounds like a great plan! Fortunately we've got some people out there like yourself who teach people how to fix their squat.

    December 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Kyle Schuant

      Actually, most people do have the mobility to squat deep. You just have to know how to coach them to do so. Quite often the first few reps will look dreadful and you'll wonder if you did the wrong thing in even trying. Ten minutes and a few sets later it's looking fine. The major obstacle is usually strength rather than mobility, being able to keep their knees out, or rise without forward trunk weight shift, etc. Most people can do a below parallel unloaded squat in their first session. Almost all can do it after 2-6 weeks of building up to it with leg presses, planks, and "doorknob squat stretches". Obviously those with knee/hip injuries may not be able to, or be able to but they shouldn't do it. A very few - perhaps 1 in 10 - are unable to do it despite several months of coaching from me. I don't assume this is necessarily their bodies' faults, maybe I just need to be a better coach - I'm working on it, going to the Starting Strength seminar in Seattle in February. Every movement should be done over the fullest possible range of motion for that person - excluding the hypermobile, of course. As trainers, our job is to 1. teach correct movement 2. extend the range of motion, if necessary return to #1 3. once the range of motion is the greatest that person can manage, add load; if necessary, and it always will be, return to #1 It's well to consider the flipside: if a person is currently unable to squat, would their life be better if they could do so? The answer is invariably "hell yes!" This does not mean everyone needs to work up to a 4 plate low bar back squat. But everyone needs to be able to perform a below parallel squat with some amount of load. I have as clients a 64yo woman and 65yo man. Both could not squat when they began with me, both can squat now. The woman in March 2011 herniated L4/L5. At 56kg, once she'd built up to squatting for her work sets 30-40kg and deadlifting 50-60kg (October 2012), I said, "Your rehab is over - with your current strength, you have reduced the chances of reinjury as much as you'll ever do. What now? You can stop PT and just maintain and life will be good." "I want to see how far I can go!" She has since back squatted 47.5kg and deadlifted 77.5kg. She needed to squat and deadlift. She did not need to squat 47.5kg and deadlift 77.5kg, she did need to squat 30-40 and deadlift 50-60, though. Now that she's addressed her needs she can address her wants. The man began more recently, and was unable to perform a below parallel squat. Rising from the chair required flinging his arms forward like a long jumper and caused him back and knee pain. Had he continued like that, in ten years he'd need someone else to put him on and off the toilet, and would be unable to do his own shopping. He has since done a below parallel squat unloaded, and later with 5kg in goblet squat. If he works up to something like 10kg for 10-20 reps performed regularly and reliably, he will be much less likely to need someone else to do his shopping and wipe his bum a decade from now. A third guy I trained was not a PT client, but came for my kettlebell class. In his 30s, he had osteoarthritis in his hips. He could not leg press at all without pain, and he could only squat to 45 degrees above parallel. Over six weeks of two classes a week, he improved to squatting to 10 degrees above parallel. He would probably never do a below parallel squat however long I worked with him, but reported that he had greater hip mobility, greater leg strength, and most importantly less pain than he'd had in over a decade. When you teach an older or injured person to squat, you give them their life back. When you teach a younger uninjured person to squat, you stop them losing their life. Not everyone needs to squat today in this workout. Everyone's life would be better if they could squat, and everyone should work towards it. Nobody really needs to squat 4 plates a side. Obviously if you train athletes as I believe TG does, your perspective will be different, since you're trying to optimise their performance not their health. I don't think you need all those steps and screens to teach the squat, though. To teach a 4-plate squat, okay, that's more complicated. I can outline the progressions I use if anyone's interested, but this comment is already longer than TG's article. I should note I've never had a 500lb squat, not has anyone I've coached. I train people for general health and at most amateur-level sports.

      December 30, 2012 at 3:13 am | Reply to this comment

  • Brad

    This article really changed the way I squat and I actually FINALLY got parallel during yesterday's lift. I've been working mobility consistently, but was not seeing much added depth to my squat <>, but a couple of simple tweaks from your article and depth attained. I didn't go very heavy (95lb front squat); I want to learn this motion and develop through the ROM, but I'm really happy with that first squat routine and hope to build from it in 2013!

    January 2, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Brad - REALLY happy to hear this! This is EXACTLY the reason why I wrote the article - for people to be able to differentiate between it being a mobility issue (common) or a stability issue (most common). I just feel far too many people are barking up the wrong tree. Keep me posted on your progress moving forward!

      January 3, 2013 at 7:36 am | Reply to this comment

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