How Low Should You Squat?

Someone recently commented on a video of mine on Instagram telling me that I should squat lower to work my glutes more. I took issue with this because number one, I don't really believe that is true, and two, I have tried squatting to various depths, and going super low never felt good to me.

There are plenty of more "scientific" articles out there from way smarter people than me(like this one by Tony Gentilcore) that discuss hip anatomy and/or what muscles are worked most at different squat depths, etc., so you can do your own research on that. There are SO many different opinions out there about this, but I just wanted to share my own thoughts and my personal experience.

When I first began squatting years and years ago, it was a slightly above parallel, very quad dominant squat. Over the years, my form improved greatly. I learned to sit back and use my hamstrings and hips more, push my knees out, and squat to slightly below parallel. 

A couple of years ago I started trying to squat even deeper, as I thought it was the "right" way to squat. I had to drop the weights down, of course, but over time I got stronger with a lower squat. Eventually though it got to the point where squats just didn't "feel" right to me anymore. My knees were creaky, my hip flexors hurt, and I just didn't enjoy squatting like I used to.

During my training for my powerlifting meet last year, my coach actually had me stop squatting so low. All I needed was to hit parallel and lift the most weight possible, so there was really no reason to go any lower than I had to. Since then, my squats have felt great! No hip flexor pain, no more creaky knees, and I actually feel that I use my posterior chain more only going to parallel or slightly below. 

The main thing I want to show from this post is that everyone is different. My squats feel much better just going to parallel, while others can squat ATG(ass to grass) with great form. Now, just to be clear, this is NOT an issue of half squats versus deep squats, it's parallel versus ATG squats. I do think most people should be able to squat at least to parallel(no quarter squats, please!), but there are always exceptions even with that.  The thing for me is just doing what feels best to me. And now I actually enjoy squats again!

Regarding glute activation, I actually use squats more as a quad developer than a glute developer, so I don't really care if the glutes are more activated going lower or not. I like to use the range of motion that allows me to lift a good amount of weight without pain. I use other exercises such as  hip thrusts, back extensions, RDLs, and reverse hypers to hit the posterior chain, not squats. If you really want big, strong glutes, you gotta do more than just squat. And you probably want to do some hip thrusts. 

So to sum it up: my thoughts on squat depth are to do what feels best.

video
What are your thoughts? Do you like to squat to parallel or ATG?

Comments

  1. Hey girl, Just wanted to say I agree 100%. You have to listen to YOUR body. What works or feels good to one may not to another.
    I can't do Wide Stance Squats AT ALL, been having lots of Hip pain and Glute pain as well. Recently found out I have some calculation of my hip joint and its causing my Priformis to tighten up cause extreme pain. WIDE Stance Squats, lunges, Sumo deadlifts all irritate it. SO the last few weeks Ive taken them out completely and my trainer and I are focusing on Narrow Squats as low as it feels comfortable, which seems to be right at Parallel. I would rather do some form of Squats then none at all just because Im not ATG.
    Which sometimes I can do, but like you said for me they just don't feel right.
    Keep up the good work, love reading you site and Facebook. :)

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    Replies
    1. Yes, that's exactly why you can't say everyone HAS to squat a certain way! Thanks, I appreciate it!

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