How Deep Should You Squat Anyway?

In the article 5 Reasons Why Squats are Killing Your Lower Back I recommended to Squat low bar and stop when you hit parallel. Bret asked…

I thought your recommended squat technique was always to go below parallel? That it’s better for you knees? Thanks.

When I write “hitting parallel”, I do mean that your hip joint should be at least lower than your knee joint in the bottom Squat position when looking from the side. This is indeed safer for your knees (and lower back) than partial Squats.

But this does not imply that you HAVE to Squat “ass-to-grass”. I’ve already explained that most guys don’t have the hip/ankle flexibility for this and that they’ll suffer back pain as a result. That’s why I advise you to stop at parallel.

Look at the difference in Squat depth in the picture below. Left - Ivan Chakarov, Olympic goldmedalist, doing an ass-to-grass Squat with 270kg at 91kg body-weight. Right – Ron Fedkiw, Squatting 775lb/352kg at 198lb BW.

Chakarov Squatting 270kg "Ass-To-Grass" and Ron Fedkin Squatting 352kg Parallel.

Chakarov Squatting 270kg "Ass-To-Grass" and Ron Fedkiw Squatting 352kg Parallel.

Notice Chakarov’s stance is closer, the barbell rests higher on his back, and his torso is more upright. Ron’s stance is wider, the bar is lower on his back, and his torso is more incline. Ivan Squats ass-to-grass, Ron Squats parallel. Keep in mind Chakarov was a competitive weightlifter, Fedkiw a competitive powerlifter.

You want to Squat ATG – fine. Just remember that your torso needs to be more upright for that, and that you should therefore use the high bar position to keep balance. Remember also that high bar is less leverage and thus less maximum weight. That’s why if strength is your goal (which it should be for maximum muscle gains/fat loss), low bar parallel Squats are the exercise you should do.

Before someone misinterprets, I have nothing against high bar Squats. My first 5 years Squatting were high bar because I didn’t know about low bar Squats. And even though I’ve been Squatting mostly low bar during the past 7 years, I still do high bar Squats from time to time. All exercises have their use.

But like with everything it always makes more sense that you master the basics before adding a bunch of stuff. With StrongLifts 5×5 that means Squatting low bar, stopping right below parallel, and doing this over and over again until you have mastered the Squat technique and built a solid foundation of strength.

Watch this free Squat video – I’m explaining proper Squat depth here:

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