Squats are a little like marmite. Some people love them, some people groan once it comes to that time in their workout routine. In strength training circles however, they’re a necessity component of being able to lift.
Squats are praised as lifting royalty because they give you a full-body workout, and help develop full-body strength, stimulate muscle growth and improve stability for your upper and lower body.
Many of us will have been taught to squat until our legs were parallel to the ground. But a recent fitness trend is encouraging us to squat deeper. Much deeper.
What is a deep squat?
A deep squat is a squat technique where both feet are placed flat on the floor and your buttocks are pointed down so far as they almost touch your heels, leaving you “sat” just slightly above floor level.
The deep squat has always featured throughout weightlifting. When new lifters are first learning the bar, they are taught to lift this way because a deeper squat main offers more stability and reduced strain on the knees.
Why is a deeper squat good for you?
For lifters learning Olympic weightlifting movements, a deep squat is recommended because it puts more weight through the legs, as opposed to your back having to work harder and support more of the weight. The result of this is better performance of many fitness exercises, strengthened muscles and reduced risk of injuries.
Another reason it is recommended as one of the best squat exercises to do is because it can help with body stability. As the weight is distributed evenly through the legs thanks to both feet remaining flat on the floor, the centre of gravity is shifted towards the heels, which increases body stability. One way to test whether you’re doing it right is to see if you can be pushed over. If you can’t – you’re enacting the correct squat technique!
For those suffering with back problems it also relieves stresses and tensions in the back. This is because a deep squat helps to support the joints by promoting the production of synovial fluids, the natural lubricant joints produce to maintain their flexibility.
Why can I not squat deep?
If you cannot squat as deeply, you’re probably struggling with getting both feet flat on the floor – a common complaint.
Struggling to keep both feet on the floor can be an indication of limited ankle range, but can also relate to tightness of the hips, calves and back which is why you are unable to move your centre of gravity over your feet.
To combat this, practice, practice, practice! Everyone finds squatting deeply tricky to begin with.
If you have differentiating limb proportions, that is you have a longer femur (upper thigh bone) when compared to a shorter tibia (lower leg bone), or you have longer legs with a shorter torso, you may find it more difficult to squat deep. This does not mean this technique is not available to you. As with anyone, the key is to practice! Your correct squat technique may just require slightly more forward torso lean than perhaps the person next to you.
Start slowly. Lower as much as your can while your feet are flat and then rise back up. Eventually after doing this for a few minutes every day, you will find that you are able to get lower, and lower, and lower still until you are in the position.
Should I try squatting deeply?
The resounding answer is: Yes! If it is available to you. Whilst beginners will need to take the time to get comfortable with the at first foreign movement, deep squats can be increasingly beneficial for lifters.
The deep squat promotes the engagement of core muscles, helping to improve strength and stability.
It also works several core muscle groups in the body, including the hip flexors, quads, glutes and calves.
Plus it is known to increase body awareness. By having a better understanding of the proportion of space between the hips, torso, and knees this knowledge can improve control over the limbs in other lifting techniques or fitness routines.
How to do the correct squatting technique?
- Whilst standing, place your feet shoulder width apart
- Lower down, bending your knees completely until your buttocks almost touch your heel.
- As you lower down, make sure your feet stay flat on the floor – including the heel – with your weight distributed evenly.
- Adjust your pelvis so that your centre of gravity is over your feet, straighten your back if possible to help your belly button straighten and tighten your core stability.
- When standing up out of the bottom position, adjust your focus to your belly button in order to maintain your balance as you rise up, keeping your weight entirely maintained in your feet.
You could even record a video of your squatting and show it to your coach, or use an artificial intelligence driven application which analyzes people’s movements in videos and images and evaluates if the squatting technique is correct.