Am I Squatting Low Enough?
Proper depth is an essential part of the squat, but many of us aren't able to reach it—yet! If you're struggling to get below parallel, here's why you should fix it, and how!
Changing your priorities from squatting heavier to squatting better!
PROBLEM 1: YOU'RE GOING TOO HEAVY
SOLUTION: REDUCE THE WEIGHT
If you're used to throwing 315 pounds on the bar and quaking while you bend your knees 30 degrees or so, trying to get your hips to go below your knees might feel impossible. That's because you've been relying on your quadriceps to do a lot of the work while you leave your hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and adductors hanging out to swill beer. It's possible you'll be able to squat 315 once you've harnessed those weapons, but it will require you to rethink what a squat is.
PROBLEM 2: YOU'RE OFF-BALANCE
SOLUTION: PUT THE BAR LOWER ON YOUR BACK
One reason why people struggle to reach depth is because they feel a little scared down there, like they might tip forward or backward. Part of this is because they're using too much weight (see Problem 1), but another part is where the load is located.
In order to squat to depth without losing your balance, it's important to make sure the bar—and therefore the weight—stays over the center of your feet. Balance comes from keeping the bar in a straight line from the top of the movement, all the way down to the hole, and then back up. The heavier the load is, the more difficult keeping the bar on this vertical, balanced path will be. At maximal loads, it only takes an inch to miss the lift.
PROBLEM 3: YOUR KNEES CAVE IN
SOLUTION: STAND SHOULDER LENGTH
Many, many people have this problem, and they're the ones who complain that their knees hurt. Luckily, this is also the squat problem with the most straightforward solution: Better cuing!
When you do this, your femurs will get out of the way of your hips, so you can get down to the correct depth. Keeping your knees out also improves your hip drive because it puts the pelvis in the proper position. Your adductors will stretch tighter, which means they will then contract harder.
The single best reminder you can give yourself while you're squatting is "knees out." As soon as you start to lower yourself down to the squat, shove your knees out and keep them shoved out for the duration of the rep.