Butt to the Floor!?
I heard a story once that involved a world class shot putter from Croatia and a wildly deep squat. He was an animal, extremely strong, super athletic, and apparently superbly flexible. His coach told me that he would load up a bar with one 45 on each side (very light for him), walk it out, and proceed to squat so deep that his butt would touch the ground between his feet. I wasn't there, so I don't know if this was exaggerated, but the point is he understood how important it was to squat deep. So, going back to the question for this blog post, do you really need to squat deep? The answer is YES!
Why Is Deeper Better?
One of the reasons a lot of us may not like squatting is the fact that it is an extremely difficult movement. Throughout a squat you are attacking your quads, hamstrings, glutes, hips, lower back, middle back, upper back, and your core. So applying some strain, getting a burn, or finding a max with essentially most of your body is really taxing! That is a lot of huge muscle groups to be working all at once so fatigue sets in fast. That being said, the deeper you go the more intense and effective the movement is. You have a bigger range of motion which means a longer eccentric phase (the down part), a more explosive and energy filled amortization phase (the turn around point), and thus a harder and longer concentric phase (the up part).
Ok, Ok, I Get It...But How Deep Are We Talking?
Well I'm glad you asked. This is what I have told all of my clients and all of the athletes I have worked with to this day...go as deep as your form allows. That is THE lifting hack for the hot topic of, "how deep should I go." You should always be able to hold:
1. Good Posture (Big chest, straight back, tight flexed core)
2. Weight On Heels Or Mid Foot
3. Knees Tracking Inline With Feet (Your knees should be inline with where your feet are pointing or opening up outside of where they are pointing)
If you're squatting and at the point where the top of your thighs are parallel to the ground you start to feel your hips roll under you which causes your back to round and your posture to cave, then that is your depth point for now. If you're squatting and you can drop your butt to your calves and hold good posture, your weight stays back or on mid foot, and your knees are tracking correctly then congrats! You have great mobility and that is your depth point for now. Your mobility and learning curve of good posture, correct weight distribution, and knees correctly tracking will determine your squat depth. As you create more mobility and learn how to correctly focus on those 3 points, you can go deeper, and deeper, and deeper.
Are there times to half squat and take a few weeks off from deep squats, absolutely. The takeaway here is that the MAJORITY of your squatting should be as deep as you can handle. If done correctly, with the right weight, with good form and a systematic approach, I think deep squats are one of the best things you can do for your fitness and for general injury prevention. At some point in your daily life you will be in a position where you are squatting down deep and in a strain. Whether it's lifting a couch into a moving truck, picking up a child, or whatever you can think of...you need to be able to perform that movement correctly to avoid injury. Teach yourself how to do it correctly in a controlled environment like the weight room, so that you can carry that over into an uncontrolled environment such as your life.