How DEEP Should we SQUAT?
Updated: Nov 12
What is the ideal or perfect range of a SQUAT? How deep should we go when SQUATTING? What is the optimum range to ensure maximum MUSCLE GAIN and FAT LOSS with minimum RISK? Let's scientifically analyse the SQUAT Range. Science can answer the Squat Range question with excellent accuracy.
The squat is one of the best exercises we can do. It lays load on the entire axial skeleton, and a challenging weight will recruit almost all muscles in the human body (including the rectus abdominis or abs).
Phases of CONTRACTION:
Typically there are two phases of contraction in any movement:
The concentric phase where the load is lifted against gravity and muscles are shortened.
The eccentric phase where the weight is controlled from crashing down in the direction of gravity and muscles are lengthened.
The onset of a concentric failure (muscular fatigue) is earlier than an eccentric failure. All exercises challenge both the concentric phase as well as the eccentric phase. Exercises should be done in a manner that maximises muscle fibre recruitment in both the contractions. The maximisation of muscle fibre recruitment is achieved in a concentric phase by generating explosive power while moving up against the gravitational force.
On the other hand, in the eccentric phase, maximisation of muscle fibre recruitment is achieved when muscles are used to apply brakes at a point where the eccentric stops and concentric starts, that is, at the reversal of the phases. Both concentric and eccentric phases are capable of stimulating hypertrophy.
Application of BRAKES:
It is empirical to know that the application of brakes, at the culmination of the range of motion, should be done by the skeletal muscles and not the load-bearing joint. Since the onset of the eccentric phase, the weight (and our body) gains momentum that needs to be slowed down, brakes applied and reversed into the concentric phase. At this point, if we are not able to apply the brakes using our muscles, we may jeopardise the joint and may also lose the muscular contraction at a point where we need it the most.
Also, we may not be able to maximise the overload on the skeletal muscle. If the weight is challenging, the exercise may end up in an accident.
The Ideal Range of Motion of a SQUAT:
The ideal range of motion for a squat would be less than an inch and more than half an inch away from sitting on your haunches, that is, the movement stops shy of the full range of motion of the joint. This range is ideal for maximising the development of quadriceps and glutes. The ideal range of a squat happens to be the maximum range of a squat.
When it comes to the range of motion for squats, femur parallel to the floor is the least range of motion that you should expect from a legitimate squat. Anything shallower than this should not even qualify to be called a squat, including the famous Half Squats. The gluteus maximus has to be a lot lower than the knee when the femur is truly parallel to the floor.
Importance of ECCENTRIC CONTROL:
It is important to note that eccentric control is determined by how efficient are we at applying brakes and stopping shy of the haunches and not by how slowly we descend with the load. It is all about applying solid brakes at the peak of eccentric that is the point at which the eccentric turns into the concentric. We may not end up utilising our glutes to the full potential if they do not travel lower than our knees.
SQUATS at the Gym Vs. SQUATS in Professional Sports:
We should remember that the squats we do at the gym are not the same as the squats done in sports like weightlifting or powerlifting, where the lifters use bounce, momentum and speed to maximise lifting weights. The whole point of these sports is to lift our maximum with a minimum range of motion dictated by rules of the game.
It makes sense for a powerlifting athlete to use their tight gear (for example knee wraps) to use the bounce, speed and momentum in their favour. To ensure their lift is qualified according to the powerlifting rules, powerlifters go all the way to their haunches to make sure they have surpassed the parallel.
However, since a gym squat doesn’t have game rules to follow, we should strive to maximise workload and efficiency. To ensure we get the most out of a squat, we should stop shy of the lockout. In case of a squat, this is about an inch to half an inch from sitting on the haunches.
Range for RECREATIONAL LIFTERS/ NON PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES:
For most people who are recreational lifters or for athletes training as a part general physical preparedness (or GPP), squat at least femur parallel to the floor. The ideal range of a squat is the maximum range, which is barely shy of a lockout. The ideal range also happens to be the least risky range of a squat.
Range for PROFESSIONAL POWERLIFTERS:
For professional powerlifters who use knee wraps, squat suite etc., as part of your sport-specific physical preparedness/ specific physical preparedness or SPP go all the way to your haunches to take advantage of the bounce.
SQUAT deep! The ideal range of motion for a squat would be less than an inch and more than half an inch away from sitting on your haunches. The movement should stop shy of the full range of motion of the joint.
The ideal range of a squat happens to be the maximum range of a squat.
Deep squats are least risky and also happen to be most profitable in terms of maximum muscular development and fat loss.
Now we know why it is important to SQUAT deep, how perfect range of a SQUAT happens to be the ideal range of a SQUAT and how deep SQUATS ensure maximum muscle gain and fat loss with minimum risk.