How deep is your squat?

Squatting is a movement pattern that can be used as an exercise. It requires the management of the body’s balance, coordination, mobility, stability and strength.

Squatting finds its origins in the neurodevelopmental progressions of humans, starting with rolling, crawling, squatting and finally standing. In the neurodevelopmental platform of nature we learn to squat from bottom up, however, when we use the squat as an exercise we perform it top down, centering ourselves under a weight.

It’s important to “own” the movement before performing the squat as an exercise so as not to reinforce flawed movement patterns. Squatting as a movement is a symmetrical pattern where both sides of the body contribute equally. A reduction in mobility or stability on one side of the body will affect the whole movement pattern and may cause inappropriate muscle contraction (ie. over-recruitment), weight shift, or torsion throughout the body. Correcting patterns and addressing asymmetries should always be considered first before loading a ‘bad’ pattern.

Now thinking about form and technique, here are the squatting absolutes:

  1. Foot position - slight toe-out angle is recommended and mimics sport

  2. Tripod loaded foot - 3 points of contact to the floor creates a stable base (ie. heel, base of the first toe, base of the fifth toe)

  3. Hip hinge - loading our hips allows bodyweight to be balanced over the midfoot and engages the posterior chain muscles

  4. Create rotational torque at the hips - engaging glutes and moving knees out while maintaining a tripod loaded foot creates hip drive

  5. Maintain postural integrity through the movement - this is achieved by maintaining alignment of the spine and bracing the trunk through ascent and descent

Variability in squatting can exist in the following concepts:

  1. Squat depth → depends on the squat you are attempting to perform and where the load is placed in relation to the body’s centre of mass (i.e. bodyweight squat, high-bar back squat, low-bar back squat, front squat, overhead squat). Having adequate hip mobility is necessary to achieve a full depth squat (i.e. hips below parallel)

  2. Toe-out angle → 5-20 degrees dependent on the lift being performed, typically a greater angle allows for greater depth in the squat

  3. Width of stance → individual mobility limitations and anatomical differences will determine width of squat stance, feet shoulder width is a good place to start!

  4. Presence of “Buttwink” (aka. Posterior Pelvic Tilt) - this is acceptable only if it occurs below parallel in the squat

The squat is a movement first and an exercise second. It’s important to explore movement and only load good mechanics. By increasing the efficiency of how we move we increase the potential to produce more power and strength. Let’s get squatting!


By Andreja Kovacevic-Cikes, Kinesiologist

Riley Webster