The age-old question of how low you should go when you squat can only be answered with a disappointing “it depends”! If you are a basketball player, going “ass to grass” or squatting well below parallel might not be necessary since most of your game takes place with your hips above your knees. However, if you are an Olympic weightlifter and you need to snatch as much weight as possible, you must drop into a deep overhead squat.
Benefits of Deep Squats
Although squatting deep is not necessary for everyone, it is perfectly safe and has a range of benefits such as reduced stress on the ACL during squats, improved mobility in the hips, knees, ankles, and improved lumbopelvic stability. For example, even though a basketball player might not find themself in a deep squat position in-game, training the deep squat in the weight room may help mitigate injuries at the end ranges in the hips, knees, and ankles.
With that said, not everyone’s squat was/is created equal. Individual differences in hip anatomy and lower body flexibility are the main determinants of squat depth. In order to figure out what area of the body to intervene when trying to improve squat positioning, a movement assessment must be completed by a physical therapist or fitness professional.
Ankle Mobility Check
Assessing ankle range of motion is a good place to start. A great deal of ankle dorsiflexion (the ability to flex your ankles) is required at the bottom of a squat. We can assess this range of motion by performing a simple test.
Start by placing one foot about 5 inches away from the wall measuring from the base of the big toe. Try to touch the wall with the knee of the same foot without the heel lifting off the ground. Compare between both ankles and see if you can discern any differences. Does it feel like the achilles tendon/calves are what is restricting you from going further or does it feel tighter in the front of the ankle? Your physical therapist can perform a more detailed assessment of this “knee to wall” test to quantify the differences in motion and use the results to come up with an appropriate intervention.
Need Professional Help?
If you are having difficulty with your squat or noticing pain in your hips, knees, or ankles while squatting– reach out to us! We are here to help you reduce your pain and increase your gains. Our team of doctors and physical therapists has tons of experience helping active New Yorkers move more efficiently! Give us a call today 646-875-8348