How To Squat Low

Posted on 16. May, 2011 by in Exercises, Strength & Power

How to Squat Low

One of the questions I get from time to time is from athletes wanting to know how they can get lower in their squats.

We could assume that since you’re concerned about getting low in your squat you’ve already covered the basics of form and technique.  But we’re not.

Skip ahead if you’ve mastered the squat.

Still reading?  Smart.  No one has ever suffered from too much education.  Okay, here are the basic cues for your squat.

Take a shoulder width or wider stance.  Chest up, extend your thoracic spine, that’s your upper back.  Pull you shoulder blades together and push your elbows as far forward as you can.  By the way, this applies to both the back and front squats.

If at this point you have no idea what I’m talking about.  I strongly suggest you consult a good video.  Here’s one.

As you squat, you push your hips back behind you just like you were sitting in a chair.  Another great cue to help you keep proper tension as you squat is to use your hip flexors, the muscles on the front of your hips, to help pull you into the “hole.”

Most guys have this down and it’s here at the bottom of the squat that they have trouble.

A lack of flexibility in the ankles, knees and hips limits how far you can lower your hips.  As a result of our never ending quest to get as low as possible in the squat we are forced to lean over to get lower and…we end up dumping the load.

What’s the fix?

One answer is, of course, to increase the flexibility of your ankles, knees and hips.  Ankle rotations, calf raises, hamstring and quad stretches, bootstrappers and hip flexor stretches can all help you achieve this.

Another, more immediate answer is to look at the orientation of your feet.  For some cornball reason personal trainer’s of the last fifteen or twenty years have taught their clients to squat from a parallel foot position.  That is both feet pointing forward.

I say this is cornball because every body is different and while parallel might work for some it won’t work for everybody.

Try this.  Stand in a normal pre-squat position.  Your feet should be about shoulder width or better.  Start with your feet parallel and squat.  Note how far you can go down.

Now reset from the top but this time turn your toes out 20 to 30 degrees.  Now squat and note the difference.  Lower, right?

That’s because by turning your toes out some you’ve opened up the hips and increased their natural mobility.  For most of us parallel is too constrained and tight of a position to get a full range of movement.

So, in order to achieve that ultimate goal of an “ass to the grass” squat, pay attention to ankle, knee and hip flexibility and turn your toes out to open the hips.

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