If you’re reading this, I don’t need to tell you the benefits of squatting deeper. But just in case you forgot, they include stimulating more muscle, developing and retaining greater range of motion, burning more calories, catching more cleans and snatches, and dipping it even lower in the club. So without further ado, 3 ways to get deeper:
1. SQUAT MORE OFTEN
And I don’t mean in the gym. We’re all aware of the fact that Western cultures don’t squat as well as others, where it’s common to see elderly citizens squat ass to grass, just to chill. Why is this? Because they never stopped squatting. As children we all possess beautiful full range of motion squats and will use them all the time when we drop our crayons/fidget spinners to the ground. However as we grow up, we start sitting in chairs all the time and train our bodies to stop at about parallel, ingraining that partial pattern into our nervous system instead. No bueno.
By using the squat position more often we tell our nervous system that it is important, and that we need to make it more comfortable to sit in. Squat when you’re plugging in your phone charger. Squat when you’re getting something out of the bottom cupboard. Squat when you’re hanging out your laundry. Squat when sorting through paperwork on the floor*. Any excuse you can, squat. The more time you spend sitting at the bottom of your squat, especially if performing a task which requires some coordinated movement, the more you will encourage your body and nervous system to make it more efficient (i.e. provide the appropriate level of tension in surrounding muscles, which lets you drop deeper). Rearranging the weights on the bottom shelf at the gym also has the added benefit of making you popular with coaching staff 😉
*I accept no liability for split suit trousers if you do this at the office.
2. SQUAT WITH MORE VARIETY
Not just front squat, back squat, overhead squat. Not even just regular goblet squat. Try a prying goblet squat where you lower the KB down to one foot at a time to shift the weight into different corners of the squat. Squat with weird foot positions. Squat and twist. Squat and reach; forwards, up, left, right.
By adding in these variables, we emphasise different aspects of the squat, all of which contribute to the ‘standard’ squat pattern. If you can squat in narrow stance with one toe in and reaching across with the opposite hand, then guess what, your regular squat is going to feel easier and you’ll be able to drop into more depth.
I mentioned in a previous blog that restrictions can cross planes of motion so by adding all these variables, we can work through mobility limitations, without stretching/foam rolling, again encouraging more depth in the saggital plane that we all care about.
A couple of simple examples here:
3. SQUAT FROM THE BOTTOM UP
When learning to stand up, usually as a child, we do our first squats from the ground up. This is distinct from standing to squatting to standing as we do as adult crossfitters. The benefit of this is that we can find a better bottom position as we’re not loading our muscles in our old motor pattern as we descend. This means that when we stand back up, we have a chance to experience how a ‘better’ squat feels, and teach our nervous system how to control it.
How can we do this in practice? Either a) start on all fours then bring up one leg at a time to get into the bottom of a squat, just like a child learning to stand. Or b) use a prop to descend in a better position – a goblet squat as counterbalance, an upright/high band to pull forward and take weight out of the legs.
Play around with it, you can even do a bodyweight squat down, find position, then use weight on the way up – e.g. zombie squat:
This is great as part of a warmup or part of your mobility practice.
So there you have it, 3 simple ways to deepen your squat.
- Squat more often outside the gym
- Squat with more weird variations
- Squat from the bottom up
Remember movement is skill. The more often you practice, the faster you will improve. Get squatting as much as possible in as many weird and wonderful ways as possible and you’ll be ass to grass in no time!
“There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that produces the level of central nervous system activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density enhancement, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning than the correctly performed full squat.” Mark Rippetoe.