How deep should I squat?

Minutes to read

Ass to grass, box squats, quarter squats, sit to stands, single leg squats…… there are many types of squats, yet how deep we should go is often debated quite heatedly within the healthcare industry. Whether that be in strength and conditioning or rehabilitation, our world is divided.

Have you ever heard any of the following?

  • Full range squats can damage your back/knees
  • Half squats don’t count;
  • You haven’t earned the right to squat with a barbell;
  • Butt wink is bad;

You could hear one of the above from anyone in your circle including practitioners, coaches, friends, family and ‘gym bros’. And they are not always helpful as they can often leave us questioning our own body’s ability to move and potentially stop us from wanting to exercise at all.

Have you seen the photo below? It is often used to describe the ‘perfect squat’ with the argument that we should squat like a toddler. Overtime, things can change from when we were that young. Femur and torso length,body composition, muscle mass and sedentary lifestyles can influence our body’sability to move and lift things.  

What does the research say?

This is where things get interesting and where a lot ofarguments around this topic can break down. It is simple to cherry pickresearch to back up claims that would should or shouldn’t squat deep.


A study completed by Pallarés et al (2019) that took healthyathletes and tested full range, parallel and half range squats to determinewhich variation had the best neuromuscular and functional adaptations. They foundthat the full range squat was the only one that produced significantimprovements in all neuromuscular performance parameters (1RM and MVC testing).Pallarés et al (2019) identified that increments of pain were similar for fullsquat and parallel squat, however more acute for half squats. This is veryinteresting in relation to rehabilitation, as we would often restrict or reducerange of motion to allow clients to still be able to complete a task. Forinstance, take our typical client who is struggling with knee or hip pain who arefinding it difficult to get out of a chair. We may prescribe a sit to stand orquarter range squats from a position that allows the hip and knee to begin withless flexion.


When looking at performance, many studies have studied theeffect of squats on certain parameters of a sport.  Rhea et al., 2016; Weiss, Fry, Wood, Relyea,& Melton, 2000; Zatsiorsky & Kraemer, 2006 suggest that training inpartial ranges can that replicate the demands of a task, like jumping, wouldhave greater improvements and adaptations. The study by Pallarés et al (2019)found improvements across all three squat varieties, however the best resultswere in the full squat group. We need to be careful in interpreting data asthere is still benefit associated with all varieties of squats, therefore weshould not be too quick to vilify a movement.


3 Key Things When Squatting

-      Individuality
We will all move slightly differently and depending on your body make up, depth may be difficult to reach. That is okay. We can still create strength and resilience in the range that you have. Squat depth limitations can also be determined by genetic variance and an individual's anthropometry (how your body is proportioned). If needed and if it is important to you, adjustments can be made by altering your stance or the type of squat, shifting your centre of mass or modifying your ankle range or motion (eg. lifting your heel slightly).


-      Does it feel good?
If something is uncomfortable and causing symptom/s, we can modify range to allow relief through painful areas. We manage the overall load through a reduction in ROM, sets, reps and weight to get those good feelings back. Regress to progress.

-      Performance parameters
Do I need to meet a certain depth for it to be a successful lift? If so, thenwe will need to adhere to a set of rules around movement and we can traintowards this.


If you need any further advice or assistance, please reachout on 1300 920 520 or via email on




Pallarés, J., Cava, A., Courel-Ibáñez, J.,González-Badillo, J. and Morán-Navarro, R., 2019. Full squat produces greaterneuromuscular and functional adaptations and lower pain than partial squats afterprolonged resistance training. European Journal of Sport Science,20(1), pp.115-124.


Rhea, M. R., Kenn, J. G.,Peterson, M. D., & Massey, D. (2016). Joint-angle specific strengthadaptations influence improvements in power in highly trained athletes. HumanMovement, 17(1), 43–49. doi:10.1515/humo-2016-0006 Rønnestad, B. R., Hansen,J., Hollan, I., & Ellef


Weiss, L. W., Fry, A. C., Wood,L. E., Relyea, G. E., & Melton, C. (2000). Comparative effects of deepversus shallow squat and leg-press training on vertical jumping ability andrelated factors. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 1



Zatsiorsky, V. M., & Kraemer,W. J. (2006). Science and practice of strength training. Champaign, IL: HumanKinetics.

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