How Low Should You Squat?

I was hanging out with some good friends of mine over the weekend, and one of them asked me about a hip issue he was experiencing while squatting. Apparently, there was a "clicking/rubbing sensation" in his inner groin while at the bottom of his squat. I asked him to show me when this occurred (i.e. at what point in his squat), and he demoed by showing me that it was when he reached a couple inches below parallel. Now, I did give him some thoughts/suggestions re: the rubbing sensation, but that isn"t the point of this post. However, the entire conversation got me thinking about the whole debate of whether or not one should squat below parallel (for the record, "parallel," in this case means that the top of your thigh at the HIP crease is below parallel) and that"s what I"d like to briefly touch on.

Should you squat below parallel? The answer is: It depends. (Surprising, huh?)

The cliff notes version is that yes in a perfect world everyone would be back squatting "to depth," but the fact of the matter is that not everyone is ready to safely do this yet. I feel that stopping the squat an inch or two shy of depth can be the difference between becoming stronger and becoming injured.

To perform a correct back squat, you need to have a lot of "stuff" working correctly. Just scratching the surface, you need adequate mobility at the glenohumeral joint, thoracic spine, hips, and ankles, along with possessing good glute function and a fair amount of stability throughout the entire trunk. Not to mention spending plenty of time grooving technique and ensuring you appropriately sequence the movement.

Many times, you"ll see someone make it almost to depth perfectly fine, but when they shove their butt down just two inches further you"ll notice their lumbar spine flex (round out), and/or their hips tuck under, otherwise known as the Hyena Butt which Chris recently discussed.


If you can"t squat quite to depth without something looking like crap, I honestly wouldn"t fret it. Take your squat to exactly parallel, or maybe even slightly above, and you can potentially save yourself a crippling injury down the road. It amazes me how a difference of mere inches can pose a much greater threat to the integrity of one"s hips or lumbar spine. The risk to reward ratio is simply not worth it.

The cool thing is, you can still utilize plenty of single-leg work to train your legs (and muscles neglected from stopping a squat shy of depth) through a full ROM with a much decreased risk of injury. In the meantime, hammer your mobility, technique, and low back strength to eventually get below parallel if this is a goal of yours.

Not to mention, many people can front squat to depth safely because the change in bar placement automatically forces you to engage your entire trunk region and stabilize the body. You also don"t casino online have to worry about glenohumeral ROM which sometimes alone is enough to prevent someone from back squatting free of pain.

Also, please keep in mind that when I suggest you stop your squats shy of depth I"m not referring to performing some sort of max effort knee-break ankle mob and then gloating that you can squat 405. I implore you to avoid looking like this guy and actually calling it a squat:

(Side note: It"s funny as that kind of squat may actually pose a greater threat to the knee joint than a full range squat....there are numerous studies in current research showing that patellofemoral joint reaction force and stress may be INCREASED by stopping your squats at 1/4 or 1/2 of depth)

It should also be noted that my thoughts are primary directed at the athletes and general lifters in the crowd. If you are a powerlifter competing in a graded event, then you obviously need to train to below parallel as this is how you will be judged. It is your sport of choice and thus find it worth it to take the necessary risks of competition.

There"s no denying that the squat is a fundamental movement pattern and will help ANYONE in their goals, whether it is to lose body fat, rehab during physical therapy, become a better athlete, or increase one"s general ninja-like status.

Unfortunately, due to the current nature of our society (sitting for 8 hours a day and a more sedentary life style in general), not many people can safely back squat. At least not initially. If I were to go back in time 500 years I guarantee that I could have any given person back squatting safely in much less time that it takes the average person today.