It happens in every country, on every continent. All around the world, people are squatting high, and the reasons are endless. Some people just want to move more weight; reducing the range of motion allows for this. Pack on the plates, bro. Others mistakenly think that squatting is bad for their knees, because their dad, dentist, milk man, and their mother’s second cousin all told them that squatting destroys your knees. Unfortunately, many fitness magazines reinforce this, extolling the safety of half squats, and their ability to isolate the quads. As a result, there are people who do this and call it a squat:
I’m not exactly sure what to call that, except a waste of time. Unless, of course, you use very light weights that don’t require any effort to hold, and perform 2 sets of 30 to really tone your thighs, in which case this is acceptable. That’s called cardio, isn’t it?
“Squatting is not bad for your knees….the way YOU squat is bad for your knees.”
If you only care about the best things to do, then you know what I’m going to tell you to try; squat deep!
It’s not exactly rocket science, and you make be hating me for the over-simplicity, but if you want to squat better you have to squat more. The caveat there is that you need to use proper technique or you won’t get anyway. In addition to just squatting more, you need to do more unilateral work, for several reasons. These include that it will make your legs stronger, it will help train a stable core, and it will increase your mobility.
You may quarter squat 405, but you get stapled to the floor with 135; what’s the point to that? You’ve developed ‘strength’ through a very limited range of motion, and your joints are going to make you pay for it the long run. When you start using single leg work you’re very limited at first because it takes a while to master the movements. (About a week ago I watched a friend go through a lower body workout of body weight split squats; he said he was sore for a few days after.) While you’re learning these movements, you can focus on achieving a full range of motion. For some of you, this may just involve touching your knee to the floor on lunges and split squats. If you have more flexibility, you’ll need to elevate your front foot. This gives you more range of motion for the flexed hip, which will carryover to increased depth in a deep squat. Check out the depth on Eric Cressey’s Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat from a Deficit. If his split squats are symmetrical, he shouldn’t have an issue maintaining a neural spine during bilateral squats.