How Low Can You Go – Or What Is A Good Squat Range?

In one of my recent Facebook and Google+ posts I talked about the importance of maintaining spinal integrity during a squat. A lot personal training clients come to us had back, knee or hip injuries before.

For a long time there was the believe that you should not squat below a 90° angle in the knee. This has changed in the past couple of years and the fitness industry has encouraged people to squat lower.

There have been terrible consequences. Without really knowing how to perform a squat safely, or knowing if they have the physical capabilities people have driven their butt to the floor and are getting injured. I will give you an example from Youtube. The stuff people put there is fantastic learning material on how not to do it!

Start watching at 35s. You only need to watch the first squat. It is bad enough.

Now, despite the fact that there is about everything wrong with this squat, he goes into hyperlordosis, and proceeds to have a terrible butt wink, and then comes up with terrible form, we focus on the hip tucking under!

Todays blog is only about the butt wink!

So what in the world is that. The butt wink is the part when your hip tucks under and you start rounding your back. If you look at the two photos below you will see the difference between a proper bodyweight squat and one where I am going too low.

If done correctly the back should maintain it’s natural S-curve.

bodyweight squat with S-Curve maintained

The red line I used, helps to clarify how spinal integrity is maintained. If you are looking now at the second picture you will see that I am going lower, since we all know, lower is better! Well, maybe not:

Bodyweight squat without spinal integrity

My butt is tucking under. For several reasons I am physically not capable of going that low without compromising my back. Those reasons can be tight muscles, structural hip problems, pain, you name it. The pressure on those lumbar discs is exponentially higher in the lower picture. I might not get hurt doing it once or twice or twenty times but with more load or repetition I could get severely injured and risk a permanent impairment. If you want to squat better reduce the range of motion. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a full range squat, if you can perform it safely without getting injured.

Here is how a squat, in this case a front squat should look like. Don’t get me wrong. This is not perfect. For one I am not happy with my head positioning, but that is a topic for another time. The lumbar spines integrity is maintained. I am minimizing shearing forces on the disc.

I hope this has been helpful to you. Happy squatting!

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

Have a wonderful day,

Michael

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