Are You Squatting Deep Enough?
In CrossFit we promote deep (below parallel) squatting. Why? Because it's a natural range of motion that our bodies are clearly designed to do. I believe in that philosophy. Unfortunately, the temptation for many athletes is to force themselves into a squat where their hip-crease is below the crest of their knees because that's the standard. And they often do this despite having a very underdeveloped squat. This is a bit crazy. But let's use an analogy that makes more sense. If your goal was to safely run a marathon and you had little to no running experience, would you:
A) start running 26.2 miles daily until it didn't hurt anymore
B) Give up, because 26.2 miles is just unachievable
C) Start running shorter distances with a focus on good form and build your distance over time
I REALLY hope you went with C on this one! But with squatting, the vast majority of our population is choosing A or B. Squatting is such an important skill. And when you were 2 years old, I bet you absolutely owned air squats! But as we get older, stop squatting, and sit in chairs all the time, we lose the range of motion required for a mechanically sound squat. Just as you lose the ability to run long distances if you stop doing it for a substantial amount of time.
So here's my take on squat depth. It's a goal. I want everyone at CFI (and the whole world really) to have the ability to squat to full depth (complete flexion of the knee) while keeping their chests up, balanced on the foot, and knee hinging properly (no torque). And I'd like them to have strength through the entire range of motion. That's "safely running the marathon" analogously. But when you decide to achieve that goal, you can't just force your poor knees, hips and ankles into a "full depth" squat while your spine goes into flexion (rounded back), ESPECIALLY with a heavy bar on your shoulders. It's going to take time to loosen up tight tissues, develop your nervous system so that you have the stability, and gain the requisite strength.
That's going to take daily dedication to stretching. It's going to take patience as your body responds to the stimulus. And it's going to take focus. You must think about the details of your movement as you work toward your goal.
I promise it's all worth it. Because as you move better, your entire life gets better! It's so much more than just making time at the gym more fun. Your ability to move with sound mechanics will improve your quality of life at the grocery store, playing with your kids, working on your car, helping a friend move, on the ski slopes, on hikes, in your sports, etc...
At the end of the day, that's why we opened CFI in the first place. We want to make peoples' lives better. And when they add more depth, with good technique to their squat... lives improve!