This past week I broke a personal record and squatted 225lbs. I could barely believe that it was possible but I did it! Of course I had my workout partner take a video of my squat to prove that I really did it. Well, I posted the video on Facebook and got a slew of remarks from my male bodybuilding buddies about how I was only doing half squats and needed to go all the way down to truly be affective. This started me thinking – why not do some research on what is out there about squatting so that I can ensure that I’m doing it correctly? It does seem to be a topic that always elicits heated debate.
Since I did yoga for about seven years I learned to listen to my body. Recently I adjusted my squat stance to that of feet slightly pointed out and much wider apart. When I started heavy squatting my then squatting partner insisted that my feet should be closer together and that I needed to squat all the way down to the ground. Whether it is because I am a woman or just how my body is shaped, I never could.
I decided to research what is being discussed on reputable fitness blogs and read studies about squatting since incorrect form can do serious damage to the body. What I discovered confirmed what I had been thinking – squatting is wholly an individual preference and goal oriented exercise
1.What is your goal?
Firstly, it is important to know what your goal is for squatting. From an article published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research the following results were found:
The deeper the squat the higher the relative muscular effort (RME) was of the knee extensor and the barbell weight did not seem to impact this much.
The higher the weight of the barbell the more the RME increased on the Ankle plantar-flexor regardless of the depth of the squat.
The hip extensor RME increased with both depth and weight.
The study suggests that depth of squatting will depend on what the focus or goal is of your training – if you are a body builder wanting to develop really big quads, then depth of squat matters. If your goal is to be a strong man/woman, a sprinter or a power lifter then the weight of your squat matters the most.
http://healthhabits.ca/2012/07/19/science-squat-depth-load-impact-squatting-muscles/ Retrieved on 10/2/2015
2. How does your body feel when you squat?
According to Dr. John Rusin in his blog about squatting at https://www.t-nation.com/training/squat-depth-the-final-answer there are many factors to take into account when it comes to the depth of a squat. He suggests several different steps to determine what the optimal squat depth for each athlete is. The first element to consider is the squat depth requisites which can be determined by doing a variety of tests such as the hip scour test and the rock back test. These tests help to determine what your genetic structure allows you to do as well as determines whether there are injuries or limitations to your body’s ability to move in certain ways.
He also discusses determining ones active movement motor control capabilities which basically establishes how your body moves from standing down into squat and back – what is your squat pattern? He often starts with a supine spine to determine what your squat pattern might look like. Before loading weight onto your back he suggests doing a bodyweight squat to ensure that the spine is always neutral and the movement feels natural and without pain. Once all of this has been determined it is time to test how your body will move with a weighted barbell. Weight changes everything because the body has to adjust and compensate. During this part of the squat test it is important to make sure that you monitor your feet and hips to make adjustments as needed.
Dr. Rusin’s conclusion is that depth does not matter as much as making sure that you listen to your body and squat in a way that is beneficial for your build. Going as deep as your body will allow you without pain or discomfort is optimal.
After researching information on the depth of a squat I am happy to say that it has confirmed exactly what I thought. I have learned to be very in touch with my body and listen very carefully to the signs and signals I get from it. I will probably never be the kind of squatter who goes all the way down to the ground. However, I am proud of my accomplishments in being able to lift the amount of weight that I do. My goal is to be stronger and more agile and thus a heavier but not as deep squat will be more beneficial to attain my goal. Since I’ve adjusted my stance to feet apart pointed to ten to two, body bent more towards the horizontal, neck and spine in neutral and never straightening my legs but staying in an actively engaged position, my glutes and quads have been sore every time I have completed my leg day. This is a sign that I am building the very muscles I am targeting. My goal is to be able to squat as heavy as I possibly can while keeping good form, protecting my back and my knees so I can do this for many years to come.
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