Ever wonder if you’re getting low enough on your squat — or if it even matters?
As a personal trainer and online coach, I get asked a lot how someone can improve their squat depth.
The ability to get all the way down in a squat is a sure sign of strength, mobility, and stability. If you can do this, I’d say you’re doin’ alright.
However, unless you’re a powerlifter or olympic weightlifter, performing a squat past 90 degrees isn’t 100% necessary.
Are full squats more beneficial for most people than partial reps? Absolutely. They burn more calories, activate more muscles, and are more “functional” when it comes to every day life things like… getting off the toilet or standing up after playing with your dog on the floor.
But… should everyone be squatting ass to grass?
Well… it depends on a couple things including actual hip bone structure, goals, and current mobility and stability.
That being said, the ability to perform a full squat can be trained and improved over time with a little bit of intentionality, some strength work, and a couple simple mobility exercises.
Here are 3 drills that I regularly use with my clients to increase squat depth:
Drill #1: Windmill Squat
Do 1-2 sets of 5-8 repetitions as a part of your movement prep before your workout and you’ll see a noticeable difference in your squat depth after a few weeks.
This drill is my favorite for improving squat mobility because it actually gets you into a deep squat. And like I’ve always said, to get better at XYZ… you need to DO XYZ.
- When you first start, you might not be able to comfortably get all the way down. That’s fine. Don’t force your body into positions it doesn’t want to be in. Get as deep as possible, and let your body relax into it.
- Keep your heels down. The first couple times you do this drill, they’re going to want to pop up.
- Avoid collapsing forward at the chest. Think about a string that’s attached to the top of your head and the ceiling, pulling you straight up.
Drill #2 Ankle Mobility: 2 Parts: Calf Foam Roll & Wall Ankle Mobs
The number one reason people struggle with squatting is due to a lack of ankle mobility. This is especially true in women who wear a lot of heels and athletes (or previous athletes) that have ever rolled or injured an ankle. Here are two drills to increase ankle mobility and make your squat suck less.
Part 1: Calf Foam Roll
Do 20 passes each leg before your workout to increase blood flow and mobility.
Part 2: Wall Ankle Mobilization
Perform 1-2 sets of 10-15 reps before your squat session.
- Don’t force anything. Focus on slightly increasing range of motion with each push forward.
- Note differences between sides. This may especially be the case if you’ve ever had an ankle or knee injury to one side.
- If one side is tighter, give that side a little extra love by using a 2:1 ratio on that side.
Drill #3 Goblet Pause Squat
Having the necessary mobility to squat deep is really only 50% of the puzzle. The other 50% is having the necessary strength, stability, and neurological control to maintain form and tension throughout the movement.
Enter: the goblet pause squat.
The goblet pause squat is the best drill for grooving the squat pattern and creating the stability in your core necessary to squat deep.
Perform 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps at the beginning of your workout. Use progressive loads, meaning as you get stronger and the movement feels easier, go up in weight.
- Use a single dumbbell or kettlebell
- Brace the abs–but don’t suck it in. Take a deep breath from the belly and push out to brace.
- Practice getting heavier while maintaining control.
There’s nothing magical about these 3 drills. Don’t expect to do them once or twice and suddenly have a perfect looking squat.
However, if you practice these drills regularly and consistently over time you will notice a huge difference in your ability to squat deep and strong.
Get after it, you adorable, squattin’ badass, you!
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