Squats are a brilliant exercise as they can be adjusted to any level as well as being performed only using your body weight, without the need for any additional equipment.
With squats, there is an age-old question of how low you need to go when squatting to yield results and for it to be considered that you are completing a squat correctly.
The answer is that there is no set level you are expected to lower down to when squatting as each person will be able to reach different heights, or depths.
Both a person’s height and knee flexibility will impact how low you will be able to go but the most important thing when squatting is to ensure you are correctly completing this exercise.
Maintaining proper form and engaging the right muscles will help with weight loss, muscle growth, and strengthening of the knee and leg muscles regardless of how low you are squatting.
How To Perform A Squat Properly
To master how to properly execute a squat it is advised that you should first learn the proper technique for a simple bodyweight squat. Below we explain how to properly perform a bodyweight squat.
You should only move onto a weighted squat, or any other variation of a squat when you feel comfortable enough to safely and correctly perform a squat in its most basic form.
Bodyweight Squat Technique
- Stand tall with your feet placed slightly wider than the width of your hips
- Point your toes slightly outward, they should be pointed out at an angle of between 5 to 20 degrees.
- Now that your feet are properly positioned, look forward and pick a spot on the wall to focus on as you perform the squat, do not look at the ground or up at the ceiling when performing this exercise as this could cause a strain on your neck and back as well as affecting your balance.
- Stare at your chosen spot on the wall, keep your spine in a neutral position and raise your arms until they are straight out in front of you and parallel to the ground.
- Keep your body tight and push your butt back. As you send your hips back your knees should begin to bend. Make sure your hips are sent back before beginning to bend your knees.
- Keep your focus in front as your knees bend in line with your feet. Keep lowering your squat position until your hip joint is lower than your knees, or at a 90 degree angle.
- Keep your body tight and breathe out, driving up through your heels until you are back in the tall standing position you began in.
- Repeat all of the above steps again to complete another squat.
At first, it may seem that there is a lot to focus on and think of when squatting but in time this motion will become simple and your focus will naturally change without any thought. The key points to bear in mind are:
- Keep your weight in your feet
- Don’t lift your toes off the ground to keep the weight spread in your feet to keep balance.
- Hold your core tight throughout the exercise and tighten your glutes when you reach the top of your squat to ensure all muscles are worked.
How Low To Go When Squatting
How low to go when squatting will vary between each person as it depends on how flexible your knees are. If you have good knee flexibility you will be able to perform either a full squat or a half squat.
If you do not have flexible knees you will not be able to go very low when squatting as your knees will not be able to bend very far. Squats are referred to as being a half squat when your knee reaches a 90 degree angle or when your legs are parallel to the floor.
A full squat is when your hip joint is significantly lower than your knee joint. The length of your legs will also influence the depth that you reach when squatting
There is not one set depth that you should be striving to reach when squatting, simply go as deep as is comfortable without causing stress to your knee tendon.
Both half and full squats will yield results but full squats are believed to strengthen the glutes more than a half squat. There are exercises and stretches that can be done to improve knee flexibility which will help to achieve a deeper squat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Squats Bad For Your Knees?
Like most exercises, if squats are performed incorrectly they can cause damage but when performed correctly they can be extremely beneficial, including helping to improve knee health.
If you have not squatted before, or if you have had a knee injury in the past, it is worth speaking with a professional to ensure you are executing your squats with the correct form.
Squatting with the incorrect form could cause damage to the knees, back and other muscles in your legs.
Is It Bad To Squat Below 90 Degrees?
Each person will be able to reach different depths when performing a squat. Squatting below 90 degrees is not bad for people who have good knee flexibility, for others with less flexibility it could cause damage to the tendon in the knee.
You should listen to your body and not go lower than what is comfortable and speak with a trainer in your gym if you need further advice.
Why Do My Knees Crack When I Squat?
When performing lower body exercises, such as squats, it is common to hear a crack or to feel a popping sensation. This is because of the force that is put on your knee joint during this exercise, the pressure can push out any gas that may be in the synovial fluid that surrounds the knee.
Synovial fluid is a natural fluid in the knee that protects the knee as well as lubricates the knee joint. This nose is not anything to be of concern but if you feel any pain after hearing this cracking sound you should speak with an expert to ensure you have not caused any damage to the knee.
What Muscles Do You Use When Squatting?
Squats are a fantastic way to work most muscles in your lower body but mostly focus on the muscles in the legs. Bodyweight squats and weighted squats also work the hips, back, core, arms, and shoulders making them a popular exercise for weight loss and building muscles.