4 Squat Clean and Jerks (185/125)
15 Chest to Bar Pull Ups
13 Lateral Barbell Burpees
After finishing 5 Rounds
Run 800 M
Momma’s Quote of the Week: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”—Maya Angelou
There are lots of opinions when it comes to squat depth. Some say that squatting as deep as possible is the only way to lift. Others think that it will screw up your knees. So, what does the science say?
Here’s what you need to know.
Deeper is better
The squat is a compound, full-body exercise that engages most muscles of the lower body. For that reason it’s widely considered to be fundamental strength movement, that much is clear. However, wide-ranging form in the gym has led to some confusion when it comes to safety.
For example, a simple change in foot placement, barbell placement, or squat depth have huge consequences on training outcomes. A recent study found that shallow squats (about 60° knee angle) improved lower-body strength and vertical jump performance, but deep squats (below 90° knee angle) were MORE effective, promoting greater muscle mass and strength development (Reference 1).
That’s an important lesson for athletes to consider – You might be able to lift more right now by cutting your squat depth, but science suggests that you’ll be less muscular and strong overall.
What’s happening in your knee when you squat?
There are clear benefits to squatting deeper and making the lift harder, but, there’s also the ever-present safety question.
The knee joint accepts both shear and compressive forces when loaded during a squat. Ligaments (such as the ACL and PCL) stabilize the joint by regulating the shear or opposing forces. Cartilage absorbs the compressive force and stabilizes the interaction between your tibia and femur. These shear and compressive forces are typically inversely related and can be both helpful and harmful.
With knee flexion, shear forces decrease and the compressive forces increase. What this means is that stress to your ACL and PCL does not go up and you sink deeper in the squat. Increased compression around the back of the knee serves to stabilize the joint (Reference 2).
Damage to the knee only appears to occur when these compressive forces become excessive and surpass the normal capacity of the cartilage, which doesn’t appear to occur in injury free people (Reference 3).