3 Top Ways to Squat Deeper and Improve your Mechanics

The squat is essential for building strength, toughness, muscle, coordination and is a part of a huge number of different exercises in Crossfit. Here is how to make yours better.

If you’re reading this, I don’t need to tell you the benefits of squatting deeper.  But just in case you forgot, they include stimulating more muscle, developing and retaining greater range of motion, burning more calories, catching more cleans and snatches, and dipping it even lower in the club.  So without further ado, 3 ways to get deeper:

1. SQUAT MORE OFTEN

And I don’t mean in the gym.  We’re all aware of the fact that Western cultures don’t squat as well as others, where it’s common to see elderly citizens squat ass to grass, just to chill.  Why is this?  Because they never stopped squatting.  As children we all possess beautiful full range of motion squats and will use them all the time when we drop our crayons/fidget spinners to the ground.  However as we grow up, we start sitting in chairs all the time and train our bodies to stop at about parallel, ingraining that partial pattern into our nervous system instead.  No bueno. 

By using the squat position more often we tell our nervous system that it is important, and that we need to make it more comfortable to sit in.  Squat when you’re plugging in your phone charger.  Squat when you’re getting something out of the bottom cupboard.  Squat when you’re hanging out your laundry.  Squat when sorting through paperwork on the floor*.  Any excuse you can, squat.  The more time you spend sitting at the bottom of your squat, especially if performing a task which requires some coordinated movement, the more you will encourage your body and nervous system to make it more efficient (i.e. provide the appropriate level of tension in surrounding muscles, which lets you drop deeper).  Rearranging the weights on the bottom shelf at the gym also has the added benefit of making you popular with coaching staff 😉

*I accept no liability for split suit trousers if you do this at the office.

2. SQUAT WITH MORE VARIETY

Not just front squat, back squat, overhead squat.  Not even just regular goblet squat.  Try a prying goblet squat where you lower the KB down to one foot at a time to shift the weight into different corners of the squat.  Squat with weird foot positions.  Squat and twist.  Squat and reach; forwards, up, left, right. 

By adding in these variables, we emphasise different aspects of the squat, all of which contribute to the ‘standard’ squat pattern.  If you can squat in narrow stance with one toe in and reaching across with the opposite hand, then guess what, your regular squat is going to feel easier and you’ll be able to drop into more depth.

I mentioned in a previous blog that restrictions can cross planes of motion so by adding all these variables, we can work through mobility limitations, without stretching/foam rolling, again encouraging more depth in the saggital plane that we all care about.

A couple of simple examples here:

Pimp your pistols Improve your range in the bottom of your pistol squat with this simple drill. By working into and out of end range in all three planes of motion and developing skill there we can teach the body to be much more comfortable in the standard pistol position. Great as a warm up for your pistols or a long term strategy to improve your mobility. Try 5 in both directions of the 3 planes of motion. Progress with a lower box and by reaching further. Key cues: planted foot stays flat and put as much weight as possible through it and not the reaching foot. #pistolpistol #pistolsquat #pistol #squat #mobility #mobilitywod #romwod #triplanar #crossfitmobility #crossfituk #crossfit #hipsdontlie #deepsquat #squatitlikeitshot #glutes #quads #fitness #fitfam #fitspo #fmh #functional #movement #hacks

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3. SQUAT FROM THE BOTTOM UP

When learning to stand up, usually as a child, we do our first squats from the ground up.  This is distinct from standing to squatting to standing as we do as adult crossfitters.  The benefit of this is that we can find a better bottom position as we’re not loading our muscles in our old motor pattern as we descend. This means that when we stand back up, we have a chance to experience how a ‘better’ squat feels, and teach our nervous system how to control it. 

How can we do this in practice?  Either a) start on all fours then bring up one leg at a time to get into the bottom of a squat, just like a child learning to stand.  Or b) use a prop to descend in a better position – a goblet squat as counterbalance, an upright/high band to pull forward and take weight out of the legs. 

Re-pattern your squat If your goblet squat looks great, but your bodyweight or back squat doesn't, try this eccentric only loaded goblet squat. By using the counterbalance we can drop down into a better position and ensure we load the hip first. Then losing the weight means we teach our body how to use the better position on the way up by itself and achieve balance in the bottom position. Try adding in sets of 8-10 inbetween your warm up sets. The lighter the better. Key cues: load the hip first on the way down (tuck tailbone and hips back before knees bend), release the kb slowly under control and pause at the bottom before coming back up. #sleevessuck #squatitlikeitshot #gobletsquat #squat #motorpattern #mobility #fmh #functional #movement #hacks #mobility #mobilitywod #crossfit #gains #fitspo #fitfam #fitness #glutes

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Play around with it, you can even do a bodyweight squat down, find position, then use weight on the way up – e.g. zombie squat:

Zombie squats off the pins Inspired by Christian Thibaudeau I've started using this variation to improve position and generating tension at the bottom of the squat. Many athletes can find great tension and a neutral spine stood up, but struggle to maintain it through full range in the squat. As babies, we learn to squat from the bottom up, so why not stick with it? Set the pins so the bar rests on your delts at the bottom of your squat or just above. Get under the bar and find the perfect position with arms out in front in your best dawn of the dead pose. You'll need a good upright torso and strong tension through the mid line to prevent the bar rolling forward down the arms. Squat and be sure to rest the barbell back on the pins to practice generating that tension from scratch. A great alternative to pause work for staying strong out the bottom of your clean or thruster. Keep the reps low and look to build up the weight rather than the reps. #comingforyourbrains #thesquattingdead #squat #thruster #clean #olympicweightlifting #fmh #functional #movement #hacks #triplanar #crossfitmobility #crossfit #mobility #mobilitywod #romwod #suppleleopard #fitness #flexibility #strictpress #press #prehab #rehab #fitness #fitfam #fitspo #bodybuilding #handstands #movementculture

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This is great as part of a warmup or part of your mobility practice. 

So there you have it, 3 simple ways to deepen your squat. 

  • Squat more often outside the gym
  • Squat with more weird variations
  • Squat from the bottom up

Remember movement is skill.  The more often you practice, the faster you will improve. Get squatting as much as possible in as many weird and wonderful ways as possible and you’ll be ass to grass in no time!

Thanks for reading!

For more tips on improving your Squat, check this out:

7 Hip Mobility Exercises to Improve Squatting & Lifting for Crossfitters

Or if you are just starting out:

The Beginners Guide to Squatting for Crossfitters

“There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that produces the level of central nervous system activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density enhancement, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning than the correctly performed full squat.” Mark Rippetoe.

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About The Author

Ashley @f_m_hacks is a London based personal trainer and coach. He helps crossfitters improve their movement for performance or to escape injury. He found crossfit through mobilitywod while looking for solutions to old rugby injuries then started on a journey of trying to fix himself when traditional healthcare options couldn’t. He is now a qualified movement specialist which he uses to complement his degree from Oxford University in Biology and ...

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