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Finding Your Ideal Squat Depth


I’ve discussed squat depth in multiple articles over the past couple of years. I’ve talked about hip anatomy HERE, and I’ve talked about buttwink HERE. But how do you know what your ideal squat depth is?


Get down into the squat position and find the exact moment where you start to lose your lumbopelvic positioning – you need to keep the arch in your lumbar spine – no going into flexion, and keep the tilt in your pelvis – no going into posterior pelvic tilt. Make sure you stay planted on your heels and don’t rise up onto your toes. From there, you can determine if you want to go slightly deeper, but keep in mind that there’s only so much wiggle room and it may be best to play it safe. Here’s a video that better explains it:


  • Swokewillow says:

    I find that as long as I keep my weight on the middle of my foot wearing flat shoes, my body will stop before I loose my alignment and butt wink. I find that most people on the youtube videos shift their weight forward to go low and butt wink. These people are keeping their shoe heels on the ground but the heel of their feet are coming up.

  • Swokewillow says:

    Mike Arthur the director of strength at the univ. Of Nebraska says that arching the back prevents proper depth and leads to the movement becoming back dominant.

    • Bret says:

      Smokewillow, I haven’t watched the video, but that’s semantics. Keeping the arch is what I mean….not going into flexion or rounding. For guys like me, it’s hard to hyperextend, so if you tell them to arch or chest up it does the trick. But others, especially women, are prone to hyperextending and you’ll therefore need to teach them neutral. The ribs down cue works well for these types.

  • gideon bronte says:

    very informative info….thanks for sharing

  • Nadia says:


    I have a question!!! I have been following your articles since September 2013 and even bought your Strong curves book, to which I was following the get glutes program. I started out as a beginner not lifting anything and working my way up to a 187lb hip thrust and 110lb squat and deadlift, to which I started from zero or minor dumbbells. However I have not gain a single inch on my butt which was my original intention at least to gain an inch or two. I have gained a lot of definition on the legs, etc. and I do feel a burn when I increase my weights but I’m not sure if it’s enough. Do you have any advice for me? I have been working with many people who analyzed my form to which I was corrected to the point where I’m pretty sure I’m doing it right. I also watch your videos for correct form. Am I not going up in weight fast enough? Or is it a diet issue? I try to eat lean proteins, shakes, as well as yogurts throughout the day.

    Thanks I would really appreciate it I’m almost ready to give up.

    • simon says:

      First question would be are you getting stronger in your lifts? Especially the hip thrust. It is possible you are making neural improvements in your glutes, and your body doesn’t need to add muscle yet to make them stronger. Secondly are you eating enough carbs and calories in general? to put on muscle you will need carbs, say sweat potatoes, suede maybe some rice. And thirdly are you sure you are using your glutes as the dominant muscle in your lifts. The hip thrust for instance i find i can get my quads to do most of the work, ( it think that’s what i did initially) easy trick is to pull your heels towards yourself on the floor (obviously they wont move as they are on the floor) but for me makes it much harder to use my quads. If you do this you will probably find you are much weaker, but that’s ok cos you will be focusing on your glutes. Once you can feel the glutes tensing in the hip thrust, see if you can feel them in deadlifts and kettle bell swings.

      • Nadia says:

        Thanks for the advice! I probably don’t eat enough carbs so I will try to up my intake, and I will see if if that trick helps! I really do feel alot in the quads so maybe that’s the problem! Much appreciated 🙂

      • Dang-ko says:

        Much appreciated, Simon!

  • Shelley says:

    Awesome post!! Totally helpful given some of our recent discussions over at Get Glutes.

  • Dang-ko says:

    Hi, Bret. I am in a similar situation as Nadia. Hope you can spare some time for us.

  • Marvin says:

    Hi Bret,

    great Video!

    I don’t think you could have explained this topic any better.

    Here is my question:
    You’re talking about Deadlifts and people who cannot pull from the floor without loosing their lower back arch AND keeping their thoracic spine extended. So you recommend block pulls or Hex-/Trap-Bar-Deadlifts.

    => What about semi-sumo-deadlifts/ deadlifts with a modified sumo-stance?

    I’m a quite tall guy and my legs are fairly long. I like semi-sumo-deadlifts a lot; conventional deadlifting never felt right to me and it always felt as if I had to shove the bar around my knees on my way down. Plus, when pulling from the floor, I had to struggle VERY hard to keep my lumbar spine from flexing.

    With a semi-sumo-deadlift, I don’t have those problems and they feel great. Are there any disadvantages doing deadlifts with this style ALL THE TIME?


  • Jay says:

    Hey Bret

    Big fan of your site and the way you approach training through science.
    I have a question i hope you will answer. For as long as i can remember i been taught the cue “push from the heels/stay on the heels etc.” But lately i been talking to a chinese weightlifting coach that tells me that they push from the entire foot, which, after i tried it, and thought about it makes more sense.
    The actual question is, do you know the physiological reason to why one must stay on the heels? Im told that it should protect the knees, but i have not seen any reviews or study examine this?
    And why should you not be on your entire foot, it makes you more stable?

    Thx for your time
    Stud. Sport and Exercise Science

    • Swokewillow says:

      I think the heels cue was intended to train people not to shift forward on their toes. I push evenly through the whole foot because it helps me to keep my back neutral vs arching.

  • Swokewillow says:

    Also, pushing through the heels reduces calf power and does t strengthen the feet as feel.

  • Adam says:

    doesnt mean you can’t improve your depth though right? Ideally you want the most range? So you should work on mobility and strength combined – it’s worked wonders for my squat. From power lifting style just breaking parallel to now Olympic Butt to heels comfortably! And body feels better for having improved squat depth. So I would say ideally work on mobility before weight. With split squats – Bulgarians etc as you have recommended?

    • Charles Nankin says:

      i’ve just realised that my buttwink starts when my thighs are just below horizontal. i think this might be bad for my vertebral discs, some of which are pretty thin. so i have to now start working on mobility.

  • Ignacio says:

    Hi, Bret

    Thanks for the quick and simple roundup. I’m a yoga teacher as well as kettlebell instructor, and I give strong importance to biomechanics in my classes. Lately I’ve been using some barbells for deep back squats and when I do I tell my clients to go down just until the moment they can keep a good posture. This means some of them, with low mobility, can only go down so far, not reaching the knee parallel.
    Other coaches have criticized this, saying there is no point in doing the squats if they can’t go down further down, and should start doing them only when their mobility works up. I think its a good workout for them anyway and help them improve both strength and mobility if some correctly. I’d appreciate your opinion on the matter. Many thanks.

    Kettle or die!

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