By Coach Caleb
A 90 degree squat is when your knees are bent, as the name suggests, at 90 degrees. This happens when your hips and knees make a straight line. If you’re having a hard time visualizing what this may look like, I like to imagine that I could place a book on my thigh and it wouldn’t slide off my leg. These squats are also called “parallel squats” because your thighs are parallel to the floor, instead of being angled upwards.
Why do we want you to squat to 90 degrees? Do we hate you and take pleasure in making you suffer?
No! We love you! That’s why we want you to have the strength and mobility to get depth in your squats.
Research has been showing that training a muscle through a longer range of motion most likely builds more muscle than a shorter range of motion (3). More range of motion means that the muscle is stretched further between the two moving joints. A 90 degree squat puts the quads in a more stretched position than a quarter squat, so you’re going to be building more muscle for each repetition that you do. Since you’re already at the gym doing squats, you might as well get that extra muscle! Strength increases are also specific to how you train- you won’t get stronger in positions that you don’t practice. It makes sense; if you don’t go low in the squat, you won’t get that much better at it because you’re not practicing the movement.
90 degree squats are also great for our mobility! We want you to be able to do a parallel squat because the movement itself is likely to be more useful outside of the gym. It’s very likely that you’re not going to stop at a quarter squat depth when you need to lift yourself from a low seat, pick up something heavy, work around the house, or play with your kids or grandkids. Doing a full squat helps to build the mobility that carries over into the rest of your life.
Here’s some tips for doing 90 degree squats:
- Use the appropriate box height and be consistent week to week! Track what height you used (for example, small box and 1 blue pad) and stick with it.
- If you can’t get that to 90 degrees with good form yet, that’s ok! You’ll just start with a higher box. Tracking the height you squat to can allow you to track your depth progress over time.
- Make sure you touch the box during all your warm-up sets, so you can get used to that range of motion with a weight that doesn’t feel too challenging. This is good practice for the heavier weight and over time getting to 90 degrees won’t feel so impossible! You’ll get more comfortable getting that low and pushing yourself out from the bottom of the squat.
- Incorporate leg presses if you have access to it! Use it as an opportunity to get more comfortable at a lower depth. The leg press will feel a bit more secure than the squat, so use the leg press to get comfortable going low
- Use the ramps! They’re not just expensive door stoppers.
- Ramps help us to really stretch the quads and get low in squats while maintaining ‘the stack’ (the rib cage-over-pelvis position we love to coach)
- If your coach assigns you breathing exercises- do them! They help to expand your pelvis and ribcage in all the right areas that help your body to get into a low squat position over time.
It is important to remember that each person is different. There may be a reason we don’t have you squatting to 90 degrees, whether that be due to injury or mobility. Squats that aren’t to 90 degrees also aren’t “bad” squats. Each person can work on movement patterns that best support where they are at and a deeper squat takes time to achieve.
Your coach will help you make the best decision for your body!
Questions? Let us know!