Why You MUST Squat Low

A picture of Brad Gillingham at the bottom of a squat in competition.

Scenario 1– Have you ever been shown how to squat by someone?

And did they ever tell you that in order for the squat “to count” it needs to be parallel?

But when you asked why, they didn’t have anything to back their statement up other than “because that’s how to do it.” Or “because that’s what is legal in powerlifting.”

…But you’re not a powerlifter, are you?

Well, then who really cares?

You just want strong and powerful legs to be a more effective wrestler, right?

Scenario 2– Have you ever been shown how to squat by someone who said you only need to do quarter squats because in wrestling you never need to get lower than that?

Your shots typically don’t come from the joint angles produced in a parallel squat. Your mat returns don’t come from those joint angles either.

It makes sense based on observational information, doesn’t it?

But is it really the right way for wrestlers to squat?

Well, what if I told you that I knew the right way to squat AND had some solid evidence to back it up. Would that be better than giving you the usual “he said she said” suggestions you’ve probably been told so far?

The Study:

Purpose

“The aim of the research projects was to compare the effects of different squat varients on the development of 1RM and their transfer effects to Countermovement jump (CMJ) and squat jump (SJ) height, maximal voluntary contraction (MVC), and maximal rate of force development (MRFD).”

Here’s the breakdown of what that all means and why you may find this worthwhile:

1RM= 1 rep max which is the measure of absolute strength gained from the training.

The countermovement jump is used as a measure of power that can be produced by an individual from the stretch reflex. This shows how quickly the person can absorb and redirect force. Another way to put this is that it shows how “elastic” a person is.

Having improved elasticity in your muscles will allow you to shoot faster, sprawl/react faster to your opponent shooting, and perform mat returns more explosively. In general, it helps you to move faster and more explosively on the mat.

The squat jump is used to measure power output from a static start. Producing power from static positions (stalemate situations in wrestling) allows you to overcome these situations and score more points. The subjects held the position until they were given a command to jump.

Maximal voluntary contraction is how hard you can contract your muscles without the aid of an external stimulus (a stim device, shown below).

A picture of a man with his shirt off, face down on a table with various pads going to electrodes stuck to his back.

Maximal rate of force development is how fast you can generate force. Improving your ability to both produce more force and to produce it at a faster rate makes you a more explosive wrestler. Maximizing your rate of force development as a wrestler should be, in my opinion, one of the primary focuses of a program.

Groups

26 female and 36 male subjects. The majority of the subjects had low strength training experience. They were divided into one of 3 groups:

20 in the front squat group.

20 in the back squat group.

19 in the quarter squat group. This group squatted with the use of a Smith Machine. The researchers were worried that the heavier weights the group would be using would be difficult to stabilize and could lead to an injury.

There was also a group of 16 participants used as a control group.

All squatters followed a 2 day a week program as follows:

Weeks 1-4: 5 sets of 8-10 reps with 5 minutes rest.

Weeks 5-8: 5 sets of 6-8 reps with 5 minutes rest.

Weeks 9-10: 5 sets of 2-4 reps with 5 minutes rest.

“The subjects performed each set to momentary muscular failure in the last 2 repetitions of the targeted repetition scheme (forced reps).”

The subjects were not allowed to “bounce” out of the hole during any of the training sessions.

The subjects were all allowed to lift outside of this program, but were told not to do any lower body or low back exercises.

The control group did not perform any lower body strength training. However, they were allowed to participate in their usual physical education classes.

Strength Findings

Both the Front Squat and Back Squat groups showed significantly higher maxes in the Front Squat. The Quarter Squat and Control groups did not.

Both the Front Squat and Back Squat groups also showed significantly higher maxes in the Back Squat and Quarter Squat.

The Quarter Squat group only showed significant improvement in the Quarter Squat and actually decreased significantly in the Back Squat. In fact, the Quarter Squat group gained the largest percentage increase on their max.

The Control group showed no significant differences.

What Does This Mean?

Deep squatting (below parallel) in either the Back or Front Squat variation led to improvements in 1 rep max strength for all 3 styles of squatting.

Quarter squatting only improved Quarter Squat performance. It also led to a significant decrease in Back Squat strength.

Findings For Jumps

Both the Front Squat and Back Squat groups significantly increased the height of their Countermovement Jump and Squat Jump.

The Quarter Squat and Control groups both showed statistically insignificant changes in these jumps.

There was no statistical difference found between the degree of improvement made by the Front and Back Squat groups. There was also no statistical difference found between the lack of improvement made by the Control and Quarter Squat groups.

What Does This Mean?

The Front and Back Squats resulted in an increase in reactive power within the lower body (measured by the CMJ). Neither style of squat proved to be more effective at improving CMJ.

On the opposite side of the coin, Quarter Squats showed little transfer to lower body power. These are the same results as the control group, which didn’t squat at all!

Other Findings

Both Front and Back Squat groups showed significantly higher maximal voluntary contraction (measured one leg at a time) when compared to the Quarter Squat and Control groups.

The Front and Back Squat groups showed no significant change in this test. The Quarter Squat and Control groups showed a statistically significant decrease in performance.

Both Front and Back Squat groups showed significantly higher maximal rate of force development (measured one leg at a time) when compared to the Quarter Squat and Control Groups.

The Front and Back Squat groups showed no significant change in this test. The Quarter Squat and Control groups showed a statistically significant decrease in performance.

Conclusion

“Deep front and back squats guarantee performance enhancing transfer effects of dynamic maximal strength to dynamic speed-strength capacity of hip and knee extensors compared with quarter squats.”

“According to the presented facts, the necessity of quarter squat training has to be seriously questioned.”

Study Referenced
Hartmann, H., K. Wirth, M. Klusemann, J. Dalic, C. Matuschek, D. Schmidtbleicher. Influence of squatting depth on jumping performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 26(12), 3243-3261. 2012.

My Thoughts

I’m sure you’ve heard the arguments about squatting depth before. In all honesty, before I read this study, I wasn’t sure how to defend squatting below parallel.

Without some kind of evidence, I really can’t substantiate one style of squatting over another.

So, I hope this post helped you to better understand why below parallel squatting is a much better investment of your time.

How Do You Squat Low?

So the next question that arises is how do I squat low?

Over the years of working with a variety of wrestlers, I know it’s not as easy as making a conscious effort to go lower.

A lot can happen, as far as technique breakdowns are concerned, when forcing your body into a position it is unfamiliar with.

Basically what I’ve found, is that nearly every wrestler I’ve worked with possesses the physical capabilities of squatting lower. They just don’t “know” how to do it.

Here’s the best way I’ve found to train your body to develop a familiarity with the bottom of the squat.

“Stripper Squats” (or pole assisted squat) as I call them are used to simply “introduce” your body to the bottom of a squat position.

They allow you to train your body to balance accordingly by experiencing what the bottom of a below parallel squat should feel like. As you gain a physical understanding of the balance and stability needed, you’ll need to use the pole less and less.

Ultimately, you’ll be able to progress to an unassisted, full squat with your arms out. From there, you’ll eventually be able to perform a full squat with your hands behind your head.

It’s the same idea as when you were learning how to bench press. Did your coach/instructor touch a specific spot on your chest where they wanted you to touch the bar to every time?

That technique is simply trying to get your body used to the optimal bottom position. This is the same goal of a stripper squat.

For more detail on the stripper squat read my old post here.

Conclusion

Alright, I hope I did a good job of both detailing why you should be squatting low, and how to quickly train your body to go about it.

If not, please leave me a comment below.

Related Posts:

Shoulder/Elbow/Wrist Saving Squat Tips

Fixing Your Squat

Anderson Squats For Wrestlers

Strength Training for Wrestling- Box Squats

A picture of Kyle Dake and Dickie White.
Hi, I’m Dickie (the author of this blog). Here I am with my good buddy, Kyle Dake. While he doesn't have a nice coat like me, he is pretty good at wrestling. Here's what he said about my training system:

Before I began lifting using Dickie's system my wrestling skills were getting slightly better. I've now been lifting under his guidance for more than 5 months and I have begun to dominating ALL of my competition. At first I had little faith in Dickie and his program, but now I would run into a wall if he told me I would get stronger! I know it sounds insane, but I would. The bottom line is Dickie is an expert and knows what he is talking about. If you want to defeat those kids whom you've always lost to and reach a level you never thought possible, I suggest you start lifting using Dickie's system immediately.

-Kyle Dake, 4X NCAA Division 1 National Champion
_________________________________________

Want to see what other wrestlers are saying about my training system? Check out my Success Stories page.

_________________________________________

Want to learn more about Dickie? Check out my About page.

_________________________________________

Want to get started on a program today? Read this post and download your free program- 12 Week Training Program For Wrestlers.

_________________________________________

4 Comments. Leave new

  • The study seems to focus on the difference between squatting at least to parallel and quarter squats. How does squatting below parallel compare to squatting just to parallel?

    Reply
    • Danny, I will do some searching on Google Scholar and on the Journal of Strength and Conditioning database in the next day or two to see what I can come up with. Below parallel wasn’t covered in this study, but I’m definitely interested because that’s how I squat along with a few of the wrestlers I train.

      Reply
  • Dickie,

    Thanks for putting that up.

    I wonder if the findings support the general advice to work a muscle through as great a
    range of motion as possible?

    Of course against that there is anecdotal evidence in favour of partial movements and systems such as Westside which make them a staple utilising for example one and three board presses.

    It has lead me to wonder how we should evaluate step ups which tend to have a relatively
    shallower angle than full squats.

    BTW if not mentioned elsewhere is it appropriate to mention Dake’s stupendous pick up and suplex of Burroughs at the US Nationals?

    Reply
    • Hey Peter, glad you liked the post and thanks for the comment.

      I’d imagine that the post would support the general advice about training through a full range of motion like you mention above, but at the same time, you bring up a good point about partial ROM training like board presses, floor presses, pin pulls, etc.

      Good point on the step ups as well. In all honesty, questions like that have been eating away at me recently and I actually am in the process of a solution/major announcement in regards to weight training for wrestling and how to better measure it’s effectiveness/carryover. I’d imagine within the next week or two I’ll have the ball rolling on things and will put up a post and send out an email once it’s all set.

      Ha, and yeah that was a beautiful throw. It would have been nice to see him win that match and go to 3, but either way, he did a great job making adjustments in the 2nd match and I’m really looking forward to future matchups. That rivalry is going to do nothing but grow the sport and get the fans more involved.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.

Menu