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The perfect squat – what does it look like? How do you achieve it?

Unfortunately, the answer is that the perfect squat does not really exist.

Biomechanically speaking, we as humans are all built differently. We are all different heights, have different torso lengths, different limb lengths and different capacities and capabilities in our mobility. As such, we will all have a slight variation in how we squat.

So how can we ensure we are getting the most out of our squats, and what positions are we aiming to achieve?

In order to gain maximal strength and maximal contraction of each muscle group, squatting to parallel or just below is the most optimal. In other words, we are aiming to get our hips in line with or just below the knees.

However, what will vary is how we achieve this depth at the bottom of the squat.

For example: someone with a longer torso and shorter femur lengths will find it easier to get depth in their squat. As such, they will usually squat with the bar higher on their back and stay more upright throughout the entire range of motion. You can see this in the first image on the left – the bar is sitting slightly higher and the lifter can achieve full range of motion without any forward tilt.

Conversely, someone with a shorter torso and longer femur lengths will likely struggle to perform a high bar squat to depth, without an excessive forward lean. As such, someone with this biomechanical make up will feel more comfortable with the bar resting lower on their back - to keep the bar closer to the midline of the body. In addition, to achieve the same depth as the image on the left, he has to push his hips further back and lean further forward to get the same range of motion. This position may not look as ‘perfect’ as the one of the left, but as long as its performed correctly, it is just as safe and just as effective as the image of the left.

One common thing you will see in both images is regardless of limb length, it is essential the knees stay out throughout the squat. ‘Knees out’ allows the hips to come straight down in the bottom of the squat creating greater contraction of the glutes (specifically, the gluteus medius).

So, which is right? Which is wrong? Which is better?

Well that all depends. If your flexibility and your limb length allows you to get into the position seen on the left – then this is the safest way to increase the weight in your squat. If your squat looks a little more like the image on the right - then you may need to work a little harder to ensure your lifting heavy weights in this positon safely. You’ll need to ensure your chest stays high and doesn’t fall too far forward at the bottom of the squat. Additionally, you will need to ensure you keep a neutral spine and tight core (via bracing) as your weights increase.

Regardless of how your body is built, if you want to get the most out of your squats: Squat low, keep your spine in a neutral position and keep your core tight. Happy squatting!