How Low Can (Should) you Go?

Power Lifter Extraordinaire, Clarence Kennedy, gettin’ low.

Squating: as ancient as it is effective. It represents one of the most fundamental human movement patterns we engage in (or should engage in). It also happens to be one of those fundamental movement patterns that modern-day humans are increasingly losing the ability to express.

Unsurprisingly, many folks (often much later in life) turn to barbell training in an effort to improve their capacity to squat. Unfortunately, this seemingly simple movement can prove very difficult for many people when load is added, and can even take years for a lifter to actually perfect. But it’s important. Ultimately, our ability to squat comfortably is a clear expression of our mobility.

Ass to Grass?

Last night I was watching some YouTube videos of Clarence Kennedy performing his famously low squats. It’s amazing to watch how much he can lift, especially at the depths he’s dropping to. If you aren’t familiar, I urge you to take a minute to check out some of Mr. Kennedy’s insane lifts, dropping to depths seen only in the deepest reaches of the Pacific.

Squat depth is a sometimes controversial aspect of lifting. Anatomical variants mean some folks can comfortably drop down ‘ass to grass’, while others struggle to hit parallel. Some of these differences come down to experience, but in many cases people are simply built differently, and they may never be able to squat much below parallel safely.

As a result, I try not to get too hung up on depth. Or rather, I only worry about how far I personally drop down, and how I feel when doing it, avoiding comparisons with other lifters. I might watch a video of Clarence Kennedy squatting 675 lbs to the floor and aspire to something similar, but I know my body mechanics might preclude from dropping so low (to say nothing of the fact that I can’t come anywhere close to lifting weights as heavy as he does). Instead, I consciously work to improve my comfort at lower depths. I listen to my body, and work with the anatomy I was born with.

While genetics certainly play a role in determining how low we can squat, we still have the ability to improve our maximum depth by working on our mobility. Or put another way, we can lose this mobility if we don’t regularly work through these ranges of motion. And my favourite way to improve my mobility of this ancient human movement? More squatting of course.

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