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Every coach must consider a few things when determining optimal squat depth for an athlete. Everyone should have the capability to perform a bodyweight squat to full depth, period. That being said, the depth of the barbell squat should be based on the requirements of an athlete’s sport. A weightlifter for example needs to establish strength in the full depth squat in order to lift the most amount of weight on the competition platform. On the other hand, a barbell ass-to-grass squat is not necessary for a soccer player. He or she can still gain efficient strength and power from a parallel depth squat.
An athlete’s injury history also needs to be taken into account when determining optimal squat depth. Often athletes will ignore pain in their pursuit of performance gains. The phrases “no pain, no gain” and “know the difference between hurt and injured” cannot apply to the weight room. Pain is like the warning light in our car. The light is indicating something is wrong. Just as ignoring your car’s warning light on will lead to engine problems, pushing through pain in the weight room will lead to injury of our physical body. For this reason, if an athlete is injured and has knee pain, deep squats may not be the best choice. The depth of the squat must be limited to a pain free range if we want to stay healthy and continue to compete injury free.