Yes, really

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

Probably my biggest nag, I mean, most common correction, in class is telling people to get lower in the squat. And the most common response is "Really?" Now, once in a while, I may be standing at a weird angle and it looks like you're stopping higher than you are. But the vast majority of the time, you really do need to get lower.

You may be thinking, hey, if I'm below parallel, get off my case! But I'm here to help you get stronger, and so I'm not going to get off your case. In the squat, your biggest ally is the stretch reflex. The stretch reflex is the bounce you get at the bottom of the movement that powerfully propels you back up. If you use the stretch reflex, you will be able to lift a lot more weight than if you don't use it. If you put the brakes on, even if you go below parallel, you will be dragging yourself back up.

I know all about the stretch reflex because you lose it when you're pregnant - the hormone relaxin loosens your ligaments, which is great for giving birth, but not so great for heavy squatting. It takes a while for your ligaments to get back to normal after pregnancy, and now that I'm 6 months post partum, I'm finally getting my stretch reflex back, and squatting no longer feels like a slog (and I can finally go heavier).

Don't sell your squat short because you're following the letter of the law. Our guideline is below parallel, but when it comes to squatting, the lower the better. Check out competitive weightlifters. They go low, as low as possible, every time. They don't worry about below parallel, they just go as low as they can. So should you. So when I say to go lower, don't say "Really?" Just go lower.

Amy Santamaria