Olympic Weightlifter Chad Vaughn Teaches Deep Squats for Video
One of the most common questions around a weight room you’ll hear from beginning lifters all the way up to more experienced trainees is all about squat depth. How low should you go?
The answer is more fluid than you might expect (in the most basic scenario, it depends on your body), but for some people, squat depth is even more complicated. If you’re an athlete with a specific training goal—say, an Olympic weightlifter—you have different aims for your squat than a bodybuilder focused on building mass or a powerlifter trying to push as much weight as possible. Dr. Aaron Horschig of Squat University recently posted a video to help to provide some context about exactly how low certain types of lifters should be trying to go when they squat.
Horschig turned to Chad Vaughn, a weightlifter who competed in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics for the U.S., to help break down the matter of squat depth for his discipline. For Vaughn, there’s no such thing as too low. That’s because of the nature of Olympic weightlifting’s two disciplines, the snatch and the clean and jerk, which both put the athlete under maximal loads in the squat position. “When you’re lifting as much weight as you’re potentially capable of, then you’re going to be forced into an extreme depth position,” he says. “Very regularly I see athletes being forced down to a depth that they’re not getting to unless they’re snatching and cleaning.”
Since these weightlifters are going to be forced into these low positions, Vaughn teaches athletes to squat to that extreme depth. “I also need that bottom position to be stable stable, I need it to be strong within that bottom position, and I need to be strong coming out of it.” He recommends training all squats at that depth, from front squats, to overhead squats, to high bar back squats.
Pausing is important too—Vaughn advocates that Olympic lifters be able to pause squat for five to 10 seconds with at least their goal clean and jerk weight. This can be relevant for CrossFitters as well, since the sport sometimes requires variations of Olympic lifts that force athletes into that low position.
This can be a key point for competitors. Vaughn explains that while some elite athletes eschew the deep squats in their training, they’re able to make up for this lack of preparation when it comes time for competition because of their raw strength and talent. For the average weightlifter though—and even for himself, a two-time Olympian—talent and raw strength are not enough for success. To nail the goal lifts, he believes that honing the mobility and technique in the bottom position is the most important factor.
Outside of competition, Vaughn believes that deep squats are important for athletes of all stripes. “If you are an elite athlete and you want to have the best health and longevity you possibly can, you should be capable of a good quality full-depth squat, and if you’re not there’s something missing,” he says. “A basic human should be able to do that.” That said, Horshig qualifies that proper form and technique is essential with these deep squats.
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