Recently there seems to be an increasing number of people hobbling in to the clinic with lower back pain caused by squatting. A common theme has been that these squat victims have either been performing deep weighted squats or cross-fit type training. These are often lumbar spine disc injuries and require a period of modified training as the injury settles. This led me to question whether the load on the lumbar spine is greater with increasing squat depth. While it appears that it is not necessarily the depth of the squat to blame, a review of the research has led me to some answers.
The optimal squat, according to Paul Comfort and Peter Kasim in their literature review in the Strength and Conditioning Journal (2007), is as follows:
•Wide stance (at least shoulder width)
•Natural foot position
•Unrestricted movement of the knees
•Full depth while the lordotic curvature of the lumbar spine is maintained (Figure 1).