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There is a long answer and a short answer to that question and we shall try to approach both of these answers as thoroughly as we can. The short answer about how deep to squat is the simple comparison between a shallow squat and a deep squat.
Deep squats will build thicker legs because when you can squat with your knees below parallel you will get a greater movement from your knee extensors (ie quads) compared to a shallow squat which will be using more of the ankle that the quads to hold the weight.
The deeper squats that you do will also activate a lot more of your gluteus maximus when doing the concentric portion of the lift and you will be using a lot more vastus medialis as well as the lateralis (quads) when doing an eccentric contraction lowering the weight down.
The ideal way to squat is to go just past parallel and go slowly down in order to maximize the stress on the quads. The concentric movement should be an explosive one where you push upwards as quickly as possible.
The long answer to how deep should you squat is a lot more complicated simply because we are all built differently. There are no two pairs of hips that are built exactly the same and as a result there are four classifications of the different types of pelvi that we are born with. The two wider and deeper pelvis’s that also have a narrower base are called the gynaecoid and platypoid pelvi.
A person with this type of pelvis will be a lot more flexible for squatting but the problem is that because of the width of the pelvis there will be a limited amount of power and control when doing a heavy squat. This does not mean that a person with this type of pelvis will never be an Olympic lifter it just means more technique and development are required.
The people who are born with an android and anthropoid pelvi are people who will have very limited flexibility in their hips because of the potential contact with other bones or connective tissue. It is these people who can squat with some serious weight and often land up as power-lifters.
There are a few other common types of impingements that can occur in the femoral head of the leg resulting in a wide variety of the different types of femoral angles and the different articulations between the femur in relation to the acetabulum.
But even these limitations on the range of motion when doing a deep squat can be altered. By opening up the stance that this person squats with a bit wider or turning feet more outwards the person will be able to prevent the femur from smashing into the acetabulum.
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