Convincingly Deep

by Larry Maile, 1999

A great deal of discussion has been had regarding the difficulties of satisfying the squat standard encountered in IPF competition over the past two years. This year, though, I am happy to say that the teams I coached, Women’s and Juniors so far, have not had any problem meeting the standard. It seems the transition is over, at least as far as our adjusting our training and competition technique to compensate for the differences. I would also add that I have observed fewer and fewer red lights for depth in USA Powerlifting competition over the same period of time. Most of those having difficulty seem to be new lifters, those who have lifted in unsanctioned (e.g. high school) competitions, and members of federations who follow a different standard for depth.


Jennifer Maile (above) squats at the 1999 IPF Junior Worlds in Nyumburk, Czechia. This is “unofficially” the deepest squat ever done in IPF competition.

My conclusions as to reaching “convincingly deep” are as follows:

1. You can squat as much deep as parallel, IF you train for it.

2. When you decide to adjust to a deeper standard, there is a transition time to make it work. This may be several months.

3. You can’t feel for the bottom and come up from far below parallel.

4. You won’t “get buried” by the weight. If you move quickly enough, your muscle fibers and equipment will rebound you up at least to half way.

5. Work deep below parallel, i.e. partial movements in the bottom, help. They may only help your comfort level in the bottom, but that is certainly worth something.

6. It’s easier to squat deep with a narrower stance. Most of us don’t have the hip flexibility/mobility to do wide squats deep.

7. It takes as much effort and training time to squat high as deep.

8. You can’t train high and “drop it in” at the meet. It doesn’t work, at least not consistently.

9. If you don’t squat deep, you may end up being extremely frustrated by your lack of success. You may even give up powerlifting.

The following is a paragraph written for lifters I work with in Alaska about the time of the IPF affiliation. I think it helps explain the squat standard and where it comes from:

“First, let me explain my understanding of the new squat standard. On paper, the standard appears not to have changed. In reality, it is very different. This likely comes from the people in the IPF who establish the standard and are responsible for you getting your squats passed. Virtually all the IPF referees in Europe, and many in other countries are old Olympic lifters. In fact, the weightlifting federations of many countries control powerlifting. The referees who call powerlifting meets also officiate weightlifting meets. For those of you who haven’t watched an Olympic lifter do squat cleans (where he or she picks the weight up to the shoulders, squatting under it), they drop down so that their butt almost touches the floor. They are probably 4-8 inches below parallel, depending on their size. If they don’t get down that low, they can’t get under the weight. That is what the weightlifting coaches see attempt after attempt. Besides that, most of the powerlifters in Eastern Europe are converted Olympic lifters as well, so they still squat that deep. The landmark for a weightlifting referee is seeing you drop well below parallel and to see your hips pivot around your knee, which serves as hinge for your squats. If the pivot and drop are not present, dipping slightly below parallel and/or feeling for the bottom is not going to work. Unfortunately, with the higher standard in America over the past two decades, and all the organizations with high standards, our referees have let the subjective pivot point in the hip take precedence. American referees watch your hips, those from other parts of the world will not.”

Those who have lifted in international competitions rarely have problems with depth when they get back. They come home and modify their training to build strength at the bottom of the squat and devote themselves to technical precision. Watch for them in meets at home. The difference is noticeable. They are the people who NEVER get red lights for depth.