Squats For People Who Can’t Squat (like me)

Squats are the bane of my gym-life.

No matter how much I stretch I cannot bend the various joints at the correct angle to get a true parallel squat. You can keep telling me how good deep squats are for me, how I need to stand with my feet hip width apart, put the weight into my heels, break at the hip, push my butt back and squat down until my hip joint is just below my knee joint.. it just aint happening.

My “squat” in the “proper” squatting form is laughable. I barely bend at all!

I can almost hear the meatheads going “Ha! Look at her pathetic power-cursty!”  

“Piss off with your exercise snobbism, it’s not as if I’m not trying! How about you shut up and concentrate on your bicep curls! Also, general life pro tip: women don’t want or need your unsolicited opinion on anything she does, eats or wears!”  

Oops, bit of a feminist rant there… oh well. Back to the shitty squats…

Pictured: Not Me. Some bad ass woman called Rita! Photo via Flickr: Amber Karnes

So why does my squat suck:


It could be my ankles – I think its possible the bones at the front of my ankle will not allow me to dorsiflex more than 90degrees. When I try to squat lower, I don’t feel a pull in my lower calf or achilles it just feels like that is as far as my foot will bend without breaking a bone!

When I read this article from Debbie Daly at The Yin Practice, I felt vindicated. She can’t squat “properly” either! Her ankles just will not go past 90degrees no matter how many downward dogs she does. We’re are ankle buddies!

“If your heels don’t touch the floor in your Yoga Squat, you’ve likely been approached by more than one well-meaning yoga teacher who is eager to roll a blanket and stick it under your heels. Maybe you’ve been told your ankles or hips will open up over time.


But what if you’ve been doing yoga for years, and nothing has changed? Here’s the big news: the inability of the heels to stay on the ground often has nothing to do with tightness in your muscles or tendons, and instead might be a problem of physics and leverage, due to the architecture of the bones of your ankles.”


She’s a flipping Yogi and her ankles still won’t bend!


But it could also be something to do with my hips – a friend pointed me to this great article about anatomical variations in hip bones and why athletes not only do but should squat differently!

“When someone has difficulty squatting, or their feet turn out, or they like a wide stance, we all want to jump on the bandwagon and say “your hips are tight, you need to mobilize them”. If we say that without considering anatomical variations of the hip joint, we can be misled.”

Just look how different these hip bones look:

Yes!! How possible is it to get X-rays of both my hips and someone who can squat parallel in the “proper” form? I want to compare them without, you know, being dead first. The hips don’t lie, yo! (Sorry.)

Anyway, back to the point.
I definitely feel like I can squat lower, below parallel in fact, if I squat wide and with my toes turned out. Sumo squats are my bitch! Shame you can’t skate low in sumo squat position, I’d be all over than and none of my coaches would ever be screaming to get lower!

Why do I even care about being able to squat? 

  • Squats build muscle not only in your legs but your ass, lower back and core.
  • Squats make you produce muscle building hormones that help you pack on the meat in your upper body too!
  • Squats are a functional movement, something that’s actually useful in real life for times when you need to pick heavy stuff up off the floor, like kids (ew) or drunk friends.
  • Because squats use a large area of muscle, they fire up your metabolism!
  • Squats help prevent injuries in areas such as the knees, when done properly, because they strengthen your glutes and posterior chain. (I wrote about strong glutes here)
  • Your stabiliser muscles get a workout improving your balance and mobility.
  • Squats help you run (or skate) faster, jump higher and power through tough derby walls!

Thats a lot of good stuff that I don’t want to miss out on!

Squat Variations For People Who Can’t Squat 

  • Sumo or Pliè Squat – wide legs, toes pointed outwards
  • Box (or chair) Squat – shoulder width stance, squat down & lightly touch the seat, don’t sit down!
  • Wall Squat – feet shoulder width apart, knees at 90degrees and upright back
  • Assisted Squat (band, TRX, towel) – slightly wider stancetry to use your bum/legs to drive back up and not your arms, pause at the bottom to help your body learn the deep squat position
  • Split Squat – both legs bending at 90degrees, back straight
  • Bulgarian Split Squat – back leg rests on a bench/box and front leg lowers, stay upright

 The Cant Squat Workout

Squat tips:

  • Keep your chest lifted as you lower
  • Break at the hips and knee at the same time
  • Push your hips backwards & keep your weight in your heels
  • Try to keep your back upright & in a neutral/slightly arched position
  • Track knees through your feet, and push your knees outward, don’t let them cave inwards
  • Only go as low as you can with proper form
  • Pick a chair/box that allows you to bend lower than parallel (unlike my chair in the vid!)
  • Try variations in height of the step/box you use for the Bulgarian split squat (my chair is probably too high & I’d benefit more from something slightly lower)

If you struggle getting low in a squat, try these variations!

Cool things that also work similar muscles

  • Standard deadlifts
  • Sumo deadlifts
  • Hip Thrusts (or glute bridges)
  • One legged deadlifts
  • Step ups & weighted step ups
  • All of the lunge variations

And finally, for all the Gym Bros out there scoffing over people’s squat depth, here’s and article about the stupid “controversy” over squatting.

Happy Squatting!


Treble Maker 909 xx

Comments 4

  1. Yes thank you! My ankles will not go past 90 – and in my right ankle, I can’t even get to 90. Stems from club feet that I had surgery for as a baby, which worked well enough for most things – skating and rugby, for example – but still prevents me from doing a ‘correct’ squat (and leads to charming coaches etc insisting that you don’t need to bend your ankles to squat so I must be screwing it up in some other way – while showing me a picture of someone squatting with ankles bent more than I could ever hope for). Makes me feel like I can’t even show up for any kind of workout that might involve squatting and its “ass to heels or you suck” zealots.

    1. Screw them Jess! Everyone is different and so we must adapt whatever we’re doing to suit our bodies. A good trainer should know that 🙂
      People who can bend in all the right places don’t know how lucky they are! x

  2. I struggle with this so much, I’ve skated standing straight up for 5 years, but I’m now on a team that really wants to break me of that…I’m torn between feeling like its a bodily limitation and feeling like I just need to get my ass in better shape. In reality I’m sure it’s a little of both. It also doesn’t help that I’m super tall and obvious in the pack. Have you experienced any success in your squats? This is such a huge source of frustration and stress for me right now :/

    1. I really understand your frustration! I’ve seen an improvement over the last year or so with my squats, I can get low now but only in a wide/sumo stance which isn’t really helpful for derby as we don’t skate like that 😀
      I think it’s well worth it to keep working on it, stretching and strengthening, as it can’t do any harm. But if you watch derby, not everyone is super low, many skaters are quite upright skaters but they are in *their* derby stance – stable and flexible.
      So I think, as long as you are strong, stable and flexible in your stance, it doesn’t matter if you aren’t as low as other people.

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