I first began strength training my major power lifts when I was a teenager. I played baseball in high school and during the off-season we trained back squats, bench press, power cleans, etc. We were given rep schemes to follow, but did not receive much instruction on form. I look back and I now realize most of us had no idea what we were doing. On back squats many of us had rounded lumbars, valgus formation of the knees, weight on our toes (all which are obvious red flags for injury). But, probably the simplest mistake we were all making was not going down far enough. Because so many people are taught incorrectly or have not been taught at all, you see a lot of people performing “quarter squats”.
Flash forward years later to when I was 20 years old. I had come a long way with my form, but was still lacking that depth in my squat. I felt like a beast quarter squatting 275 lbs for 10 reps, but one day while squatting at the campus rec center I received some harsh criticism from a complete stranger. He said “why don’t you drop the weight and squat all the way down like a man”. I turned around and he kept walking away. I noticed he was also doing back squats across the gym. I noticed how he drove his knees out and went down much lower than anyone I had ever seen (he also had 315 lbs on the bar and had tree trunks for legs). I decided to take his advice and dropped the weight from 275 lbs down to 135 lbs. I performed just two sets of 10 reps to rock bottom depth. The following two days I was sore in muscles I didn’t even realize I had. Research shows that squatting to full depth leads to greater gains in strength and muscle mass. I learned a lesson that day —- to train my muscles, not my ego.