squat, barbell training, strength training, starting strength, squatting


The population census conducted in hell revealed that the most prevalent “squat-sin” amongst the participants was cheating (depth) when they think that they might fail the next rep. The majority, at 54%, squatted high on their last repetition, 32% started cheating on their second last, while 14% were just cowards to begin with.

Researcher and Starting Strength Coach, Joannes Marvin, shares his wisdom in preventing this embarrassing issue.


Step 1: Understanding the sacred rule of depth

For competing athletes:

In a meet, you have 3 judges that confirm the validity of your squat. If 2 out of 3 judges deemed that your squat is high, your glorious attempt in standing up would be invalid.

Basically, the following standard on squat depth must be satisfied.


Hip crease below knee cap – good

Hip crease above knee cap – no good


For lifters adhering to the Starting Strength methodology of performing the barbell lifts:

Starting Strength believes in the holy trinity of the exercise selection criteria:


1. Use the most muscle mass


3. And thus, use the most weight, amen.


I don’t want to dwell much on interpreting this concept, as Master Rippetoe has elaborated all this in his previous letters. Please refer to Deep Squats and Can You Squat Too Deep?


For the casual squatters:

You want measurable progress, and behind measurable progress, is consistency. Consistency in training and consistency in technique.

If you squatted 100kg to proper depth last week and half-squatted 102.5kg this week, have you gotten stronger? You can’t be sure, therefore consistency in technique matters.

N.B. Let’s not argue for the consistency of your half-squat depth. You can never be sure if your half squat is not a quarter-squat, or a third-squat, or a three-quarter squat.


Step 2: Appealing to your logic

Don’t you hate spending your effort for nothing?

Running as fast as you can to catch the bus, only to have the door close in front of you and the bus driving off without you.

Spending the whole day preparing dinner only to know that your guest can’t come at the very last minute.

Studying hard through the night only to know that the exam was cancelled at the last minute (arguably a very unlikely scenario).

All the scenarios above suck, but it has an unknowable component where you can’t control. If your effort goes to waste, it’s not totally your fault.

It’s different in a squat. You have 100% control over it.

Why work so hard for that one extra rep, feeling like you’re about to get squashed like a fly, and when you finally stand back up, you know that it doesn’t even count? Commit to keeping consistent depth, consistent technique.

You shouldn’t be afraid of not being able to stand up. Your rack has safety pins for that.

You should be more afraid of not squatting to depth. It’s torture without reward.

Commit to keeping consistent depth using consistent technique.


Step 3: Learn from Master Yoda

When young Luke Skywalker learned the way of a Jedi from Master Yoda, he saw his X-Wing sinking into the swamp. Panicking that he could never leave planet Dagobah, Master Yoda asked him to use the Force to pull it out of the water.

After a lot of hesitation, he said to Master Yoda, “Alright, I will give it a try.” Seeing his lack of will, Master Yoda scolded, “No! Try not. DO. OR DO NOT. THERE IS NO TRY”

Many of us have committed the same sin of “trying” to get something without much commitment. “Trying” to go a little bit deeper without actually trying.

In the event that you’re in this tight situation next time, remember Master Yoda and DO it, and may the Force be with you.

An extra inch you cut would not make it easier for you to stand up by much. But, if you feel almost equal torture, you might as well make it count. Don’t be afraid of not being able to stand up, be afraid of wasted efforts.


Disclaimer: you can still fail your squat after reaching the depth, but at least you failed it with honour. Learn how to stay calm and keep grinding.




My interest in fitness started when I was around 19 years old. Being overweight for most of my growing up years, I decided to do something about it. After months of not being able to achieve the desired results, I began poring through books and articles about training and nutrition. The more I read, the more interested I became in this field, and got better results when the the newly discovered knowledge was applied. After 1 year of persistence and hard work, I lost 24kg and felt fantastic. The sense of achievement motivated me to pursue a career in working with people to help them achieve their own fitness goals.

After achieving my weight loss goal, I tried a variety of training programs for a few years, looking for a new goal to train towards. After aimlessly moving around from program to program, I chanced upon a book called Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, written by renowned strength and conditioning expert, Mark Rippetoe. Little did I know that this book was about to change my life and coaching career.

At that point, I had experience training with barbells and was relatively familiar with it but never have I come across any material that gave such explicitly detailed explanations of how to perform the barbell lifts. I devoured the book and modified my lifting technique and program. In just a few months, I was pleasantly surprised by how much stronger he had become. I now had a new goal to work towards – getting strong.

With full confidence in the efficacy of the Starting Strength methodology, I began coaching my clients using this program and got them stronger than they ever thought was possible. The consistent success my clients achieved through the program cemented my confidence in Mark Rippetoe’s teachings. I then decided to pursue the credential of being a Starting Strength Coach and I’m currently the first and only certified coach in Singapore and South-East Asia

In my 9 years of experience, I have given talks and ran programs at numerous companies and worked with a diverse group clientele of all ages with a variety of goals. Today, I specialise in coaching people in their 40s, 50s and beyond because it brings me a great sense of satisfaction to be part of the process of improving this demographics’ health and quality of life by getting them stronger.