How Deep Should You Squat? Science Compares Partial and Full Squats

The science behind why you should squat deeper than your competition:

Why do you need to go deep? Why not just go all the way down? What are the advantages of going deeper than everyone else? Does it make sense to go so deep or does it make more sense to stay at a lower level? Is there any benefit from going even further down if that’s what works best for you? Do you have enough time to recover between sets and exercises?

What is the difference between a partial squat and a full squat?

Full Squat:

A full squat means that you completely descend into the hole while keeping your back flat. You keep your legs straight, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. A good example would be when someone squats with their heels touching the ground. This is called a “half” squat because they still maintain some flexion of their hips but not quite complete extension.

Partial Squat:

A partial squat means that you partially descend into the hole while maintaining some flexion of your hips. For example, if someone goes halfway down before bending their knees then they are performing a “full” squat. If someone goes all the way down without bending their knees then they are performing a partial squat. A good example would be when someone squats with their heels touching the ground and keeps them there until they reach parallel to the floor.

What are the benefits of partial squat?

Partial squat is great for those who have bad backs but still want to reap the benefits. It can also be used by those who are just starting out and want to gradually work their way into doing a full or “deep” squat. Because there is some flexion in the hip, your knees are protected from over extension which is a common mistake among new squatters.

What are the benefits of a full squat?

A full squat is commonly used in most, if not all, competitive athletic fields such as; football, wrestling, power lifting and even track and field. The low center of gravity that you gain from a proper full squat will help improve vertical jump which can be useful in many sports. Because the majority of your body mass is centered in a low position, your centre of gravity is very low. This means that quick acceleration is achievable.

What are the benefits of half squat?

Half squats are useful to those who have tight hips and/or poor mobility. The flexion in the hip will allow them to reach parallel without over extending their knees. Many power lifters who can’t full squat due to past knee injuries rely on the half squat because it is still useful for building strength in the legs and hips.

How deep should you squat?

How deep you should squat is completely up to you. If you are a power lifter then the answer is obviously “as deep as you can” since the deeper you go, the more strength you will be able to exert. If you are a bodybuilder then only go as deep as you have to in order to look good in a pair of jeans.

Is there an advantage to full squatting instead of a partial squat or is one better than the other?

Both are good although full squat will give you more “bang for your buck” and will help you achieve strength gains much quicker. However, if you have a past or present injury history then I would advise that you stick to partial or half squats until your body can handle a full squat.

What is back-squatting?

Back-squatting is a type of squat in which the barbell rests on the back utilizing the trapezius and lower back as the base of support. It can be performed with or without a squat rack. (Without will require a spotter)

What is front-squatting?

Front-squatting is a type of squat in which the barbell rests on the chest, resting across the clavicles and shoulders. It is useful for strengthening the quadriceps and the torso.

What is overhead squatting?

Overhead squatting is a type of squat in which the barbell rests on the shoulders and is then lifted overhead. It can either be done with or without a squat rack. (Without will require a spotter)

What is Zercher-squatting?

Zercher-squatting is a type of squat in which the barbell rests in the crooks of your elbows. It is useful for strengthening the core stabilization muscles.

Where can I learn to squat?

Squatting can be learned by attending a personal trainer workshop or hiring online personal training certification provider. You can also learn by yourself with an online certification course. Always seek supervision while performing a squat until you have mastered it.

Sources & references used in this article:

The effect of back squat depth on the EMG activity of 4 superficial hip and thigh muscles by A Caterisano, RE Moss, TK Pellinger… – The Journal of …, 2002 – academia.edu

Effects of changing from full range of motion to partial range of motion on squat kinetics by EJ Drinkwater, NR Moore, SP Bird – The Journal of Strength & …, 2012 – journals.lww.com

A comparison of gluteus maximus, biceps femoris, and vastus lateralis electromyography amplitude in the parallel, full, and front squat variations in resistance-trained … by B Contreras, AD Vigotsky… – Journal of applied …, 2016 – journals.humankinetics.com

Full squat produces greater neuromuscular and functional adaptations and lower pain than partial squats after prolonged resistance training by JG Pallarés, AM Cava, J Courel-Ibáñez… – … of Sport Science, 2020 – Taylor & Francis

Muscle activation differs between partial and full back squat exercise with external load equated by JJ da Silva, BJ Schoenfeld, PN Marchetti… – The Journal of …, 2017 – journals.lww.com

Deep Squats and Knee Health: A Scientific Review by T Ciccone, K Davis, J Bagley, A Galpin – 2015 – shruggedcollective.com

Squatting kinematics and kinetics and their application to exercise performance by BJ Schoenfeld – The Journal of Strength & Conditioning …, 2010 – cdn.journals.lww.com

Is the institutionalization of urban movements inevitable? A comparison of the opportunities for sustained squatting in New York City and Amsterdam by H Pruijt – International journal of urban and regional research, 2003 – Wiley Online Library