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  • 7/28/2019 the Hell Would I Want to Half Squat

    1/5 the-hell-would- i-want- to-half-squat/ June 6, 2013

    Why the Hell Would I Want to Half Squat?

    Why the Hell Would I Want to Half Squat?

    The ot her day I was squatt ing. No surprise. I then got a talk from yet another expert. Again, no

    surprises there! He came up to me after a set and said, You know, if you do f ive, you should dosix.

    Uninterested, I replied, Oh really and then sat down. Yea, he said. When you get to f ive andcant do any more, you should just carry on to like ten or more and do higher squats. With adumbfounded look in my eye, I looked up f rom my bench and simply replied, Why the hell would Iwant to half squat?

    Before he could reply, I simply carried on. I dont believe in half squats. In my eyes, a squat is only asquat when you go arse to grass or parallel. Quite simply, you either squat or you dont . Thisincident got me thinking of all the reasons why I believe you shouldnt half squat , and this article

    was born.

    Before we get started, granted not everyone is built f or squatt ing. Some people actually do havestructural issues that prevent t hem from squatt ing to depth such as femoroacetabularimpingement and unique anthropometrics as well as a whole host of other injury issues (I haventforgotten this). For these people, there are alternatives. However, most people can squat andindeed have the ability t o hit parallel at least. If they say they cant, they need to get moreinstruct ion on technique, address mobility issues, and strengthen t heir post erior chain. If youre inthe process of improving range of mot ion, I would allow squats shy of full depth as long as theyare all part of the process of gradually increasing depth. In such cases, I would rather use boxsquats at varying heights, as this teaches the use of the hips, not the knees. Either way, in this

    process, the weight stays the same as you gradually learn to squat lower for progression. Thisweight in most cases need not be heavier than the bar or say a light dumbbell if youre gobletsquatt ing. You dont put more weight on the bar and stay at the same depth. Half squats orvarying height box squats should be used as part of a learning or rehabilitat ion process, not as anego inf lation tool.
  • 7/28/2019 the Hell Would I Want to Half Squat



    OK, with all that in mind, let s tear down half squats and some myths surrounding deep squats inthe process. Full squats are bad for your knees. Wrong! But waiteveryone, including doctors,say that full squats are bad for your knees. Well, only all the people who are wrong say that, andsecondly, they are all massively wrong. It s half squats that lead to dodgy knees. As Dan Johnsays, Squats dont hurt your knees. Squatting how you squat hurts you knees.

    Lets have a lit t le anatomy lessonThe squat movement doesnt just involve the quadriceps asmany ignorantly believe. It s an exercise that uses the ent ire leg and hip. This includes thehamstrings and adductors, which span the back and inside of the leg, and of course the glutes.The hamstrings span the back of the femur and insert anteriorly on to t he tibia just below the kneeon both sides. Thus, they serve to pull the knee backward from below. The adducto rs attach onthe pubis and ischium (proximal) and along the posterior medial aspect of the femur (distal). Theadductors also serve to pull the knee backward but f rom above the knee and toward the inside.During squatt ing, the hamstrings are anchored at the distal att achments and so sit t ing back entailsthe hamstrings to stretch, as the hips are pushed back and anteriorly rotate slight ly. In much thesame way as described for t he hamstrings, the sitt ing back and knees out mot ion requires the

    adductors to be st retched, as theyre anchored at t he distal attachment while the proximalattachment moves relatively further away.

    The combined backward pulling actions o f the hamstrings and the adductors serve to balance theforward pulling force of the quadriceps, but this only occurs when the hamstrings and adductorsare stretched, which occurs only in the full squat posit ion. Anything above this and the knee issubject to excess anterior forces because the hamstrings and adductors arent st retched anddont provide a posterior force in the movement. This dramatically increases the likelihood ofdeveloping patella tendonitis or patella tendinopathy. Proper distribution o f force about the knee ispivotal to knee health. Because this correct distribution only occurs in a full squat, its obvious thatfull squats serve to keep the knees healthy. As an added fact, the stretched hamstrings and

    adductors in the bott om of a dee s uat serve to rovide a rebound out of t he hole. Thus, hi

  • 7/28/2019 the Hell Would I Want to Half Squat


    extension is accomplished much more safely and eff iciently when we squat deep!

    As if t hat wasnt enough, here are some more reasons:

    Because half squats dont activate t he hamstrings, adductors, and glutes, athletes usingthem end up developing imbalanced legs to the detriment of the posterior chain. Withouthaving to preach to the choir, a strong posterior chain is literally the backbone o f humanperformance. I need not say any more.

    Partial squatt ing contributes t o an imbalance in the quadriceps to hamstring strength rat io.This imbalance increases the risk of hamstring tears. If your hamstrings arent eccentricallystrong enough to act as a suff icient brake to t he quadriceps force at the knee during runningand then act very rapidly with a limited amortizat ion phase to help produce hip extension,they will simply be stretched too far and subject t o t oo much strain and tear.

    This imbalance also increases the risk of an ACL tear. An increased quadriceps to hamstringratio is a major factor in increasing the amount of anterior t ibial sheer. This is a causativefactor of ACL tears. Added to this, the underdeveloped strength of the glutes derived fromhalf squats means that the knee is vulnerable to falling inward with valgus collapse andinternal hip rotat ion and even a degree of abduction (prime time ACL tear territory) during

    sports performance movements such as cutt ing, jumping, and landing. This is because theglutes arent strong enough to stabilize the pelvis and the knee via hip elevation and externarotation.

    What about jumps?

    Despite the previous po ints, many still claim that halfsquats are more functional! The rationale for this is thatthey mimic the body position in jumps (i.e. people jumpfrom half squat positions). These people usually saysomething like, When do you ever see anyone jump from

    a full squat posit ion? My answer is always thisIf youcan squat 200 kg arse to grass and you were to suddenlygo mad and perform a half squat, you could most likelysquat in excess of 250 kg, especially because there isntany of f icial depth f or an of f icial half squat. But if youhave only ever trained the half squat, even say up to 250kg, I bet you st ill cant f ull squat 200 kg! Your actual 1RMwould be more like 150170 kg. Are these people reallytrying to convince me that the NFL running back whosquats 200 kg arse to grass is going to struggle injumping and running performance because he hasnt

    t rained the movement o f jumping in a jump range ofmot ion squat per say? Get real.

    By half squat t ing, youre instant ly making yourself alesser athlete because you cant properly perform a basichuman function. Why would you choose to not squat todepth when being able to makes you f unction bet ter as a human and doesnt hinder your halfsquat or jump performance?! WaitI know the answer. Because those people are wimps. Theywant t he easy ego boosting way of lif t ing.

    If that isnt enough to convince you, hopefully this will. In a study comparing two groups of vert icaljump test s, one group bet ter than the other, it was found that the group that jumped higher used

  • 7/28/2019 the Hell Would I Want to Half Squat


    their hips, not their knees to provide the majority of force in the movement. Half squatt ing ingrainsknee f lexion dominance whereas deep squats ingrain strong hip stabilizat ion and extension. Placeyour bets on which group someone who deep squatted falls into . Just think of the boys JoeDeFranco trains for t he answer. But waitnow the die-hard half squatters come back at me withtheir f inal stand. We use half squats to pot entiate the muscles in the legs/central nervous systemas a whole so that we can lift subsequently heavier af ter or perform some sort of contrasttraining.

    OK, nice idea, but lets not forget t hat if youre potentiat ing the leg muscles needed to squat, theyall have to be activated in the lift. We already know that the hamstrings, adductors, and glutesarent activated in half squats. Therefore, that 300 kg on your back isnt go ing to get yourhamstrings, adductors, and glutes f ired up to squat super heavy like you think. You may get a sligheffect f rom the sheer spinal loading (there are some studies to back this), but in that case, Idrather use a reverse band set up so that I get t hat ef fect but can st ill squat to depth and developspeed in the lift . Or if you want something to use direct ly before a set of squats, frog jumps or boxjumps work well. These can be taken to depth, too.


    While Im full blown rant ing, lets address bodybuilders. Of f the bat , Im not knocking you guys. Hell,Ive trained like one more than any ot her strength athlete. Regardless, it has to be said that manybodybuil