Some Tips About The Barbell Squat
A classic leg workout in the gym is the barbell squat. Sometimes called the Back Squat, you carry the weighted bar across your traps and shoulders then bend your knees into a squat position. The movement improves your lower back strength, builds your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, and increases mobility in your hips. But what else can the back squat provide the lifter? Performing this dynamic action can also increase flexibility, especially when you squat lower than parallel. Let's take a closer look at the functionality and benefit of squatting below parallel and performing the half squat.
The Half Squat
With the bar across your upper back, you lower your hips as if you were sitting back into a chair. A Half Squat movement is when you sit back, but your hips stay higher than your knees. In this action, the muscles targeted are your quadriceps and glutes. However, by eliminating the full range of motion, you limit the joint movement to increase flexibility in this area of your body. Although the flexibility component is reduced in the Half Squat, there is still some benefit to this style of lifting.
In a partial movement done in the Half Squat, you can potentially load more weight on the bar. Because the range of motion is decreased, there is more tension placed on the muscles that support your back (i.e. erector spinae) and your abdominal muscles. With the extra weight and the limited range of motion, you can increase your endurance strength and core stability. It will also load your quads in a way that will prepare you for a future deeper squat movement.
Squat to Parallel
Performing a squat that takes your hips lower, horizontally aligning your hips with your knees, stimulates a different set of muscles and joints. Not only will you load your erector muscles and core muscles, but the deeper squat fires up your gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and hip flexors. Due to the full range of motion, more is targeted: your ankle joints, knee joints, and your shoulder joints. The deeper squat contributes to stronger ligaments in your ankles and knees, thereby increasing your flexibility and strength.
The Best Alignment for the Deep Squat
Proper alignment is kept for the safety and benefit of the deep back squat. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with your feet slightly turned outward. Sit back into the squat position as if you are sitting in a chair that is behind you. Make sure your knees stay aligned over your ankles; pushing them too far forward over your feet will create an unhealthy strain in your knees. Sit back and down until your hips hit knee-level or lower. To stand, engage your core, and drive your heels strongly into the ground to stand up to the starting position.
Both styles of squats are beneficial to the lifter or gym enthusiast, it just depends on what your goals are. If you want to lift slightly heavier to increase your core strength, lower back strength, and build your quads, then choose the Half Squat. When you're searching for more muscle engagement in the entire body to improve overall mobility, strength, and flexibility, perform the Deep Squat. If you have the mobility, the best results will be achieved by performing the Deep Squat. If you are having issues with your mobility, check out our Mobility and Activation Guide for some tips.