Half Squat – Muscles Worked, Exercise Demo, and Benefits

While half repping squats could be looked at as one of the most serious gym sins, purposefully squatting to above parallel does have it’s benefits. Therefore, in this article we will discuss what exactly a half squat is, how to do them correctly, and why many coaches, athletes, and lifters can benefits from adding half squats into their leg training routine.

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Muscles Worked

The half squat works similar muscle groups to the full depth squat, however it does omit ranges of motion and limit certain joint flexion and extension creating a higher stimulus on various aspects of the legs. Many of these muscle groups are stressed in a greater capacity simply due to the increased amount of loading in this movement.

  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Erector Spinae (increased loading)
  • Core (increased loading)

Half Squat Exercise Demo

The half squat is a squat variation (often done with a barbell) that has a lifter restrict the depth at which they descend into a squat, roughly squatting halfway between parallel (thighs parallel to the ground) and fully standing. Below is a video demonstration on how to determine proper half squatting depth and technique.

Benefits of the Half Squat

Below are five benefits of the half squat, which can be programmed in strength, power, and athletic sports situations to increase performance, strength, and muscle mass.

Training Sticking Points

Strength is angular specific, meaning that if you are to train at a given depth (knee and hip flexion) you will be strong 10-15 degrees (of joint flexion) around that certain position, and less strong in wider angles. With that said, we can use the half squat to strengthen angle ualr positions that may be issues for some lifters. For example, if a lifter has a rough time halfway up out of a squat, the half squat could be a good accessory squat exercise to perform to really isolate such angle specific performance.

It is important to note that the half squat, unless due to injury, should not be the sole style of squatting as limiting range of motion can result in weakened strength, mobility, and performance at end ranges, along with sub-par muscular development. Therefore it is recommended that coaches and athletes also use fuller range of motion squats on a regular basis to best build a healthy, capable, squatter.

Increased Quadriceps Engagement

Increased quadriceps engagements is seen when the knee angle is more open, often in the similar ranges of the half squat. By performing partial repetitions in the squat, you can work to keep constant tension on the quadriceps which can work to increase strength and confidence in one’s legs, but also increase quadriceps specific training volume and muscle mass.

Neurological Overloading

Due to the range of motion restrictions, the lifter typically can handle more loading in the half squat than the full depth squat. Therefore, by allowing the lifter to place more weight on the barbell, you can help to overload the central nervous system in a similar way to squat walkouts, however still be able to add some muscular loading due to the unlocked joints in the hips and knees.

Increased Jumping  and Sprinting Abilities

The power position refers to the place where an athlete assumes knee and hip flexion similar to the half squat angles. By doing so, they assume a very explosive and athletic positioning that can often allow for increased athletic performance in things such as jumping, running, etc. While the half squat does lack in the full-range of motion benefit of the standard squat, this squat can be used to strengthen the athletic power position.

Stronger Power Positions

Increasing angular strength (see above) in the half squatted position will have a good carry over to movements like power cleans, power snatches, and even push presses/jerks. Weightlifters and functional fitness athletes may benefit from supplemental half squat training (supplemental to full range of motion squat training) when looking to strengthening the legs and hips for receiving positions in heavy power variations of the clean and snatch.

Build a Stronger Squat!

Check out these articles on how you can build a stronger, healthier squat!

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