Full Squat vs Half Squat

There is continuing debate as to how you should perform barbell squats, some people believe you should half squat whilst others believe you should full squat. I am a big believer in full squats and over the last few years have been performing full squats in my workout routines, I have seen better strength & size gains in my leg muscles and also increased flexibility.


However, some people say you should perform half squats as full squats are bad for your knees, some also say full squats are bad for the lower back. With this in mind I thought I would create this page explaining the differences between full squats and half squats. First though I think you should understand the importance of including barbell squats a couple of times per week into your workout routine.


Reasons to Squat:

  • The squat works the major muscle groups. To recruit more muscle fibers during workouts and improve your fat loss success, focus more on multi-joint or compound exercises like the squat. Compound exercises will help you burn more fat because of the intensity of working large muscle groups in your body. You will also burn more calories after your workout.
  • Work your core with squats. Research shows that the abdominal muscles are engaged more when doing squats than they are doing many of the more popular ab exercises. Your lower back will also get quite a workout. If you do the exercise correctly, you won’t injure your low back (as many fear).
  • Burn More Fat.One of the most time-efficient ways to burn more calories is actually to gain more muscle! For every pound of additional muscle you gain, your body will burn an additional 50-70 calories per day. So, if you gain 10 pounds of muscle, you will automatically burn 500-700 more calories per day than you did before.
  • Prevent Injuries.Most athletic injuries involve weak stabilizer muscles, ligaments and connective tissues, which squats help strengthen. They also help prevent injury by improving your flexibility (squats improve the range of motion in your ankles and hips) and balance, as noted above.

The are many other reasons to do the squat exercise. Include some type of squat in every strength training workout.



Full Squats

Full squats are when you perform the full range of motion, when the hips go just below parallel with the floor, some people like to go ass to ground (ATG) and that’s fine providing you have the flexibility to do so without rounding your lower back, don’t sacrifice your lower back for the sake of more depth. If you don’t have the flexibility to go ATG then go as low down as comfortable, as long as its at least below parallel it counts as a full squat in my books
I think the biggest reason people do not perform full squats is because they believe its bad for the knees, sorry to say but this is wrong, full squats are actually better for the knees than half squats and that’s because full squats provide a full contraction of the hamstrings, glutes and quadriceps muscles, allowing you to drive up to the start position using momentum in the leg muscles and not from the knees.

Half Squats

Half squats are when you stop before your hips are parallel to the ground. The problem with only performing half a squat is that when you drive back up from the bottom of the movement you are not fully activating the hamstrings and gluteus to lift the weight, therefore the momentum of the weight is stopped by the quadriceps and knees, placing undue stresses and shear forces on the knees.

Secondly, because the hamstrings and glutes are not as involved it causes imbalances between the hamstrings and quadriceps. The hamstrings are supposed to act as the antagonist of the quadriceps during a squat, but because the hips do not go below parallel this never actually happens. So if you were to continue training half squats for a period of time you would begin to see muscle imbalances between your quadriceps and hamstrings, which will also reduce your flexibility, not to mention your bad knees.


Now you have all the facts I hope you will consider performing full squats when you next enter the gym. If you have been performing half squats for a long time or have never squatted before you will need to start light and work your way up.


And remember correct form:


Half Squats:

Full Squats

Video Section