A Half Squat Is Not A Squat

I was at the gym last night and a younger guy stepped into one of the squat racks. This outta be good, I thought. If someone actually does squat in a fitness gym, it’s a half squat done with a back pad. To my pleasant surprise, this guy walked out 135 and squatted it to full depth; I’d rather see light weight squatted fully than heavy weight done partially. After a few minutes, I motioned for him to take out his headphones and said, “Hey man, I just want you to know I appreciate that you squat to full depth.” After a split second of confusion, I added, “Cause nobody ever does.” He nodded in recognition and I walked away. We never talked again.

Shirtless. Shaved. Half squatting with stop sign plates...

I hate half squats…so fucking much. Every time you don’t squat to depth, I pour a beer down the drain. And I HATE wasting beer. I just don’t understand why people think it’s okay to do partial reps of anything, much less in squatting. Muscular development or strength is achieved by working muscles through a full range of motion. Squatting, benching, or curling through half of the ROM only trains the musculature through that given ROM and typically subjects it to injurious forces. For example, a half squat will not utilize the adductors, hamstrings, gluteals, or external rotators and as a result place excessive stress on the anterior aspect of the knee. This is why ignorant people claim that squats are bad for the knees. And wWhy would someone want half a muscle?

Ego lifting is such a joke. Aside from the “let’s see how many plates I can put on the bar”, it isn’t quantifiable whatsoever. There’s no way to determine if one rep is comparable to another. It drives me insane and I can’t evedslkf;j;lasdkjfaskdlgkad;svn w089yt204389fvay xgch’jbk’fuck

This is a video of some jackass who thinks there is some kind of utility in half squats (there isn’t).

Here’s a video of an easy full-depth squat (445×3, BW 187ish) by Brooks Conway at Quest Athletics. You could also re-watch this vid of Chris raw squatting 600/620/640 for doubles.

Never, ever half squat. If you do we should all just quit lifting and start drinking mermosas while getting pedicures and facials.

61 thoughts on “A Half Squat Is Not A Squat

  1. My favorite part of this whole post, is that it is linked to the older post that shows Chris squatting a very hard 585 double, and then links to a video of him hitting 640 for a double.

  2. Quick question – last night was my wife’s second lifting session (she lifted once last week basic LP) and we are basically just doing goblet squats with 5lbs (I am starting off as easy as possible and building up to the bar). Due to soreness her range of motion was fairly limited (she could make it to just a few inches above parallel). Should we just pack it up on days like this or are non-full squats okay if we are basically deciding between partial range and nothing at all?

    Granted – this will probably clear up after a few more sessions and she isn’t dealing with such acute soreness.

    I don’t expect her to harden up on day one or two, but re-read this:

    Had she done reps, then it would have helped make her less sore. But good one the both of you to get her into training.


  3. no one half squats in the death room dungeon that I train in. At school i used to get the worst looks when I would try to help people stop half squatting. Shit was painful as hell. Golds gym… even worse, even worse.

  4. What I hate even more is when they try and start some kind of competition with me to add more weight than I am. I stick to my linear progression, but sometimes thats only like 5-10lbs more than they’re “Squatting”, so they see it as me trying to outdo them and add even more weight on, and constantly glance at me in the mirrors. Hilarity ensues for me, but they always walk around all smug as if they did something worthwhile. I hate that shit. Out of a 25,000+ student university, I’ve seen maybe 10 people squat to depth (3rd year here), and half of those do it with severe lumbar flexion, on their toes, or knees collapsing, so whatever.

    It really is sad that not a single football player here can outsquat me, and my best is only 350×5.

  5. It’s even more maddening when people rationalize why they half squat. Case in point, a comment on the youtube vid you linked:

    “1/2 squats are the best workout for a long jump, triple jumper, and high jumper. Period. No european or world class jumper is doing full squats theres just no reason you should be loading up with wieghts when you absolutely never hit that point in the jump. Also triple jump has a lot to do with hip strength. YOUNG JUMPERS STAY AWAY FROM FULL SQUAT, THIS IS COMING FROM A 8 METER LONG JUMPER, 16 METER TRIPLE JUMPER!!!”


  6. If I had a beer for every time someone at my gym told me I was going to hurt my knees by going to full depth, I’d have enough alcohol to disinfect a wound in Khal Drogo’s shoulder.

    I’ve always called that pad that people use the communal tampon. Speaking of vag, if you want to see the king of douche talk about why squatting wrong is squatting right, just look up Scott Herman on youtube.

    That opening line was good.


  7. I think Vershansky had some stuff about half squats for athletic purposes, but the info seems to be hard to find and probably poorly translated/interpreted. Also, most people would have no clue how to properly program based on his information and would just do half squats because they are easier and yell “I’m training like a Russian athlete!”.

  8. Amen. Seeing people squat to depth renews my faith in humanity.

    Allow me to connect this up with yesterday’s post. I’ve been really disappointed with my squat progress post-hip injury. The last 9 months have been lots of mobbing with slow but steady recovery. (I also switched to high-bar.)

    Recently, I was squatting in a gym that I haven’t been to in about a year (pre-injury). I set the pins where I used to set them, dropped down to depth, and CLANG — I hit the pins well before I got anywhere close to my post-injury depth. I may not be squatting 195×10 anymore, but I’ll take a super legit 155×10 over that any day.

    Unrelated: I yelled at some ass hat in my gym yesterday for being an ass hat. Felt so good, you guys.

  9. On that same note, my contract is up with the cheapo Globogym I signed up with out of school…

    Anyone know of any decent places to train in the San Antonio area?

  10. A guy at my gym uses the pad on his decline bench presses. I think that is awesome. If I declined, I would do it to. Who wants chaffed nipples?

  11. This scenario happens to me all the time:

    I’ll either still have warm-up weight on the bar or I’ll just be doing lighter weight for squats.

    Some jacknut who sprinkled a little extra creatine on his cereal this morning comes up and asks to work in with me.

    I oblige his request and ask him what he wants the bar taken down to, because at this point there’s still 225-315 on the bar.

    Jacknut says “Oh, nah man. This is fine right here.” He’ll walk under the bar and cold, without any warm-up sets, quarter squat it till he’s about to die.

    I imagine that these guys never, ever squat. Then they see me, tell themselves that I need to be shown up, and go lift whatever weight I’m lifting for partial reps to prove that they’re just as strong, if not stronger, than me.

    The worst part about half reps isn’t that they’re ineffective. I don’t care about other people’s training that much. The problem is that, with Leg Presses and Hack Squats and Half Squats you’ve got thousands and thousands of chicken legged, affliction wearing dick-heads running around telling everyone they squat 600 or 900 pounds when they couldn’t even take 225 to depth.

  12. I recently saw a young man load up a bar with 160kg/350lbs and literally unlock his fucking knees 4-5 times. The worst thing was that he had this smug grin on his face the whole time like he was achieving something special.

  13. Coffee + whiskey >> orange juice + champagne

    If it’s really cold (e.g. football tailgating), hot chocolate + peppermint schnapps is acceptable

  14. Justin, i am with you. I train at a 24hr out of convenience. I don’t squat a lot but I am one of very few who squat. Of the others that do, I smirk when the guy loads the bar with double the weight I squat and he goes down helf way, often less than half way. Same with press and other lifts – yesterday I was doing overhead press. A couple of jerkoffs were doing seated presses with stop sign 45 plates plus 10s on each side and going about 6 inches down. Wow.

  15. In the context of this article and yesterday’s I have a question that actually arose in my workout today.

    I am a chick and your article about obsessing over perfect mechanics really struck a chord with me because I do think that it sometimes hinders my progression. I squatted today, I’ve never had formal coaching, but I am very conscious of squatting to parallel or below. My problem right now is that I have this mental block at 185×3. I know that I can do more reps and I really want to hit 3 sets at 185×5 within the next month or so, but I’m just psych myself out as soon as I finish the third rep. The deep part of my squat is the weakest, so sometimes I have a little hesitation out of the hole on that third rep, but I know I have more in me because I can take a 30 second rest and bust out another three. I think for some reason I’m going to get stuck at the bottom or have my back round when I come out of the hole on the 4th rep.

    Do you think there would be any benefit to me moving the safety bars up a few notches so that I can get the confidence of having the weight on me for more than 3 reps without the fear that I’m going to get stuck deep? Or should I just stop being a bitch? If I need to stop being a bitch, then should I just keep pounding out the triples until I feel more comfortable or do something else? My current strategy is that I started doing 95×5 deep jump squats to try to build explosiveness out of the bottom of the lift. Will that help or are straight squats with 185 better?

    Stuck @ parallel 185×3 because I’m a crybaby
    What do?: repeat 185×3 until possible in my sleep, jump squats for power, sacrifice depth to build confidence by doing more reps, something else

    Do you have any video of your reps?

    Also, the next time you squat 185×3, make the bar move as fast as possible on the way up. Tell me what happens.


  16. “blah blah full range of motion blah blah”

    *has people do rack pulls*


    just fucking with you. The only high squats that are useful are heavy heavy rack lockouts.

    1. Heavy squat rack lockouts aren’t going to be any better than actually squatting for building strength. Mostly because they won’t incorporate balance around the thigh. And the squat is dependent on the stretch reflex at the bottom.
    2. Rack pulls, however, focus on balance and control in the lumbar and hamstrings to execute properly (bar below the patella). That and people who squat to depth never really have “off the floor” problems in the deadlift, so the rack pull is a way to improve hamstring function.
    3. What’s wrong? Did someone steal your sweet roll?


  17. @ Glenn/ J.T. I personally think a Budweiser is a perfect accouterment to a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and any other delicious breakfast meat, but I agree with both of your suggestions as well.

    Has anyone else seen this half-assed motion creep into other lifts as well. Lately, I’ve seen a number of guy benching by lowering the bar about 2 inches and pushing it back up. It’s not even equivalent to a 3 board press. Obviously this is done with elbows flared out as wide as humanly possible and is usually done so they can brag they bench 225. If they used proper form, went all the way down, and heaven forbid paused like a competition I’m not convinced they could do 135.

  18. @bohdi – yes I see that all of the time. just like my press observation yesterday I see these guys doing bench press going a few inches down. Funny thing is, they have been bench pressing 225 this way for almost a year!

  19. @glennpendlay- Scotch.

    I train at the Cairo Gold’s. It’s extremely douchey, but there is no alternative that I can find. There’s a kid I used to look out for, and when he was squatting, he asked me for some advice. I told him a few things- sit back, stay tight, and please hit parallel at least. He tried to hit depth, but due to his lack of flexibility, he couldn’t even get close. I told him maybe working on mobility would probably be a good idea. He said he wanted to “get strong first, then flexibility.” He preceded to load 225 on the bar and miss the 4th quarter squat rep.

    That friendship is over. Life is too short to be hanging with the wrong crowd.

  20. @terrible… good call forgot about Irish coffee and not the bastardized American sissy kind with tons of crap in it… black coffee and Jameson. Done.

  21. My buddy I played football with in high school started lifting with me a couple weeks ago. I keep telling him to get lifting shoes (he hasnt yet) and to look up stuff on mobility wod (hes done a little) and i try to get him to squat to depth (still not happening). In high school he tore his MCL in his left knee. He just had an appointment with a sports science dr. And the the guy told him not to go deep in his squats bc it would strain his knee too much. In the case of past injury such as this, how should my brolio go about his squatting? Please respond.

  22. Justin,

    are you SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURE half squats are not squats? are you REALLY sure?

    How do you feel about quarter squats?

    Personally i think a squat isn’t a squat unless you sit indian style, meditate for 20 minutes and then stand back up. Just don’t squat that deep if you’re a long jumper. it’s bad for your throat.

  23. Wait wait wait…whiskey and coffee? I’ve never tried that combo before (usually just a straight on the rocks kinda guy).

    How about screwdrivers for breakfast.

  24. I was at my globo-gym over the weekend, and spotted two women doing full ROM squats with respectable amounts of weight.
    It’s sad that this is like seeing Bigfoot in that it’s pretty fucking rare.

  25. Perfect timing…i shot this secret video a few weeks ago of a gordon doing half squats


    I’m getting better at secret videoing half squats, curl circles (that’s when a bunch of gordons do one arm curls together I have a pic of this also) and 4in descending benches.

    Ughhhhh. But ya, I got a 4 minute pep talk by a 165lb lifter a few weeks ago about muscle confusion and why half benches help his full bench (that doesn’t even compute in my mind). Rippetoe has some great/funny commentary in SS about this.

  26. ^ That is amazing. You guys. I had to wait 20 minutes to clean last week because some fucking gordon was doing PUSH-UPS on the platform. PUSH-UPS.

  27. I was squatting at the school gym where I’m postdocing, and immediately after finishing a set of five for my work set I had a “trainer” inform me that “squatting that low will destroy your knees.”

    Upon catching my breath and repressing the urge to say “fuck you” (this was surprisingly challenging at this point with the rush of testosterone etc from lifting btw) I tried to calmly explain the virtues of squatting to depth, and what I believe to be a few of its virtues. Instead of justifying his position with something rational he informed me that he had experience training as a professional athlete… Rather than pointing out that he was clearly not in game shape anymore I decided to end things with a “we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this issue”.

    I love the angry squat posts.

    Question: Any thoughts on breaking up PR Friday, ie PR squat on Friday, PR deadlift on Monday, and PR overhead press on Wednesday to break up overall intensity and increase focus on a specific lift?

    Thanks for this great website!

  28. @chinaski – you mean a trainer that got his four week online training certificate didn’t know about proper squat depth…i’m appauled.

    :) ha, I can’t tell you how many times I get an 18 year old brolio that just graduated from H.S. tell me that his coach said full depth will blow out your knees. arrrrgggghhhh

  29. I wish I could post this on the wall in my gym.

    Second MIMOSA, and they’re only good on Christmas morning with the family thats about it, I’d rather have a white russian though like Jeff “the dude” lebowski or some good old whiskey

  30. Quarter and half squat people also anger me. Luckily, I can out full squat most people in the gyms I’m in.


    It could be like a manpon bench sort of like a board press, but I doubt it…

  31. At my school’s gym I’d say maybe 20% of the guys I’ve seen squatting go to full depth. I usually try to make it a point to say something positive to them. I just know I get looked down at by guys quarter squatting 315, but whatever, I’ll out squat that someday.

  32. I lift at one of the best gyms in New England — multiple monolifts, chalk, strongman equipment everywhere,bumper plates, platforms, you name it they’ve got it — and yet the half squat is just as popular there as my old Globo Gym. For instance tonight I watched two separate dudes in their early 20’s load up 3 plates on each side and proceed to do work sets with half ROM.

    Appalling. It’s an epidemic.

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