Squatting Deep: The Ultimate Guide to Full Depth Squats

Full depth squats versus partial? We answer the debate here.
Written by
Sean Hiller
Published on
Feb 13, 2024

Squatting Deep: The Ultimate Guide to Full Depth Squats

Squatting is not just a fundamental movement in strength training but also an essential part of our daily routines. Whether it's powering through a workout with barbells and dumbbells, participating in Olympic lifting and powerlifting, or simply standing up from a chair, the importance of squatting is undeniable.The longstanding debate between the efficacy of parallel squats versus full depth squats brings us to an important question: which method is truly better for enhancing strength and power and reducing the risk of injury?

Defining "Better" in the Context of Squatting

When we talk about what's "better" for our bodies, we're referring to a method of squatting that not only augments our strength and power but also minimizes the risk of injuries. And the verdict is clear - full depth squatting wins.Supported by numerous studies, full depth squatting has been shown to significantly improve strength, functional performance (a key aspect of our daily activities), and mitigate pain and stiffness, making it a cornerstone of strength-based physical therapy and fitness over partial or half-depth squats.

The three different squat variations based on squat depth

The Science Behind Full Depth Squats

Research by Pallarés JG et al. underscores that full squats lead to unparalleled improvements in strength, functional performance, and discomfort reduction compared to partial squats.In the study by Pallarés JG et al., “F-SQ (full squat) was the only group that increased 1RM [1-rep max] and MPV (mean propulsive velocity) in the three squat variations, and achieved the highest functional performance. P-SQ (partial squat) group obtained the second best results. H-SQ (half squat) produced no increments in neuromuscular and functional performance (ES = −0.11–0.28) and was the only group reporting significant increases in pain, stiffness and physical functional disability (ES = 1.21–0.87).”1.

Similarly, Bloomquist K et al. discovered that deep squat training not only boosts strength more effectively than partial squats but also significantly increases muscle size. This highlights the importance of incorporating full depth squats into functional training programs.

The Functional and Aesthetic Benefits of Full Depth Squatting

Full depth squatting is not just about enhancing functional performance; it's also about maintaining and improving joint health, control, and neurological activity. The benefits extend beyond functional training, touching on aesthetics as well. Studies, such as those by Kubo K et al., demonstrate that full depth squats contribute to greater muscle hypertrophy compared to other forms. This dual benefit of function and aesthetics makes full depth squatting a valuable component of physical therapy and strength training programs alike.

Bringing Full Depth Squats to Your Routine

If you are looking to integrate full depth squatting into your training regimen, Vulcan Performance and Therapy offers the Vulcan Hatch Cycle. This five-week program focuses on both back and front squats to amplify your strength through full depth techniques, perfectly aligning with the principles of one-on-one physical therapy and functional training. You can find and purchase the Hatch Squat template by clicking here.

Physical Therapy and Beyond

If you're encountering obstacles in your squatting journey due to discomfort or pain, our physical therapy team in Birmingham, Alabama is here to assist. With a focus on one-on-one physical therapy, we're committed to helping you return to squatting without limitations, reinforcing our dedication to strength-based physical therapy practices.

Join Us for a Deeper Dive

Don't miss our upcoming Vulcan Movement Systems Course on Saturday, February 24th: "The Squat in Depth - A Deep Dive into the Science of Squatting." Perfect for physical therapists and coaches in the Birmingham area, this course offers valuable insights into squatting mechanics and is eligible for 2 CEUs. Available both in-person and online, it's an opportunity to further enrich your knowledge and application of functional training and one-on-one physical therapy techniques. Learn more here!


1.Pallarés JG, Cava AM, Courel-Ibáñez J, González-Badillo JJ, Morán-Navarro R. Full squat produces greater neuromuscular and functional adaptations and lower pain than partial squats after prolonged resistance training. Eur J Sport Sci. 2020;20(1):115-124. doi:10.1080/17461391.2019.1612952

2.Bloomquist K, Langberg H, Karlsen S, Madsgaard S, Boesen M, Raastad T. Effect of range of motion in heavy load squatting on muscle and tendon adaptations. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013;113(8):2133-2142. doi:10.1007/s00421-013-2642-7

3.Kubo K, Ikebukuro T, Yata H. Effects of squat training with different depths on lower limb muscle volumes. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2019;119(9):1933-1942. doi:10.1007/s00421-019-04181-y

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