A great read about the benefits of squatting by Charles Poliquin… read on!

Tip 400: Train the Posterior Chain by Squatting Heavier and Deeper

7/26/2012 8:09 AM

Perform deep squats with a heavy load to train the posterior chain and get stronger. A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research provides more reasons train hard, heavy, and with a full-range of motion in the squat if you want to achieve rapid results and maximally train the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

This study performed a movement analysis and measured torque to identify the relative muscular effort during the back squat of the calves, quads, and posterior chain muscles. Researchers didn’t use electromyography (EMG) but did a biomechanical analysis to confirm a lot of what we already know about the squat from EMG studies.

Results showed that for the gluteus and hamstring muscles of the posterior chain, it was necessary to use a heavy load (preferably over 80 percent of the 1RM), and to squat below parallel. As both load and depth increased, the posterior chain performed greater work. For the quadriceps, squat depth was most important—the quads produced a greater muscular effort when participants squatted all the way down, below parallel. The load lifted did not influence the contribution of the quads. For the calves, a heavy load was most important, and the muscular effort of the calves was greatest at the heaviest 90 percent load when participants went all the way down.

The key finding of this study is that you will get best results by making deep squats a fundamental training lift. Although depth is most important for training the quads, heavy loads are still essential since they will maximally train the posterior chain and have a greater influence on the calves.

Occasionally including partial-range training with greater loads can help you overcome plateaus because they preferentially stress the posterior chain and allow you to use heavier weights that you couldn’t use if you were going all the way down. But doing this exclusively would be ineffective for the quads and could lead to structural balance problems. Another benefit of full-range squats is that recent studies show they will improve your vertical jump more than partial squats. For a complete squat program, check out PICP coach Derek Woodske’s 12-Week Training Program for Squats.

Bryanton, M., Kennedy, M., et al. Effect of Squat Depth and Barbell Load on Relative Muscular Effort in Squatting. Journal of strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.