Partial Squat Exercise Form Guide with Video & Pictures

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By Alex
Last updated on
Exercise NamePartial Squat
Also CalledPartials, Half Squat
Primary MusclesQuadriceps
Secondary MusclesCalvesGlutesHamstringsHip AdductorsSpinal Erectors
Required EquipmentBarbell, Power rack
Optional EquipmentKnee Wraps, Weight Lifting Belt
Rep Range1-5
VariationsPartial Band Squat, Partial Reverse Band Squat, Partial Squat with Chains, Squat Lockout
AlternativesFront Squat, Hack Squat, Heavy Negatives

Partial Squat Instructions

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • Set safety catches to bottom of designated range of motion (see: how to decide ROM).
  • Position bar atop the trapezius; bar should not press against spine.
  • Retract shoulder blades to tighten upper back and push out chest.
  • Hold bar with a wide overhand grip.
  • Unrack bar and assume a shoulder width or wider stance (hip width is okay, but uncommon) with toes pointed out.
  • Maintain a slight arch and extend thoracic spine.

2. Eccentric Repetition

  • Flex knees and hips to squat down until the bar touches, or is just above, the safety catches; thighs should be somewhere above parallel to floor.

3. Midpoint

  • Don’t pause at the bottom of the motion. Begin the concentric rep right away.

4. Concentric Repetition

  • Extend knees and hips until you are standing up straight with knees locked.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the movement for the desired number of reps.
  • Using heavy weight and a low rep range of 1-5 is most effective for the partial squat.

Common Partial Squat Errors to Avoid

Resting bar on, or bouncing off, safety catchesDo not slam the barbell, or try to bounce it off of the catches. Also, don’t rest the bar on the catches. Instead, squat down until the bar stops just above, or barely touches, the catches. Then proceed to squat up, immediately.
Hunching upper backKeep your chest out, thoracic spine (upper back) extended/elongated and abs flexed to maintain proper torso position and spinal alignment.
Knees bowing inwardKeep your knees and feet pointing in the same direction: outward. You should consciously focus on pushing your thighs outward as you squat up and down because they have a natural tendancy to be pushed inward, otherwise; especially under heavy loads.

Partial Squat Tips

  1. Decide the range of motion that you’re going to train. It should be based on where your sticking point is on the traditional squat, somewhere above parallel (i.e. the most difficult point above parallel on the concentric phase of the squat). For many folks, their sticking point is halfway between parallel and standing; hence why partial squats are often called “half squats.” But you can also do partials with 1/4, 3/4, etc. of the squat’s full range of motion.
  2. Heavy weight for low reps is your best bet for partial squats. You should be using a weight that’s greater than your one rep max (e.g. 50%+ greater than your 1RM). This is a general rule, though. Some guys get good results doing partial squats for high reps.
  3. High-bar vs. low-bar position: The partial squat can be done in either a low-bar position (bar on traps and across rear delts; shoulder width stance; hips go back and down) or a high-bar position (bar on traps just below neckline; hip width stance; hips drop straight down) position. That said, since this is traditionally a powerlifting movement. As such, you’ll usually see it done in the low-bar position: the default powerlifting squat position.
  4. The barbell should touch, or almost touch, the safety catches at the bottom of each partial rep.
  5. Use the Valsalva maneuver breathing technique. This protects your lower back from injury under the extremely heavy loads typically used on this lift. Plus, it increases your power output.
  6. Squat up as explosively as possible without losing control or sacrificing proper form.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

Partials are best for advanced lifters. The purpose of partial squats is to bust through plateaus and sticking points. You do this by performing only a portion of the full range of motion using heavier weight than you could otherwise lift on regular squats.

Therefore, this technique is most fitting for you if you’re an advanced trainees, because truly challenging plateaus (as opposed to easy-to-break plateaus encountered by less experienced lifters) are a common occurence in your training.

Additionally, as an advanced trainee, your body can safely handle and respond to extra heavy loads.

On the other hand, beginners and intermediates should stick with good ol’ fashioned traditional barbell squats. As a beginner or intermediate, you can overcome any plateaus you may encounter through much simpler and safer means…

…For example, breaking through a plateau as an beginner or intermediate may be as simple as increasing or reducing your squat training frequency (i.e. number of times you squat per week); or changing the number of sets and/or reps you perform for squats.

Ironically, a whole lot of beginners unknowingly perform partial squats instead of full squats. For whatever reason, they just don’t (or can’t) perform the full range of motion. If that sounds like it might be you, then start squatting deeper! (If you really can’t squat any deeper without using crappy form, then start stretching your quads and hip flexors to improve your flexibility.)

Alex from King of the Gym
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

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