Everyone knows that the squat is one of the best exercises because it trains the whole lower body, activating the hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, calves, and the erector spinae of the trunk.
However, did you know that how much weight you lift and how deep you squat dictates how much strength and muscle you will develop from your workouts?
How Squat Depth & Load Influence Muscle Growth
A recent study that tested muscle activity in the squat showed that the best way to train the gluteus and hamstrings of the posterior chain is with a heavy load over 80 percent of the 1RM and to squat all the way down below parallel. As both load and squat depth increase, the glutes and hamstrings perform more work.
For the quads, squat depth was most important for maximal muscle activation. The load lifted didn’t influence the contribution of the quads, whereas for the calves the greatest muscular effort was with the heaviest 90 percent load when trainees squatted all the way down below parallel.
How Squat Depth & Load Influence Athletic Performance
Practical studies prove the point that heavy load and maximal depth will give you stronger, leaner legs. Researchers in Germany compared the effect of training heavy full squats with heavy partial squats on maximal strength and vertical jump height.
The full squat group increased strength and jumping ability much more than the group that trained partials, making them the preferred lift for recreational trainees and athletes.
Bilateral Vs. Single-Leg Squats
In addition, the bilateral squat is the “king” of all exercises, contributing to superior lower body muscle development, yet unilateral squats are a vital lift that should not be ignored. Single-leg squats allow you to train for optimal structural balance—an often ignored weakness that will keep you from reaching your genetic potential.
A recent study of male college football players showed the value of unilateral squat training: A group who did unilateral squats had a slightly greater increase in testosterone than a group that did bilateral back squats. Researchers think the single-leg squats produced a more favorable fat-burning hormone response because they require equal or slightly greater neuromuscular activity due to the extra
* Train heavy weights and go deep to hit the glutes and hamstrings.
* Train full squats to jump higher and get stronger.
* Use both bilateral and single-leg squats for the killer legs.
* Train full squats early in your workout when your legs are fresh so you can lift more weight and activate as many androgen receptors in muscle tissue as possible.