If you’re a certain type of gym-goer, anytime you see somebody in a squat rack barely bending their knees and stopping their rep far short of parallel, your squat depth alarm bells probably go off. For serious lifters, depth is a big deal—and quarter reps don’t even enter the conversation.
Even one of the world’s undisputed best athletes LeBron James caught some flack online last year for performing “sexy” quarter squats in a gym video, but he might have been working within that shallow range of motion for good reason.
The quarter squat gets a tough rap, as on the surface it’s an easier, abbreviated version of a squat which concentrates on the top range of motion, where you’re the strongest. But as Athlean-X creator Jeff Cavaliere, C.S.C.S. explains in a new video, the quarter squat can offer some genuine benefits on leg day—provided you’re doing them properly.
Plenty of athletes practice the lesser-range squat, according to Cavaliere. The exercise helps to enhance knee and hip extension, much like a kettlebell swing. And for basketball players specifically, the quarter squat can be a key builder of explosive movement; research has found performing quarter squats for a prolonged period can help to increase athletes’ vertical jump height and decrease their 40 yard sprint times. (However, as Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel C.S.C.S. pointed out at the time, LeBron’s quarter squat technique still needs work.)
Form on the quarter squat matters, and the first thing Cavaliere says you should know is that you should not just focus your movement on your knees, as it places unnecessary strain on your joints. “If you want to do the quarter squat right, you’ve got to do what you’d normally do on a squat, and that is get your hips involved as well,” he says. “Hinge at the hips, bend at the knees, that is how you properly execute a quarter squat.”
The second most important thing to know about this move, according to Cavaliere, is that limiting the range of motion to the upper end of the exercise means loading properly, and upping the weights on the barbell.
Cavaliere also demonstrates a variation of the quarter squat that will really burn your legs: the reverse quarter squat, which starts at a half-squat position and then going deeper into the move. “These provide a unique stimulus that you probably haven’t felt before,” he says. “The benefit here is not just getting you to reinforce proper depth, but training you in your weaker range… So you’re not only getting to experience that full depth and learning how to really savor it, you’re also getting the additional benefits of experiencing the stretch reflex, the stretch portion of the range of motion in a squat, and also learning how to initiate from the bottom of the squat.”
Doing quarter squats is no substitute for the full move, however. You should incorporate the variation into your workout to compliment the squats that exploit the full range of motion, rather than replacing them.
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