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Squatting Lower May Not Always Be Better

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Imagine you’re in the middle of a seriously intense boot camp and the instructor announces the next move: squats with dumbbells held at your shoulders. But your legs are already on fire from that last round of burpees! Don't worry, you can do a partial squat: A new study out this month in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that people who did a combination of partial squats (to 100 degrees) and full squats (going below a 90-degree angle or dropping your butt below your hips) gained more explosive power—the ability of your muscles to contract fast and forcefully—than those who did a program that just included full squats.

“Unlike full squats, partial squats are not limited by the 'sticking region' (that moment in a full squat where you reach the lowest point and 'stick' for a moment in order to get the energy to come back up), so you can lift much heavier weights,” says lead study author Caleb Bazyler, Ph.D. What’s more: You’ll be able to move through the exercise at a faster, more powerful pace meaning you’ll build explosive strength that can help you jump higher and sprint faster. Find out how to Shave a Minute Off Your Mile.

But, this doesn’t mean you should eliminate full range of motion squats. “Full squats are essential to include in any training program,” says Bazyler. They are better than partial ones for increasing mobility too (since you go through a bigger range of motion). And another recent study found that a few sets of weighted squats a few days a week helps strengthen your bones—and can ward off osteoporosis. Women start losing bone mineral density around age 30—so hop (er, squat?) on it!

How to do it: Two to three times a week, add four sets of eight to 10 weighted squats to your regular strength training routine, recommends Bazyler. Complete both sets of full squats before you move on to the partial ones. Use a weight that is light enough to allow you to complete all reps with perfect form, but heavy enough to where you feel you couldn’t do one more rep at the end of the set. Use slightly heavier weights for the partial squats.

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