Partial squats, or "partials" for short, are an advanced exercise technique used to help bust through plateaus and sticking points on the traditional squat exercise.
Partials involve doing only part of the range of motion of a full squat repetition. However, they are meant to be done for one to a few reps, using heavier weight than that your one rep max.
The the range of motion of your partials should generally be determined by your sticking point within the range of motion of a traditional squat (i.e. the point at which you struggle, squatting up from the bottom of a full repetition).
For many folks, their sticking point is halfway through. This is why it's common to hear partial squats referred to as "half squats." But you can also do partials with 1/4, 3/4, etc. of the squat's full range of motion.
By using heavy weight within a specific range, this squat variation forces your body becomes more accustomed to handling heavier weight. And more specifically, it emphasises the quadriceps and improves your strength and explosiveness within the chosen range of motion.
Video credits: YouTube user "koklyaevmisha"Set Up. For safety reasons, you should always do partials in a power rack. Set the barbell on the rack pins to right below shoulder height, just as you'd do for regular squats. Proceed to load the bar with the desired amount of weight. Set Safety Catches. Decide the range of motion that you're going to train based on where your sticking point is (e.g. half squat). Then set the safety catches accordingly (i.e. the barbell should touch, or almost touch, the safety catches at the bottom of each partial rep).Get Under the Bar. Position yourself underneath the barbell. It should be resting across your upper back, atop the trapezius. The trapezius should cushion the bar so it doesn't press against your spine.Unrack & Assume Stance. Unrack the bar and take a step away. Assume a comfortable and slightly wider than shoulder-width stance.Breathe & Brace. Take a deep breath and hold it in. Tense your body, especially your abdominals.Negative Repetition. Squat down in a slow and controlled fashion. Continue until the bar touches, or is just above, the safety catches. Do not slam the barbell, or try to bounce it off of the catches. Also, don't rest the bar on the catches. Tempo. Go slow enough to maintain control over the weight. This will take around 1-2 seconds, though it can vary based on how far down you're squatting, how heavy the weight is and how fatigued you are.Positive Repetition. After reaching the bottom of the range of motion, squat back up. Extend your legs until you are standing up straight with your knees locked. Tempo. Squat up as explosively as possible without losing control or sacrificing proper form.Repeat. Repeat the movement for the desired number of reps. Partial squats are most effective using heavy weight and a lower rep range of approximately 1-6 reps.
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 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.)
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