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The squat is one of the best overall exercises for building muscle, strength, and overall fitness. But your range of motion — how low you squat — can make a difference for your goals, according to personal trainer Andrey Simeonovski.
The standard squat, parallel to the floor, is useful for building muscle, but you may be missing out on other benefits, he told Insider.
A shorter, partial squat can help you amp up your strength and power gains, while getting into a deeper squat can help you improve your mobility to prevent injury and improve joint health, he said.
Incorporating all three types of squats into your routine can help you get the most out of a workout.
If your goal is to pack on muscle in your quads and glutes, your best bet is to make sure you're squatting to 90 degrees, Simeonovski said.
Some evidence suggests that 90 degree squatting creates the most muscle activation, prompting more muscle growth.
For fitness newbies, the parallel squat is a good starting place because it's easy to learn and offers a lot of benefits without requiring much technical knowledge or experience, which is why it's popular at fitness classes, Simeonovski said.
"On average, they will work best for most people's goals and are easy to get someone in that form," he said. "However, squats are incredibly versatile, and the utilization of different forms can be very beneficial to people who train."
If your goal is getting stronger, faster, or more athletic overall, you can use a shorter squats to help train your muscles to generate more power, according to Simeonovski.
A half-squat or quarter-squat targets the muscle positions responsible for creating the force to propel you through exercise.
As a result, practicing partial squats may help you jump higher or farther, sprint faster, and improve other skills that require explosive power.
For most people, the partial squat is most similar to how you'll actually move during sports or other activities, too — unless you're an Olympic weightlifting or other specialized athlete.
"The caveat is that you'll perform better the closer the movement mimics your performance goal, so for most people, a half squat may be more beneficial for power production," Simeonovski said.
To help improve your ability to squat overall, consider squatting below parallel, which trains your joints and muscles to stabilize in that position, protecting you from injury, research suggests.
It's a myth that squatting with your knees going over your toes is bad for you — deep squats keep your knees, hips, and ankles healthy, according to personal trainer Ben Patrick.
While you do need to have some initial mobility to maintain proper alignment in a deep squat, heal can develop better mobility while gradually working up to the exercise, according to Simeonovski. The exception is if you have existing injuries, in which case you should stick to what your medical experts recommend.
"I firmly believe everyone can achieve a deep squat with good form, no matter their body morphology," he said.
For instance, elevating your heels can help you get into a deep squat as you're working on increasing mobility in your ankles, hips, and thoracic spine (mid back).
Always start with lighter weight, or even just your body weight. and work your way up so you can prioritize good form, Simeonovski said.