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Old 08-14-17, 02:41 PM   #1
MatthewJRudd
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Partial vs. Full Depth Squats

Hi all,

I am relatively new to the bike but a much more experienced gymrat. Took to cycling as a way to cut off body fat and found that I have the knack for it and am adopting it as my primary sport. A quick scanning over most training plans (Friel, Carmichael et. al) seem to encourage a reasonable amount of weightlifting. No problem! Except.....

Everywhere I read seems to be encouraging only doing squats to partial depth. I understand the idea of adaptation to the bike, but if I'm already comfortably squatting to full depth is there a compelling reason for me to stop? Almost every weightlifter I know is convinced that an element of proper form in the squat is full depth, and mechanically I put more stress on my knees if I don't go all the way. Also IMHO, partial depth is an easy way to pack on more weight than you can handle.

Just wondering if anyone more experienced with resistance training for cycling might have some knowledge they could throw at me here! I'm inclined to keep doing what I'm doing, but if I'm hurting my performance it would be nice to know.

PS: I know there's bound to be some people who are going to tell me to quit lifting in case I get too heavy or musclebound. This is not the question I am asking.

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Old 08-14-17, 06:23 PM   #2
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Everywhere I read seems to be encouraging only doing squats to partial depth.
Stop reading wherever they're saying that. Odds are that's not the only bad advice they're giving.

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I understand the idea of adaptation to the bike, but if I'm already comfortably squatting to full depth is there a compelling reason for me to stop?
No. none at all. The purpose of squatting is not to 'adapt' to the bike or reproduce that range of motion. The purpose of squatting is to make your legs stronger, and squatting to full depth is more effective. Doing partial reps because "that's how much my knee bends on the bike" is just wrong-headed.
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Old 08-14-17, 08:18 PM   #3
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Okay, thanks. That's exactly what I thought but I figured I should check with some people in case there was something obvious I was missing.

Cheers!
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Old 08-15-17, 03:30 AM   #4
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Full ROM squats are more beneficial.... When I squat I always go all the way down as far a possible...The only reason why some people do partial squats is because it's easier and they lack mobility and flexibility which prevents them from going all the way down. It's also healthier for the knees the further down you go the less strain on the knees.
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Old 08-15-17, 07:30 AM   #5
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Yep, full squats for me.
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Old 08-15-17, 10:31 AM   #6
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People telling you to do partial depth squats because it matches the pedal stroke have clearly gone a little overboard on the functional training trend. Judging by your post, I'm inclined to say, 'keep doing what you're doing.'

You get plenty of cycling-specific leg movements when you're riding. When you're in the gym, maximize that time by doing squats fully and properly.
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Old 08-15-17, 10:57 AM   #7
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I've been doing variations of body-weight squats, including single-leg (pistol) squats and lunges going all the way down. I'm still just barely able to pull off a pistol squat, I really think it has helped my strength and flexibility.

I think the opposite of what you read is true: since the bike I'd a limited motion movement, you need to do something else with full range of motion to keep joints healthy.
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Old 08-15-17, 02:11 PM   #8
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From a cycling performance perspective, it won't make any difference. Lifting weights is a general physical preparedness exercise with respect to cycling. The goal being to strengthen your legs. As such the method you use, whether it is squats, leg press, lunges etc. doesn't really matter much overall (as long as you work all the relevant muscles).

For health, full ROM is likely the best. That's generally the case with weights for the reasons you list.
Edit to add: 12strings also posted a good reason to do full ROM. It's likely a good counter to the limited ROM of cycling.
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Old 08-15-17, 03:02 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by MatthewJRudd View Post
Hi all,

I am relatively new to the bike but a much more experienced gymrat. Took to cycling as a way to cut off body fat and found that I have the knack for it and am adopting it as my primary sport. A quick scanning over most training plans (Friel, Carmichael et. al) seem to encourage a reasonable amount of weightlifting. No problem! Except.....

Everywhere I read seems to be encouraging only doing squats to partial depth. I understand the idea of adaptation to the bike, but if I'm already comfortably squatting to full depth is there a compelling reason for me to stop? Almost every weightlifter I know is convinced that an element of proper form in the squat is full depth, and mechanically I put more stress on my knees if I don't go all the way. Also IMHO, partial depth is an easy way to pack on more weight than you can handle.

Just wondering if anyone more experienced with resistance training for cycling might have some knowledge they could throw at me here! I'm inclined to keep doing what I'm doing, but if I'm hurting my performance it would be nice to know.

PS: I know there's bound to be some people who are going to tell me to quit lifting in case I get too heavy or musclebound. This is not the question I am asking.
If you are new to cycling and just doing recreational full squat is okay. When you get to the next level like racers or where you put in 10+ hrs a week, you might realize your knees are getting overworked
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Old 08-15-17, 06:24 PM   #10
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If you are new to cycling and just doing recreational full squat is okay. When you get to the next level like racers or where you put in 10+ hrs a week, you might realize your knees are getting overworked
No. Partial squats are harder on the knees and they encourage heavier weights. Note in the gym that with undisciplined lifters, their squats get shallower with increased weight.
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Old 08-15-17, 09:24 PM   #11
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If weightlifting is your primary sport, by all means get your ass in the grass. It won't hurt your cycling. But if cycling is your primary sport and you ride a lot, you'll find that just breaking 90 at the knee, also known as a half-squat, is fine. That's what European coaches are using with elite riders and IME there's a reason. I've been doing that with barbell squats and single-leg press for the past couple years and have to say that rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated. Google "cycling half squat studies". A good example is: Quarter Squats Are Your Secret Weapon to Sprinting Faster and Jumping Higher | STACK
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As for the markers of explosive athleticism, the Quarter Squat group showed the greatest training effect, greatest transfer, and strongest relationship to Vertical Jump and Sprint performance. The Half Squat group was second in these measures and the Full Squat group fell last.

"Taken collectively, these findings support the use of shortened ranges of motion during squat training for improvements in sprint and jump performance among highly trained athletes" the study concluded.
BTW, single leg press or single leg squat if you can manage it is more effective than barbell 2-leg squat.
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Old 08-16-17, 08:51 AM   #12
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If weightlifting is your primary sport, by all means get your ass in the grass. It won't hurt your cycling. But if cycling is your primary sport and you ride a lot, you'll find that just breaking 90 at the knee, also known as a half-squat, is fine. That's what European coaches are using with elite riders and IME there's a reason. I've been doing that with barbell squats and single-leg press for the past couple years and have to say that rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated. Google "cycling half squat studies". A good example is: Quarter Squats Are Your Secret Weapon to Sprinting Faster and Jumping Higher | STACK


BTW, single leg press or single leg squat if you can manage it is more effective than barbell 2-leg squat.


Good stuff as usual. Great read esp on the single leg press. Collarbone break will prob not agree with barbell squats so single leg press.
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Old 08-16-17, 11:41 AM   #13
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If weightlifting is your primary sport, by all means get your ass in the grass. It won't hurt your cycling. But if cycling is your primary sport and you ride a lot, you'll find that just breaking 90 at the knee, also known as a half-squat, is fine.
Weightlifting used to be my main sport, but I came to realize that my natural build (spindly on the top and stacked on the bottom) was more appropriate for cycling. Not to mention I enjoy the open road MUCH more than the sweaty weightroom. I was wondering whether the "half-squat" stuff was more due to a lack of experience in the weightroom or if there was something more to it. I'll look into those studies you mentioned. I'm still a little concerned about the potential for knee damage in partial squats.

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BTW, single leg press or single leg squat if you can manage it is more effective than barbell 2-leg squat.
I generally do my leg presses single leg anyway. Maybe I'll work on those with the reduced ROM as my form isn't as ingrained into muscle memory as it is for the barbell squat. Not to mention I won't have to deal with my gym buddies ragging on me for half-squatting
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Old 08-16-17, 12:02 PM   #14
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A good article to read that deals with topics like this:
http://undergroundathletics.co.uk/wp..._the_means.pdf

A quote: "Any arguments initiated
over general means must, correspondingly, be initiated
solely by those individuals who have a grossly insufficient
understanding of the training process; as general means
have little effect on the perfection of sport skill."

If people are trying to make a big deal about squat depth or exercise selection for long distance cycling, they probably don't know what they are talking about. There's nothing wrong with picking a specific depth because you think it is best... but it's not going to make a significant difference to how you perform riding long distances on a bike. The difference will be extremely minor at most.

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Old 08-16-17, 12:38 PM   #15
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Good stuff as usual. Great read esp on the single leg press. Collarbone break will prob not agree with barbell squats so single leg press.
But then you have to do something for your back, which the press doesn't touch. For me, squats have made a bigger difference for my back than my legs, as far as cycling is concerned. Hyperextensions holding a barbell are really good, as is the usual gym back machine. Load it up. Hyperextensions also work the posterior chain, while the back machine, done with well bent legs, works the whole leg.

I used to think that heavy back work might hurt my back, but the opposite has been the case.
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Old 08-16-17, 12:56 PM   #16
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But then you have to do something for your back, which the press doesn't touch. For me, squats have made a bigger difference for my back than my legs, as far as cycling is concerned. Hyperextensions holding a barbell are really good, as is the usual gym back machine. Load it up. Hyperextensions also work the posterior chain, while the back machine, done with well bent legs, works the whole leg.

I used to think that heavy back work might hurt my back, but the opposite has been the case.

For back, I do pull-ps & chin-ups using body weight plus the seated pull back machine. For lower back, I use Hyperextensionmachine stretch. Once collarbone gets stronger I can go back to my fav deadlifts
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Old 08-16-17, 05:30 PM   #17
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I started doing squats last year at the age of 46, never did barbell squats before that... After doing them for a while I now understand why they are called the "king of all exercises". No other exercise comes even close. I strongly disagree with those who say that leg press, single leg squats, machine squats and others are as good or better then barbell back squats.
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Old 08-17-17, 09:39 AM   #18
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I started doing squats last year at the age of 46, never did barbell squats before that... After doing them for a while I now understand why they are called the "king of all exercises". No other exercise comes even close. I strongly disagree with those who say that leg press, single leg squats, machine squats and others are as good or better then barbell back squats.
I started doing barbell squats around the year 2000. I competed in powerlifting (a sport that has the squat - barbell is implied - as one of it's key movements) for roughly 10 years. I was an assistant coach on my country's world championship team (this isn't as impressive as it may sound though - it was by default). You are over exaggerating their importance if you think you can't get similar results from other exercises, particularly with respect to cycling performance. They are a (very useful) tool in the toolbox, nothing more. Consider the fact that many elite cyclists don't lift weights at all yet still have great results. The ones that do lift weights, really only focus on it for a couple months out of the year.

Squats are great because they work a large amount of muscle over a large range of motion. But they aren't some miracle exercise. You can get the same results from other exercises (although you may have to do more than one movement to ensure you work all the muscles). There are world famous strength and conditioning coaches that don't have their athletes squat (Mike Boyle being perhaps the most prominent), even for athletes in power based sports like football or baseball.

If I were to design a weight program for a competitive cyclist, it would include squats. But, I wouldn't hesitate to switch to another movement if there was a reason to do so. Some examples would be: they have crappy form and are risking injury, they have back issues, they have wrist or shoulder issues, they don't have a spotter to train with, their gym doesn't have a proper rack, or it is always full and they don't have time to wait. You can easily get strong enough to be a successful cyclist, at any level, without the use of squats. Consistency, intensity, health, recovery and overall training plan design are all far more important than exercise selection (assuming the selection isn't totally stupid).

For cycling performance, the only critical exercise that must be done is cycling.
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Old 08-17-17, 10:42 AM   #19
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Weightlifting used to be my main sport, but I came to realize that my natural build (spindly on the top and stacked on the bottom) was more appropriate for cycling.
If you enjoy weightlifting and cycling, you might consider heading out to your local velodrome. Track sprinters are considered lifters who ride bikes.

https://www.argyllvelodrome.com/

The season is almost over, but something to think about for next year. There was also talk about building an indoor track in Edmonton for year round training and racing.
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Old 08-17-17, 05:24 PM   #20
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I started doing barbell squats around the year 2000. I competed in powerlifting (a sport that has the squat - barbell is implied - as one of it's key movements) for roughly 10 years. I was an assistant coach on my country's world championship team (this isn't as impressive as it may sound though - it was by default). You are over exaggerating their importance if you think you can't get similar results from other exercises, particularly with respect to cycling performance. They are a (very useful) tool in the toolbox, nothing more. Consider the fact that many elite cyclists don't lift weights at all yet still have great results. The ones that do lift weights, really only focus on it for a couple months out of the year.

Squats are great because they work a large amount of muscle over a large range of motion. But they aren't some miracle exercise. You can get the same results from other exercises (although you may have to do more than one movement to ensure you work all the muscles). There are world famous strength and conditioning coaches that don't have their athletes squat (Mike Boyle being perhaps the most prominent), even for athletes in power based sports like football or baseball.

If I were to design a weight program for a competitive cyclist, it would include squats. But, I wouldn't hesitate to switch to another movement if there was a reason to do so. Some examples would be: they have crappy form and are risking injury, they have back issues, they have wrist or shoulder issues, they don't have a spotter to train with, their gym doesn't have a proper rack, or it is always full and they don't have time to wait. You can easily get strong enough to be a successful cyclist, at any level, without the use of squats. Consistency, intensity, health, recovery and overall training plan design are all far more important than exercise selection (assuming the selection isn't totally stupid).

For cycling performance, the only critical exercise that must be done is cycling.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't dissing other exercises. I know there are plenty of effective exercises out there. Personally I am a huge big fan of kettlebell training, bodyweight exercises and mace swinging...I could easily live without barbells, dumbbells and power rack if I had to. I also know that a lot of people out there will never be capable of squatting and so they need to find other alternatives...Like I said, I just started last year which is pretty late in life and noticed an improvement in my body composition and overall fitness and I just want to see how high I can get...I am not squating to improve my cycling performance but to improve my overall body strength.
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Old 08-18-17, 08:42 AM   #21
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Don't get me wrong, I wasn't dissing other exercises. I know there are plenty of effective exercises out there. Personally I am a huge big fan of kettlebell training, bodyweight exercises and mace swinging...I could easily live without barbells, dumbbells and power rack if I had to. I also know that a lot of people out there will never be capable of squatting and so they need to find other alternatives...Like I said, I just started last year which is pretty late in life and noticed an improvement in my body composition and overall fitness and I just want to see how high I can get...I am not squating to improve my cycling performance but to improve my overall body strength.
Don't get me wrong. Squats ARE great. Like I said, they would be my default choice. They are the best.

Also, a lot of the things you mention (kettlebells, bodyweight etc.) aren't very good alternatives because it's tough to go heavy with them (for instance with kettlebells, your grip is likely to weak to use enough weight to really strengthen your legs), particularly if you're looking for overall body strength as you say. So we agree completely here.

My issue, which isn't necessarily with you, is when people make a big deal over something that really doesn't matter when it comes to sport performance. If you're not in a barbell sport (i.e. Weightlifting or Powerlifting) or a sport where you specifically have to exert power over a wide range of motion, then squat depth really doesn't matter, or at least it doesn't matter enough to worry/debate about. Cyclists (with the exception of sprinters) only need a very rudimentary level of strength to be successful. This can be achieved quite easily in a variety of ways.
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Old 08-18-17, 03:57 PM   #22
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Also, a lot of the things you mention (kettlebells, bodyweight etc.) aren't very good alternatives because it's tough to go heavy with them

Kettlebell training is different from lifting weights...Many kettlebell exercises are very ballistic and done in a fast explosive manner. There is no need to go crazy heavy on kettlebells...Two 50 pound kettlebells can provide an extremely intense and effective full body workout...As for bodyweight exercises, there are plenty of ways to practice progressive overload and increase intensity with bodyweight exercises. Sure it's not the same as adding plates to the bar but there are plenty of very well conditioned and fit people who do mostly bodyweight or kettlebells and almost never touch barbells or dumbbells.
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Old 08-21-17, 09:35 AM   #23
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Kettlebell training is different from lifting weights...Many kettlebell exercises are very ballistic and done in a fast explosive manner. There is no need to go crazy heavy on kettlebells...Two 50 pound kettlebells can provide an extremely intense and effective full body workout...As for bodyweight exercises, there are plenty of ways to practice progressive overload and increase intensity with bodyweight exercises. Sure it's not the same as adding plates to the bar but there are plenty of very well conditioned and fit people who do mostly bodyweight or kettlebells and almost never touch barbells or dumbbells.
Getting a great, intense workout isn't the same as getting strong. There are exactly zero pro bodybuilders/strongmen/weightlifters/powerlifters who have built their strength and muscle mass using routines focused on kettlebells or bodyweight exercises. For building muscle mass and strength, they are, quite simply, an inferior tool when compared to a barbell.
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Old 08-23-17, 02:35 PM   #24
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If you enjoy weightlifting and cycling, you might consider heading out to your local velodrome. Track sprinters are considered lifters who ride bikes.


The season is almost over, but something to think about for next year. There was also talk about building an indoor track in Edmonton for year round training and racing.
That's true. I'm also interested in the technique required to ride a track bike. However for financial purposes, I think I'm going to stick to the road for the time being. Best to get good at one discipline first, methinks.

But in seriousness, thanks for the thoughtful suggestion.
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Old 08-25-17, 09:59 AM   #25
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Everything you want to know about squatting: https://www.amazon.com/Starting-Stre...rting+strength
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