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Deep Squats with a Barbell: How to Do, Benefits & Side Effects

deep squats

Deep Squats are one of the most technically challenging types of barbell squats. This exercise produces a powerful load on the muscles of the lower body, and the location of the weight on the shoulders activates a huge array of stabilizer muscles. Such squats are traditionally performed by weightlifters, but with the correct ratio of the load vs reps, it can be used in strength training of any athletes (both men and women). Let’s take a closer look at this exercise.

Why Do Deep Squats with a Barbell?

Let’s make it clear why you need to do deep squats at all. Do they have any benefits over the classic barbell squats? Or maybe they are more harmful?

Let’s start with how deep squats differ from the usual ones, namely, with the depth of the squat. During the deep squat, the pelvis falls almost to the floor and with these mechanics, there is an increase in the range of motion. Accordingly, the muscles work more intensively. Deep squats with a barbell is a powerful exercise for the development of mass and strength of the legs. The quadriceps get the maximum load, the buttock muscles also work, the back of the thighs and the calf muscles are included. The exercise develops explosive strength and endurance well.

Who Benefits from Doing Deep Squats?

  • For athletes who are engaged in weightlifting. They have deep squats with a barbell traditionally included in the training program and it’s one of the basic core building blocks for a leg workout which needs to be mastered.
  • For powerlifters to increase performance in strength exercises. Despite the fact that deep squats are not a part of the competitive elements in powerlifting, their periodic inclusion in training can give a good boost to muscle development.
  • Bodybuilders can perform this exercise to gain weight and muscle mass of the quadriceps.

Each athlete chooses the weight and the number of reps/sets depending on the specific goal.

Deep Barbell Squats for Women

You can often hear that deep squats are recommended for women who want to pump up the muscles of the buttocks and improve the shape of the legs. This statement is generally true, but there is one “but”.

Of course, the glutes stretch better the lower we squat. Deep squats are much more effective than regular squats in this case. But it should also be noted that the main workload in this exercise is taken by the quadriceps. IE: The front surface of the thigh is the primary muscle that is trained, and the muscles of the buttocks are secondary. Obviously dependent on the female athletes’ goal, for many women the focus is to have large and rounded buttocks, but at the same time, also don’t have legs that look voluminous.

Therefore, the female athlete should first decide on the physique goal they are after before the inclusion of such squats in their training programs. Consideration should also be given to other exercises if the primary focus is to load the muscles of the buttocks.

deep squats with barbell

What Are The Side Effects of Deep Squats?

It is worth highlighting the following disadvantages of deep barbell squats:

  • The exercise is really difficult in technical terms. You will need not only physical training, but also good flexibility in the hip joint to perform it correctly. Deep squats are not recommended for beginners.
  • Deep squats with a barbell creates a high load on the entire musculoskeletal system. You are high risk of getting an injury if you perform the exercise with more weight than what you can effectively manage and when your body/core is not physically ready for this. Too much weight will not allow you to execute the exercise correctly with proper technique, and a minor deviation from the correct technique could have devastating consequences.

We should also look at the effects this exercise could have on the knee joints, and in general, how deep you can squat, so as not to harm your knees. This is a topic that is very much debated because there doesn’t seem to be consensus on it. Opponents of the deep squats cite the following factors as harmful to the knee joints:

  • Bending the knees at an acute angle.
  • The output of the knee beyond the sock line.

Deep squats involve bending the knee at an acute angle and anatomically the joint is designed for such movement. You can safely sit down without weight and nothing bad will happen. The muscles and ligaments work, and the joint bends and everything is as it should be. But the keywords are “without weight”. The human body is not designed initially to perform the movement while carrying a large amount of weight.

However, athletes strive to develop the physical capabilities of their bodies and work on it purposefully to strengthen the muscles and ligaments, and to perfectly hone the technique.

The second argument is essentially the same.

Bending the knees at an acute angle, as well as their removal beyond the line of the socks, is harmless if your muscles are able to ensure a stable position of the joint, and the ligaments are sufficiently elastic. The more weight you use, the more stringent this requirement is.

To avoid any injuries, athletes train to have the correct technique for ~3 months and perform developing exercises during this time before starting to do deep squats.

The key to avoiding injury is to pay close attention to the body and acutely assess your capabilities.

If you have already had a knee injury in the past, then you should not carry out this exercise without first  consulting a doctor.

barbell deep squats

How To Do Deep Squats?

First, prepare your workplace. The barbell with the weights you will be using should lie on the stops of the squat rack.

Stand in front of the barbell and hold it with your hands. Sit under the barbell with your knees bent and place the bar on the trapezius. Your feet should be placed under the neck. Pull your shoulders and elbows to your torso, and then lock the barbell on your shoulders as securely as possible.

  1. Direct your gaze slightly upward while keeping your back straight. Remove the barbell from the stops by using your feet. The weight of the body in this case falls on the middle of the feet.
  2. Take 2-3 small steps back and place your feet shoulder-width apart. Turn your feet slightly to the sides. You should be as comfortable as possible.
  3. Squat while maintaining a straight body position. At the same time, the knees move in the plane of the socks and do not sway inwards. It is important that you do not to allow any twisting of the buttocks. The back should be straight and try to keep the lower back ridged.
  4. As much as possible, tighten the leg muscles and core, and make a powerful upward movement while reaching the bottom point when the biceps of the thighs touch the calves. It is important to maintain a vertical body position and not to fall forward when lifting.
  5. Straighten your knees completely. You have completed the movement. Next, you can return the barbell to the stops or do the next rep.

You will be able to achieve maximum results in deep squats with barbell if you follow the execution technique.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Muscles Do Deep Squats with a Barbell Work?

Deep Squats with a barbell are perfect to develop the muscles of the legs and buttocks.

What Are Some Alternatives To Deep Squats with a Barbell?

You can use the following exercises as an alternative to deep squats with barbell:

  • Regular Barbell Back Squat;
  • Barbell Hack Squat;
  • Front Squats;
  • Jefferson Squats;
  • Smith Machine Squats;
  • Zercher Squats.
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