Fast or Slow Squats? Let’s Explore Squat Tempo For Optimal Results!

Spread the love

Traditional squat technique involves a slow eccentric (lowering phase) and fast concentric (coming back up). Take 3-4 seconds to lower yourself and one second to raise yourself back up. However, slow squats will increase time-under-tension, which can lead to better hypertrophy gains. Whereas, fast squats can help to build speed and power.

The Traditional Squat Technique

A Man at the Top of the Movement of a Barbell Back Squat

In terms of the “traditional” squat I have always lived by a slow eccentric phase and an explosive concentric phase.

I will typically take around four seconds to lower myself into a full squat and then explode up as fast as possible.

If I perform a set of 6-12 squats in this manner then I have pretty much hit every training protocol.

The slow-paced lowering phase will help to build muscle tissue and tendon strength, as well as building up the Central Nervous System.

And the fast-paced raising phase will help to increase power in my lower body.

With that being said, I can change the entire pace of the squat to hit one type of training protocol more than the others.

Fast-Paced Squats For Power and Speed

I guess many of you may want to squat for speed or power.

Perhaps you take part in a particular sport that involves jumping, sprinting, kicking, etc.

Leg strength is still extremely important, regardless of your sport.

However, having speed and legs that can power you through when you’re fatigued is a must.

This would typically be the only time that I would train the squat fast.

“For power athletes, explosive concentric squats can translate to better performance in sports that require forceful leg drive.”

Mark Rippetoe (Strength Coach & Author)

You’ll want to slightly reduce the weight that you’d usually use for strength or muscle-building.

Plus, rather than aiming for a specific number of reps I’d be more inclined to squat for time.

So, this may involve a short, sharp burst of fast-paced squats for 20-30 seconds.

I guess you could even turn this speed and power squat workout into a conditioning one too that burns a ton of calories.

Perhaps, using a Tabata protocol of 20 seconds “work”, 10 seconds rest, for 4 minutes.

Whatever you decide, you can definitely perform squats at a much faster pace.

This will potentially have less impact in terms of strength and hypertrophy, but is ideal for speed and power.

With that being said, if you are going to perform squats at a fast pace there a few considerations.

Be Wary of Your Joints

One thing you do need to be wary of if you’re performing fast squats is the stress placed on your joints.

This is especially true of the smaller joints of the leg, i.e. the knees and ankles.

When performing fast-paced squats there is a tendency to drop into the squat.

Basically, there’s no real control over the eccentric phase and you can literally fall into the bottom of the movement.

This “drop” technique will place a huge amount of stress on the knees, which could of course lead to injury.

“Fast squats can increase the risk of form breakdown, especially for beginners. Focus on controlled movements to ensure proper technique and minimize injury risk.”

Bret Contreras (Strength Coach & Author)

You could say the same for the stress that is applied to the ankles as well.

Plus, with a loaded barbell on your back you’ll also be applying a great deal of pressure to the lower back.

All-in-all, if you do simply drop into the squat there’s a potential injury just waiting to happen.

I’m not saying that you can perform fast-paced squats with a barbell, but you need to ensure that you are lowering yourself under full control.

Use Explosive Squat Variations Instead

If you’re looking to build power or speed there are far better squat variations that you can use.

I would much prefer to perform box jumps, or jump squats with my own bodyweight.

You can of course perform jump squats with a barbell, trap bar, dumbbells, or kettlebells.

For me, any weighted variation of an explosive squat should be performed at lower reps, and with plenty of rest between sets.

I would look to stick to 3-6 reps per set and take anywhere from 2-5 minutes rest between sets, depending on the type of squat you perform.

Additionally, as the focus is more on speed and power you’ll want to dramatically reduce the weight that you’re using.

The aim here is to work on the explosiveness of the movement.

As with any other exercise or training protocol you can still look at progressive overload over a period of time.

So, start out light, keep the movement explosive, and add weight to subsequent workouts.

Squatting For Hypertrophy

One of the main benefits of slow-paced squats is increased time-under-tension.

That’s not to say that you can’t perform “normal-paced” squats for higher reps and also increase your time-under-tension.

And of course, more time-under-tension typically means more hypertrophy, or muscle, gains.

“Slower squats can help target specific muscle groups more effectively, allowing for better isolation and development of your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.”

Eric Cressey (Sports Performance Coach & Author)

If I’m squatting specifically for hypertrophy I like to perform my own variation of a slow squat.

This actually encompasses a variety of pause squat, and will take me 15 seconds to perform a rep.

So, you’ll want to take 5 seconds to lower yourself into a full squat.

Then pause and hold the full squat at the bottom of the movement for another 5 seconds.

And finally take 5 seconds to return to the top position.

You’ll find that the inclusion of a pause at the bottom will help to recruit the slow-twitch muscle fibres.

This of course means that you can also build the strength of the supporting muscles.

These include the supporting muscles of the abs, hips, and lower back.

So, a slow-paced squat with pause will also help with increasing strength and your overall squat numbers.

With that being said, paused squats can also be performed for no more than 2-3 seconds (for your pause).

Plus, they can also be incorporated into “traditional” squats.

Key Learning Points

  • The traditional squat involves a slow eccentric and fast concentric movement.
  • A good rule of thumb is 3-4 seconds to lower yourself and 1 second to return to your standing position.
  • You can also incorporate either fast-paced or slow-paced squats depending on your training goals.
  • Be wary of your joints when performing fast-pased squats, especially when done with a barbell.
  • Traditional squats and slow pause squats for strength and hypertrophy training.
  • Fast squats for speed and power training.
  • Consider explosive training, such as jump squats, if training for speed and power.

Want to pack on some serious muscle while burning body fat in just 12 weeks? Check out the Massthetic Muscle workout program.

Leave a Comment