Have you ever wondered, “Should Squats Be Done Fast or Slow?”
I think we can all agree that squats are one of the greatest exercises ever.
In terms of strength, muscle, power, and fat-burning there are few exercises better.
Plus, whether you have a loaded barbell on your back or not, squats are one of the basic human movement patterns.
Therefore, squats also happen to be an extremely important exercise.
But at what pace should you be performing squats?
Let’s find out.
Should Squats Be Done Fast or Slow?
Traditional squat technique involves a slow eccentric (lowering phase) and fast concentric (coming back up). You should typically 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.
1. The Traditional Squat Technique
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.
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With that being said, I can change the entire pace of the squat to hit one type of training protocol more than the others.
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2. 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.
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 workout into a conditioning one too.
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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.
3. 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.
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.
4. 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.
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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.
5 Jump Squat Variations
5. 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.
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.
The Paused Squat
These are my overall thoughts on whether squats should be done fast or slow.
Realistically, the traditional squat involves a slow eccentric and fast concentric movement.
However, you can also incorporate either fast-paced or slow-paced squats depending on your training goals.
For me, I tend to stick with traditional squats and slow pause squats in terms of strength and hypertrophy training.
If I’m looking to incorporate speed and power training then I’m far more likely to use jump squat variations.
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Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.