Do full squats to run faster, prevent injury, and improve your endurance. Whether you’re a field athlete with a need for speed, a distance runner, or you just like to run, you will benefit from doing full squats because they optimally train the lower body and core musculature for performance.
Research shows full-range squats are ideal for runners:
* Squatting all they way down can ensure structural balance and improve the strength ratio between the hamstrings and quadriceps, decreasing injury risk.
* Including full squats in a lower body program can improve muscular endurance and prevent the early onset of fatigue. We know that the rectus femoris of the quadriceps often fatigues early in distance runners, compromising performance.
* Better structural balance may contribute to better running technique and posture. Greater erector spinae endurance can help runners maintain upright posture when running, improving lung capacity. Weakness in the lower back can increase hamstring injury risk during the swing phase of running.
* Lower body weight training has been shown to increase short-sprint speed as well as lead to improvements in time trial running performance in longer distance runners.
* Weight training can aid in fat loss while maintaining muscle mass and increasing the proportion of fast type IIA muscle fibers.
A new study is one of the first to measure muscle activation via electromyographic (EMG) data in distance runners. Division 1 cross-country runners did either a partial or parallel squats with a relative load that was 75 percent of maximal for each squat depth.
Results showed that rectus femoris and erector spinae muscle activity was significantly greater during the parallel squat than the partial squat. Biceps femoris activity was also greater when the runners squatted lower, whereas gastrocnemius activity was similar between the two squat depths.
The athletes reported that they preferred the parallel squat to the partial squat, although no reasons were included for the preference.
It should be noted that this study compared EMG activity in parallel squats, which are not full-range deep squats in which the athlete goes all the way down so that the hamstring covers the calf. However, the results of this study demonstrated the value of a greater range-of-motion for runners, which can be maximally trained by using the deepest squats as the primary squat exercise.
For instance, ankle stability is important for runners to maintain mobility while running on uneven surfaces, making it particularly important for cross country runners and field athletes. Full squats are preferred because they require peak ankle range-of-motion and the optimal length-tension relationship of the gastrocnemius, which is necessary for a forceful push-off when running.
Another important point is the strength deficit between the quadriceps and hamstrings in these athletes. Hamstring strengthening exercises such as Nordic curls should also be included in a runner’s training program.