Recent electromyography (EMG) research revealed that variation in stance width during the squat did not affect isolation of leg muscles, which is contrary to what many lifters believe. More EMG research now shows that the depth of your squats is the major determinant of glute activation.
Deep Squats Activate the Glutes Most Effectively
The glutes (gluteus maximus) are what bodybuilders call the butt muscles. These muscles are the prime-mover in the squat exercise. This research examined EMG activity of the glutes and some other leg muscles during the barbell squat exercise.
The purpose of this study was to test the effect of three different squatting depths on the relative contributions of the hip and thigh muscles during the barbell squat.
Interestingly, results revealed that the activity of other hip and thigh muscles, such as the quadriceps, did not vary with the depth of the squat. However, there was a great difference in the relative contribution of the glutes during the partial (16.9%), parallel (28.0%) and full-depth (35.4%) squats.
Partial squats mean only going to a 45-degree knee flexion. Parallel squatting is where the squatter descends to where the thighs are parallel with the floor. Full-depth squats means rock bottom, full knee flexion. Not every bodybuilder has the skill or flexibility to perform full squats without a high risk of injury.
However, almost everyone can work hard on their technique to be able to do parallel squats in correct form. Whether you’re male or female, if you want to obtain the most from this tremendous mass building exercise, work hard on your technique and be sure to go to at least parallel depth.