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How to Do Partial Squats vs. Full Squats

Learn how to do a partial squat versus a full squat in this Howcast video about physical therapy exercises for the knees.


Hi. My name is Eric Sampson, and I want to talk a little bit about partial squats and full squats for your knee and basically the differences between the two. Partial squats and full squats are both considered our ankle, knee, and hip all have to work together to complete the exercise. This is different from let's say an exercise on the floor, where you're lifting up your leg in an open manner so you have one joint that's being involved and it's an isolated movement for that muscle or that joint.

The closed chain you're standing. You're going to be bending or you're going to be moving and a couple of joints have to work together to complete the task.

But basically, the difference between a partial and a full squat is going to be how low you're going down. If you're just recovering from an injury or you're just getting on with the exercise, you might want to stop at about 45 degrees as you're bending down.

So have your feet a little further apart, and then as you're going down, just go about halfway, about 45 degrees. Good. Then come on backup. So it's really a squat, but you're just not going as low. So there's a little less stress on your muscles and certainly a little bit less stress on your knees themselves. But as you've been doing it for a couple of times, maybe two or three workouts, you might want to progress to a full squat.

So you go down a little bit lower now, and then come on back up. So when you're doing a full squat, you have a lot more to worry about. Other than it being harder, you also have to worry about your form more. So you have to worry about how far your knees come forward as you're doing a squat. So you're going to do one more. Right, and then come on backup. The goal of the exercise is to make sure that your knees are not coming forward past your toes. If they are, there's a little bit too much compression on the joint, and there's a little bit too much compression on the meniscus inside the joint. Then do another one. Good. Coming all the way down, and then right back up.

When done correctly, it's a great exercise for your hips and your knees. If you're going to do it in the clinic or in the gym, you're going to want to do about 2 to 3 sets of 10, maybe on alternating days to give yourself a chance to rest in between. So this is a partial versus a full squat, a great exercise for as you're getting better with your knee problem and you're moving on to more closed chain exercises where you're challenging your hip and your knee together.

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