Archive for the tag - proper form

Good Form Versus More Weight?

Dear Davey,

As part of my leg routine, I perform squats. I know that in a traditional squat, I should squat down until my thighs are parallel to the floor. However, I can squat a lot more weight if I stop short of parallel. Is it more important to follow proper form with less resistance or to cheat a bit and use more resistance?


barbell-squat-weight-loss-muscle-31032011Hey Chris,

This is really an age-old question and one that a lot of people have.

I always stick with better form over more resistance for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, if you have good form, you’ll soon be able to add more resistance – and eventually you’ll reach (and surpass) the amount of weight with which you cheated. And you’ll do it all with good form which means better results.

Second, improper form can increase injury risk. Though stopping your squats short of parallel isn’t particularly dangerous, cheating on other exercises – like barbell bicep curls, for example – can be very dangerous. Too many exercisers throw out their backs or dislocate a shoulders due to improper form.

However, there was recently a study in The Journal of Strength Training & Conditioning on the very question you just asked. For the study, researchers recruited healthy but untrained participants and divided them into two groups. In one group, the exercisers stopped their squats at a 50 degree knee angle. In simpler terms, this group cheated. For the other group, exercisers performed full squats until they reached a knee angle of 90 degrees.

After evaluating the data, researchers did see muscle gains in both groups – but the largest differences were in strength. For the cheating group, strength gains were limited to a small range of motion. Moreover, for calculations of external torque, researchers found a 7% increase for participants in the 90 degree group versus external torque in the 50 degree group.

Based on the findings, researchers recommend proper form – even if it means less weight. And it’s a recommendation that I’m happy to endorse.