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Why You Should Half Squat

Zach Springer
Zach Springer

Latest posts by Zach Springer (see all)

You’ve heard it. You’ve probably heard it a dozen times or more. The scoffs and side-eyed gazes that come when someone only goes down halfway are common in a gym.  You HAVE to squat to parallel EVERY TIME.

That’s not true, especially for most weapons-based HEMA. Let me explain.

When developing your training plan, one of the keys is specificity. That’s how close the exercise you’re doing is to the activity you’re training for. The closer or more specific your exercise is, the more likely it will actually help your combat performance.

So how low do you get when you’re fighting? Most fighters I’ve seen rarely even get as low as a half-squat, for these people a full squat isn’t specific to their style. Pay attention to how you fight, it tells you how to train.

I know. I can see you fuming through the screen.

Of course I’m not suggesting you never squat to parallel. Definitely do it, and often.  Full depth squats are un-paralleled (pun intended) when it comes to giving you the strength foundation you need to fight well. They’ll help you reach your training and health goals faster than almost any other exercise. Plus they make your butt look good in fencing pants.

Those things are not what you’re training for in the weeks before a big competition though. In those 2-4 weeks you should be training to be as good at fencing as you can be. Keep your workouts highly intense, highly specific, and low volume during this pre-competition time frame. This is where half-squats shine.

BE WARNED! You’ll undoubtedly get some odd looks if you’re training at your local gym. That’s because those poor, ignorant souls are so confused why you’re doing the ONE THING everyone knows not to do. Personally, I think curling in the squat rack is a larger sin. If they end up bothering you at all, just go up and tell them that your combat performance coach told you to. 


  1. I disagree with this. In other combat sports (particularly boxing and Olympic fencing), people train for maximal range of motion knowing full will that competition adrenaline and fatigue will limit you. Training is for pushing mobility limits; in competition, you do what you have to do, but if you are pushing yourself to win you rapidly start falling away from your un-stressed training limitations. If you want to fight in a half squat, train to full parallel. If you train to half squat, you will be standing straight up when the fatigue and tunnel-vision hit you.

    • Hey Sojobo, the TL;DR version was to train to full or past parallel most of the time, but that 2-4 weeks prior to competition would be where half-squats shine.

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