Whether you’re trying to improve your athleticism by becoming more powerful or you’re interested in training for strength or hypertrophy, the speed with which you do squats will dictate what kind of progress you can make in the gym.
So, is it better to do squats fast or slow? Slow and fast squats are both beneficial, but your squat speed will depend on your experience level and your goals. Fast squats are better for athletes in power sports who need to improve their explosiveness while slow squats are better for perfecting squat technique, increasing hypertrophy, and building strength.
In this article, I’ll discuss:
- What it means to do fast and slow squats
- The pros and cons of fast and slow squats
- Who should do fast or slow squats
- Whether fast or slow squats are more difficult
What Does It Mean To Do Squats Fast?
Fast squats are also called speed squats. To do fast squats means to perform them at a rate of about one second per rep (or faster).
If you’re performing a set of five fast squat reps, it can take you just five seconds to get through the entire set because you’re descending and ascending as fast as possible and you’re not pausing at the bottom and top of the movement.
2 Reasons To Do Squats Fast
1. It Teaches You How To Be More Powerful Out of the Hole When You’re Lifting Maximal Weights
There are very few instances where you’d want to move fast on the concentric — or descending — portion of the squat. But doing fast squats allows you to practice exploding up on the eccentric — or ascending — portion of the movement when you’re lifting close to your 1RM.
This helps improve the amount of force you produce when you’re trying to stand up with a heavy load on your back.
2. You Can Cycle Through Your Reps More Quickly
Being able to move through squat reps quickly is beneficial in sports like CrossFit where the goal is to complete a workout as fast as possible. If you do HIIT or circuit-style workouts, practicing fast squats can also help you accumulate more reps in a short amount of time.
You may not always do those types of workouts with a loaded barbell, but practicing fast weighted squats will make it easier for you to do bodyweight squats.
2 Drawbacks of Doing Squats Fast
1. It’s More Difficult To Maintain Proper Form
When you’re trying to cycle through squats quickly, your form is more likely to break down sooner. You may lose tension in your upper body, relax too much at the bottom, or forget to brace and breathe properly in between reps.
2. There’s Less Time Under Tension
Doing fast squats means your muscles aren’t spending a lot of time under tension, which is necessary in order to increase both strength and muscle size. You’d need to do more total reps of fast squats in order to reap the same benefits of doing slow squats.
What Does It Mean To Do Squats Slow?
Doing slow squats means taking at least three to four seconds to complete one full rep. Most commonly, slowing down your squat refers to slowing down the eccentric portion of the lift, but you can slow the concentric portion of the movement as well.
Another popular way to do slow squats is to do tempo squats. When you see tempo squats pop up in your routine, they’ll appear as three or four numbers.
For example, tempo squats may be written as 3-0-1-0. The order of the numbers refers to:
- The eccentric portion of the squat
- The pause at the bottom
- The concentric portion
- The pause at the top
Using the example above, you’ll lower for three seconds, pause for one second at the bottom, move through a one-second ascent, and begin your next rep without pausing at the top.
3 Reasons To Do Squats Slow
1. You Have More Control
By slowing down your squats, you have more control over the movement. Because you’re not trying to get through the reps as fast as possible, it’s easier to remember all of the cues necessary for proper squatting technique.
2. Slow Squats Are Better for Increasing Hypertrophy
Increasing time under tension is better for increasing hypertrophy because it requires more muscle fiber recruitment. Lengthening the time it takes to complete each rep increases the amount of stress your muscles experience, which is what leads to the muscle damage that is necessary to help them grow.
3. You Can Continue To Build Strength Even if You Don’t Lift Heavy
Tempo squats, in particular, are a self-limiting movement. This means you can maintain a high intensity even at lower weights. If you only have a limited amount of equipment at your disposal, you can still work towards your strength-building goals by doing slow or tempo squats.
2 Drawbacks of Doing Squats Slow
1. They’re More Difficult
Many people find squats challenging to begin with because they either don’t have ideal limb proportions or the right mobility to do squats properly. Intentionally slowing down the movement makes it even more difficult, and spending a lot of time with a heavy weight on your back is an uncomfortable position to be in.
2. You Can’t Do As Many Reps
Because doing slow squats is more fatiguing, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do them for high amounts of reps — though as I mentioned above, you can still maintain a high level of intensity, which makes up for the lower total volume you’ll be doing.
Is It Harder To Do Squats Fast or Slow?
In general, doing slow squats is harder because your muscles are spending a longer amount of time under stress, which causes more fatigue and can be more difficult to recover from. There’s also no overcompensating with poor form when you do slow squats, which can be challenging for people who have grown accustomed to squatting with improper technique.
How proficient you are at squatting can also dictate whether fast or slow squats are harder. Some people will find both difficult because their bodies aren’t built for squatting.
For example, I’m tall and I have long legs, and I hate doing tempo squats because it already takes me a long time to get to the bottom of a squat! Having to slow my squats down even further makes the descent more difficult, and when I try to explode up from the bottom, it still feels like I’m moving more slowly than I should.
And even when I’m trying to do squats as fast as possible, I’ll never get through them as quickly as someone with shorter legs because my legs have a greater distance to travel.
Who Should Do Squats Fast or Slow?
Do Fast Squats If
- You’re an athlete in a power sport. Sprinters, football players, gymnasts, and anyone else who participates in sports that require a lot of explosive power can benefit from fast squats.
- You like to do HIIT or circuit training. Practicing fast squats can make it easier for you to get more reps done within a specified time period when you’re doing HIIT workouts or circuit training.
Do Slow Squats If
- You’re training for hypertrophy. Placing your muscles under stress for a longer period of time is necessary in order to increase their size.
- You’re a beginner. When you’re new to lifting, it’s more important for you to perfect your technique and learn how to control the weight before you start to do speed work.
- You have weaknesses to overcome. If your hips shift to one side when you squat, you lean too far forward, or you have a tendency to bounce out of the hole instead of controlling your ascent, doing slow squats can help you fix these issues. This is especially true if you add pauses at the bottom.
- You don’t have access to heavy weights. Having access to limited equipment doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to pursue your strength or hypertrophy goals. Slowing down your squats can still help you get stronger and grow your muscles even if you’re not lifting heavy.
Do Both Fast and Slow Squats If
- You’re a Crossfitter. CrossFit is all about moving as efficiently as you can to finish a workout as quickly as possible, and practicing fast squats can make it easier for you to cycle through them quickly in a WOD. But it’s also necessary to build up your strength so you can lift heavier weights, and spending more time under tension will help with that.
- You’re a weightlifter. Doing squats as fast as possible will help you develop the power you need to increase speed out of the bottom of a clean or snatch, but squats with a slow eccentric will help you build the strength you need to lift heavier weights.
- You’re a powerlifter. While powerlifters don’t do fast squats in competition, practicing them during training can help you become more explosive out of the hole when you’re lifting maximal weights. But, as you can probably tell by now, slowing the movement down allows you to work on getting stronger.
- You workout for overall health. If you’re not a competitive athlete or you’re not training for a specific goal, incorporating both fast and slow squats into your routine will provide the strength- and muscle-building benefits of slow squats while increasing your athleticism with fast squats.
FAQ: Fast Squats vs Slow Squats
Are Slow Squats Better?
Whether or not slow squats are better is a bit subjective. Slow squats are better for building strength, increasing hypertrophy, practicing proper squat technique, and addressing weaknesses in the movement. But fast squats have their place, especially for those who need to improve their explosive power.
Is The Speed Of The Squat Important?
The speed of the squat is important because it will depend on your experience level and your goals. New lifters and those who have aesthetics-based goals should prioritize slow squats while athletes in power sports should prioritize fast squats. Everyone else can benefit from doing squats at varying speeds.
Fast and slow squats are both beneficial for different reasons. Fast squats can help you develop more explosive power while slow squats can help you drill your technique, increase muscle size, and increase strength. The tempo with which you do your squats will ultimately depend on how much lifting experience you have and what your current goals are.
About The Author
Amanda Dvorak is a freelance writer and powerlifting enthusiast. Amanda played softball for 12 years and discovered her passion for fitness when she was in college. It wasn’t until she started CrossFit in 2015 that she became interested in powerlifting and realized how much she loves lifting heavy weights. In addition to powerlifting, Amanda also enjoys running and cycling.