The squat is a compound movement that trains multiple muscles groups and gets your heart rate up, making it an efficient exercise for burning calories.
Squat workout routines can help you to get fit faster than any other type of resistance training if done properly. But you need to pick the right exercises and do them in the right order, with enough intensity and the right amount of reps, sets and rest time between them.
In order to do a squat correctly, you need to have good mobility in your ankles, hips, and upper back. You’ll also improve those areas as long as you practice squats consistently.
Benefits of Doing Squats
Squats are a great way to get in shape and lose weight, because they work for your large muscle groups, improving strength and power. In the process, you’ll burn calories quickly and help prevent injuries.
Squats can be done at home with little or no equipment. They target several of the body’s key areas including the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, abdominals, and lower back.
Women can benefit from doing squats because they help tone the legs, hips, butt, and abs. They’re also an excellent way to push up your heart rates during cardio workouts.
When you do squats regularly, you develop better body control and core stability.
Better balance, flexibility and lower-body strength result from proper technique. But even if you can’t do squats without help, there are variations to help make the move easier on your joints.
Many fitness centers offer instruction for first-timers. If you can find a coach or personal trainer who also teaches yoga, you’ll get an added benefit of working your core.
When you’re ready to do squats, start with stepping back into a half squat and then lower down into the full position. Do 20 reps at first for three sets until it feels comfortable to add more sets and reps. Include other exercises in your workout routine on the same day after doing squats.
While squats are a great exercise, you need to do the right to get the most from this move and limit potential injuries. In order to learn the correct way, get advice from an instructor or read about proper techniques online. When you master squats, you’ll be glad that you did!
What muscles do squats work?
The squat is a compound exercise that enhances athleticism, speed, and power for other sports.
*Quadriceps: These muscles in the front of your thigh make up two-thirds of your upper leg. They run from your hip to below your knee and include the vastus lateralis (a long flat muscle), vastus medialis (a paired muscle above this), vastus intermedialis (a pair of muscles below the other two), and rectus femoris (also called the quadriceps proper, it’s actually two separate muscles).
*Gluteals: These are your butt muscles. The three gluteal muscles include the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus.
*Hamstrings: These muscles in the back of your thigh help you bend your knee and extend straight, but they also help you kick up, run and jump. The hamstring muscles include the biceps femoris (which has two parts — long head and short head), semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and adductor Magnus.
*Lower back: Your lower back muscles help connect your hips to the rest of your spine, so they are involved in virtually any movement that involves bending or straightening your body. The main muscle groups of the lower back include the spinal erectors (the muscles that extend up your spine), the multifidus (located along your spine and responsible for rotational movement), transver-sospinalis and rotatores (found deep within the muscles and responsible for extension, rotation and lateral flexion of the back).
*Abdominals: These muscles crisscross in front of your body. They help support your spine and stabilize your core. The main muscles in your abs include the rectus abdominus (the “six-pack muscle”) and the transverse abdominus (deep underneath, this muscle also compresses your belly) along with the internal and external obliques (muscles that give you waist definition).
*calves: These muscles are on the back of your lower leg. They help you walk, run and jump. The main calf muscle is the gastrocnemius (the larger, upper calf muscle) along with the soleus (which lies underneath).
Different types of squats
There are many different types of squats that can help you target specific muscle groups or work the same muscles in slightly different ways.
- Front squats – This is probably my number one favorite squat variation because it allows for the greatest torque (or turning force) to be placed on your hips and knees, which forces each muscle to work harder than with other types of free-weight squats like the barbell back squat. It also has a carryover to other exercises that target your quadriceps, like the split squat and lunge.
- Zercher squats – This is another one of my favorite variations because it also allows for maximal torque but places less stress on your low back. This makes it particularly beneficial if you have lower back pain or are looking for an alternative to the back squat that will still allow you to train your legs hard.
- Bulgarian Squats – This targets your hamstrings and glutes a bit more than back squats, which hit those muscles as well but also heavily involve your quadriceps. That being said, there isn’t really a huge difference between the two in terms of overall development and strength gains.
- Sumo Squats – This targets your adductors (inner thigh muscles) and hips more than back squats, and allow for a more upright torso positioning which is great if you have lower back pain or tight hips.
- Pogo Squat – This is a great drill to teach you how to activate your glutes and hamstrings when performing a squat.
- Skater Squats: You will be able to go deeper into the bottom position of this variation because it allows for greater ankle dorsiflexion (the ability of your toes to move towards your shin). This makes it great for increasing depth that you can achieve on squats with proper form.
- Stability Ball Leg Curls: You will be able to go deeper into the bottom position of this variation because it allows for greater ankle dorsiflexion (the ability of your toes to move towards your shin). This makes it great for increasing depth that you can achieve on squats with proper form.
- Wall Sit: This is a great way to increase the duration of time you can hold a squat position for, and also work your quads and glutes in a stretched position. Plus, it’s easier on your knees than the traditional squat because there isn’t as much pressure going through them when your hips are in a more flexed position.
- Overhead Squat: This is one of the most challenging variations because it increases stabilization and balance requirements, and also strengthens your upper back and shoulders (which take on quite a bit of work when performing an overhead squat). It’s definitely not for beginners, but it’s great to include occasionally to screen for any weak links throughout your body and see what you need to work on.
- Duck Footed Squat: This variation will increase the torque and stretch on your glutes and hips because you will be able to go deeper into the bottom position with a wider stance.
- Jump Squat: This variation will increase the power and explosiveness needed to perform a squat and can be great to use as a max effort exercise to gauge improvement over time. Just
- Squat Jack – This variation will increase the power and explosiveness needed to perform a squat and can be great to use as a max effort exercise to gauge improvement over time. Just make sure you’re using a good form with your chest up and core tight – don’t let your hips shoot up first as many beginners do!
- Headstand Squat: This is an advanced exercise that should only be performed if you have plenty of core strength. If not, feel free to substitute this movement with the wall squat or goblet squat.
- Pistol Squat: This variation targets your entire lower body and quads while increasing hip stability, balance, and coordination – it will definitely put you to the test!
- Single-Leg Squat: This variation targets your entire lower body and quads while increasing hip stability, balance, and coordination – it will definitely put you to the test!
- lateral squats: This variation will allow you to go deeper into the bottom position of a squat because it will emphasize hip adduction and abduction more than a traditional squat by allowing a greater range of motion. You can also perform lateral squats with dumbbells to add resistance, or use less weight and place your hands behind your head (bringing your elbows towards the outside of each knee) to reduce resistance.
Read More: Lateral squats | HOW-TO, Variations, and Common Mistakes
Read More: 7 Simple and effective hamstring Stretches
How Many Squats Should I Do a Day?
– There is no set number of sets and reps that you need to follow, but for most people I will program 4 sets of 5 reps at the beginning of a squat workout. After they can do those easily, I would maybe bump it up again to 4 sets of 8-10 reps. Most programs are somewhere within this rep range. – I would say that you shouldn’t do more than 1-2 sets of 50 reps in a day because it’s not necessary. If you are stuck at a plateau, however, doing 20 minutes straight of squats may be helpful to break through the wall.
How to Do Squats Properly?
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width or slightly wider apart, with toes pointed straight forward or slightly outward – whatever is more comfortable for you
2. Keep your chest up and core tight throughout the entire movement
3. Slowly bend at the knees while pushing your hips back behind you
4. Descend until your upper legs are parallel to the ground (or as low as you can go while maintaining proper form)
5. Drive through your heels and explode back up by extending your hips, knees, and ankles to return to the starting position
6. Once at the top of the repetition, repeat all reps again for 1-2 more sets. If it’s too easy, increase the number of sets.
– I can’t say enough to make sure that your chest stays up and core is tight – this will ensure proper form, allow you to lift more weight, and protect your lower back from injury.
– Make sure you break at the hips first when performing a squat! If you bend at the waist instead, you will put your lower back at risk.
– If it’s too easy, feel free to increase the number of sets and/or add weight! You should be able to perform 8 reps or more before increasing the resistance. – Note that these are just general guidelines that I’ve used with many of my clients, but what works for one person may not work for you. Be sure to pay attention to your individual needs and adjust accordingly while staying safe! – If you have any injuries or limitations, it is best to consult with a physical therapist before doing squats.
– When in doubt, always check with a doctor/physical therapist / personal trainer before beginning an exercise program.