7 benefits of squats: All you need to know to get started

Squats have long been known to be beneficial for strengthening the quadriceps and glutes, but recent research suggests that squats build the hamstrings too.

In fact, the reality is that this exercise does more than build your lower body and core muscles. If you are not convinced of benefits of squats, here is an article that goes around this complete exercise to gain muscle mass.

Squats are an exercise you can do anywhere. You can do it in the gym, at home or on the couch, it doesn't matter. Not on the couch, just kidding 😂

For your sessions at home, there are many variants of this bodyweight movement, but also with elastic bands, a TRX strap and dumbbells or kettlebells.

I encourage you to keep the versions with a long bar and Olympic plates for the weight room to limit the risk of injury…unless you have a squat rack in your home gym.

The important thing is never to find yourself unable to put the weight on the ground if you can't finish the movement. But I will come back to the safety rules later…

Benefits of squats: Why do it?

The squat is a dynamic strength training exercise that requires several upper and lower body muscles to work together simultaneously.

These muscles are important to accomplish your daily tasks such as walking, climbing stairs, bending or carrying heavy loads. They also help you improve your sports performance in almost any discipline.

Also, adding squats into your workouts reduces the risk of injury knees and ankles. It also contributes to the improvement of the posture because the execution of a squat requests the muscles of the back and the abdominal strap in the same movement.

If you are aiming for fat loss, one of the many benefits of the squat is that it increases your energy expenditure drastically. This is because the largest muscles in the body are all activated at the same time. It is therefore an essential exercise to lose weight.

And the list of benefits goes on and on. So I will detail some of them in the next part…

But let’s start with the basics of the movement…

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How to Squat

In bodybuilding, it is essential to understand how run correctly movement before seeking to add an external load or resistance. This is unfortunately an aspect completely forgotten in many gyms.

To know how to do squats, you must first break down the exercise without using any weights and feel how the main muscles are worked. You will learn how to keep the right position, including when you increase the difficulty and the load.

Start with bodyweight squats (air squats)

Bodyweight air squats

To do a basic squat:

  • Stand upright with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart;
  • Keep your torso straight, engage your abs and shift your weight into your heels while pushing your hips back when in the bottom position;
  • Lower yourself until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. You can go down further if your ankles are flexible enough;
  • You should feel the tension in your thighs and glutes;
  • Pause at the bottom while your knees should be above and not past your toes;
  • Exhale and return to the starting position.
Adjustable dumbbells 24kg

When you have progressed enough

There are so many variations of this exercise that it will be the subject of an entire article. 

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Variations of the squat can include weights, such as bars, dumbbells or kettlebells, resistance bands, a TRX strap or a weighted medicine ball. There are even bodyweight variations that require a fair amount of strength and balance, such as one-legged pistol squats.

You will never run out of solutions to keep reaping the benefits of squatting.

What muscles do squats work?

If there's one exercise that has the ability to challenge so many muscles in the body, it's the squat.

The targeted muscles that immediately come to mind are obviously the deep and superficial muscles of the lower body. 

The lower muscles targeted in the different variations of the squat include:

  • Gluteus minim, medius and maximus (gluteal muscles)
  • Quadriceps (front of thigh)
  • Hamstrings (back of thigh)
  • Adductor (groin)
  • Hip flexor muscles
  • Calves

But to do this compound exercise correctly, you must also use multiple core muscles. It's even more obvious when you're doing movements with resistance. Indeed, the pectorals, shoulders, latissimus dorsi and all of your abdominal strap will be engaged during the movement.

At the level of the abdominals, you will use the rectus abdominis, the obliques, the transverses and the erectors of the spine.

If you do a front squat, back squat, or overhead squat, you'll also work your shoulder, arm, chest, and back muscles.

What are the benefits of squats?

Back squat with barbell

The list of benefits of the squat is long, and you have probably already understood it by noticing all the muscle groups used.

However, to summarize and emphasize the importance of this movement, here are 7 particularly interesting benefits of squats:

1. Strengthening the abdominal strap

We often talk about the importance of core training. Indeed, having strong abdominal muscles facilitates all daily movements such as turning over, bending over and even standing up. Not only that, but when this part of the body is strong, you improve your balance, relieve lower back pain, and maintain good posture.

A 2018 US study who compared the activation of the core muscles during a plank with squats revealed that the latter more strongly activated the muscles that support the back.

Based on these findings, researchers recommended targeting core muscles with back squats to reduce injury risk and improve athletic performance.

Muscle gain with elastics

2. Reduced risk of injury

When you strengthen the lower muscles, you are able to perform all other movements with correct form, balance, mobility and posture.

Plus, incorporating squats into your workout routine strengthens your tendons, ligaments, and bones. According to'American Council on Exercise, this helps to reduce the risk of injury.

3. Calorie Burning

Calorie burning is often equated with aerobic exercise such as running or cycling. But performing high-intensity compound movements like the squat burns a lot of calories.

For example, a Harvard Medical School study reports that a 150-pound person can burn about 223 calories by doing 30 minutes of vigorous weight-training exercises like squats.

This consumption can rise to 500 Calories if you do intense HIIT sessions with reduced rest times. Not to mention that this technique will push your body to continue burning calories 48 to 72 hours after your workout!

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4. Strengthening lower body muscles

Front squat with dumbbell

Your lower body has the largest and strongest muscles.

Whatever you do throughout the day, your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, hip flexors and calves are active in almost every movement.

Strength exercises like squats go strengthen and tone those important muscles. When toned, you will see increased mobility with less pain. Whether walking, climbing stairs, stooping and of course playing sports, you will feel that everything is much easier.

5. Progression of athletic abilities

If you play sports, adding jump squats to your workout increase your strength and explosiveness. This exercise will have a big impact on your athletic performance.

A 2016 US study reported by the NCBI examined the effects of this exercise performed 3 times a week for 8 weeks.

Based on the study results, the researchers concluded that the jump squat simultaneously improves different athletic performance, including running speed and explosive strength.

6. Increased motivation

Once you master the basic squat, there are many variations of this exercise you can try. This variety helps keep the exercise interesting, while activating different muscle groups.

One of the benefits of squats is that you are sure not to not fall into routine during your sessions. 

Even with just your body weight, you'll have the ability to vary the fun and difficulty. If you have the equipment at home, you can use weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells, weighted balls, resistance bands or a TRX strap. For your home gym, there are even squat racks or guided load machines. And I'm probably forgetting...

7. Availability of squats

Back Squat with elastic band

To do squats to body weight, you don't need any equipment. All you need is your body and enough room to lower yourself into a seated position.

It is even possible to use anywhere elastic bands to greatly increase resistance. A complete kit often weighs less than 3 kilos and fits in a very small, easily transportable bag.

And if you're pressed for time, you can still reap the benefits of squats by doing a few sets of 20 to 50 reps at bodyweight. Doing 3 sets in the morning and 3 in the evening will take you no more than 5 minutes each time.

How to do squats safely

Although it's generally a safe exercise if done with the right form, there are a few safety precautions to keep in mind during your sets.

  • Lower yourself as far as you can comfortably: When you start to feel discomfort in your hips or knees, stop and use that as an end point.
  • Make sure you have a solid foundation: Most squats require you to start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. The sumo squat even involves having your feet further apart. A narrower foot stance allows you to target the outer thigh muscles, but it also decreases your stability and puts extra pressure on the knees.
  • Look in front of you: While it may feel natural to look down when performing a squat, you should keep your gaze straight ahead. To help you, choose a point to focus on. This will help keep your neck in a neutral position.
  • Keep a straight posture: Avoid rounding your shoulders or back. Focus on keeping your spine straight and in a neutral position, with your head erect, without looking up or down.
  • Only lift what you can handle: Avoid excessive loads in the hope of gaining muscle bulk. You will benefit more from the squat if you perform it correctly than if you lift too much weight. In addition, excessive load will strain the lower back, hips and knees. You will unnecessarily increase the risk of injury.
  • Activate your abdominal strap: Keep your abs tight throughout the movement. Consider these muscles a real belt to maintain your posture.
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Benefits of Squats: Conclusion

Building strength and power are just a few of the many benefits of squats in your training regimen.

When done correctly, this functional exercise also increases your calorie burn, helps prevent injury, strengthens your core, and improves your balance and posture.

To stay motivated, consider replacing the traditional squat with its different variations. Not only will this make your workouts interesting, but you will also be challenged with each new variation.

If you have a medical condition or injury, speak with your primary care physician or professional trainer first before adding squats to your fitness routine.

Share your opinion and your experience on this exercise by leaving a comment below. Thanks in advance !

Benefits of Squats FAQ

Should we do squats every day?

No, because a full squat puts a lot of strain on many muscles and the neuromuscular system. It is therefore better to leave 48 to 72 hours of rest between each session. The harder you train, the longer the recovery time you need to stretch.

Do squats make your glutes bigger?

In reality, it's not the best movement to have rounded buttocks, but it helps. To increase the effort in the gluteal muscles, you should try to bring the buttocks as far back as possible during your sets, so that you feel the weight in the heels rather than the soles of the feet.

Add lunges and bridges (hip thrusts) to your workouts. To have plumper buttocks, read also this article.

Do squats make you lose weight?

Yes and no.

Let me explain… Among the benefits of squat training that contribute to fat loss are the solicitation of many muscles and a significant energy expenditure. In this sense, this exercise is an undeniable slimming ally. But all the effort in the world is for nothing if you don't create a caloric deficit, in other words if you continue to eat anything and anyhow. 

On the other hand, if you combine this exercise with a balanced diet, it can work miracles to help you reach your ideal weight.

Do squats make your thighs bigger?

If you're talking muscle volume, then yes, this move builds the quadriceps like no other.

On the other hand, if you have a lot of fat on your thighs to eliminate, it will help to make it disappear, and therefore will first tend to reduce the volume by refining them at first. It will then make them bigger if you gain muscle with the right amount of training.

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