10 benefits of squats and what muscles they strengthen

  • Squats are one of the most effective and healthful lower body exercises.
  • The health benefits of squats include muscle building, injury prevention, and pain relief.
  • Squats require no equipment and can be done almost anywhere.

If you’re looking for a strengthening exercise that benefits your whole body, the squat is up to the job.

Doing squats can not only help you perform athletically, but it also strengthens your body for everyday tasks like walking, carrying heavy objects, and climbing stairs. The benefits range from preventing injury to improving your performance in other exercises.

Here are 10 benefits of working squats into your exercise routine.

1. Strengthen lower body and core muscles

According to Dr. Timothy Suchomel, assistant professor in the Department of Human Movement Sciences at Carroll University, squats primarily target the following muscle groups:

An infographic shows the muscle anatomy of the hamstrings, glutes, calves, core, abductors, adductors, and quadriceps.

Shayanne Gal / Insider

As you can see, squats primarily work parts of your lower body, especially your quads and glutes. It’s the position of your knees in particular – bending them at a 90 degree angle – that helps activate these muscle groups effectively.

Additionally, each time you squat, you need to engage your core to stabilize your body during the movement.

2. Burns Calories and May Aid Weight Loss

Because squats work multiple muscle groups at once, exercise increases your body’s production of anabolic hormones. These are the hormones that help you lose fat and build muscle.

A small 2014 study specifically compared squats as a free weight exercise to the leg press, an exercise machine with added weight. While both movements work the same large muscle groups, the researchers reported that the body’s response was different: when performed at similar intensities, squats engaged more muscles and produced a greater hormonal and physiological response. – especially more muscle activation – than the leg press.

Squats can be an important part of any success


to plan. Regular strength training helps speed up your metabolism and can reduce body fat.

In fact, a small 2013 study looked at the health benefits of an eight-week regimen of bodyweight squats and found that it decreased body fat percentage and increased lean body mass in participants.

3. Reduce your risk of injury

Besides being an effective exercise, doing squats regularly can also help reduce your risk of knee and ankle injury.

That’s because the movement strengthens the tendons, bones, and ligaments around your leg muscles, and it can especially help take some of the load off your knees and ankles. In fact, squats are widely used for the therapeutic treatment of ankle instability.

However, injury prevention only applies if you are squatting with proper form.

A 2013 review found that poorly performed shallow squats — without fully bending the knees at a 90-degree angle — can lead to lower back (lumbar spine) and knee degeneration over time.

It is therefore important to practice proper squat form to protect against injury and reap these health benefits.

4. Increase Bone Mineral Density

Squatting doesn’t just benefit your muscles — doing squats also helps your bones.

Suchomel says squats can also help increase bone mineral density, which can strengthen your skeleton, especially the bones in your spine and lower body. Stronger bones help the body become more resistant to injury.

A small 2013 study of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis or osteopenia — conditions that lead to low bone density — found that those who did 12 weeks of squat exercises improved skeletal health and bone content. in bone minerals. The results suggest that strength training has potential in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

5. Improve posture

Good posture is especially important to counteract all the sitting positions we do and also to help prevent injury.

Since squats support a stronger core and strengthened lower body, your posture may improve.

A small 2018 study compared the effect of planks and squats on participants. While both exercises achieved similar core activation, squats were better able to activate the muscles that help straighten your back.

6. Helps you jump higher and run faster

Although squats are a great workout on their own, they can also help you perform better in other physical activities.

Because squats focus on strengthening your lower body in particular, they increase your power base. Stronger muscles equal more power, after all.

For example, a small 2011 study found that football players who performed squat exercises also showed improved short sprint performance. The results suggest that the power produced in squat exercises helped improve athletic speed.

7. Helps with flexibility and mobility

As we age, our muscles, tendons and ligaments naturally lose their elasticity. Squats offer a simple way to slow down this process and keep you flexible and limber for longer.

Adding squats to your workout routine can benefit your daily life in several ways:

  • Common activities like bending to pick things up become easier.

  • Everyday tasks like climbing stairs are less difficult.

  • Squats strengthen the muscles we regularly use to transition from sitting to standing.

8. May Help Relieve Pain

When you squat, you help relax muscles in your body that might otherwise be tight and prone to pain.

Participants in a small 2015 study reported decreased pain, including significant relief in the shoulders, mid-back, and lower back, after completing an exercise program that included squats.

9. Offer endless variations

A big advantage of squats is that you can make them easier or harder.

For example, once you’ve mastered the basic squat, there are different types of advanced variations you can do to increase their muscle-building potential.

Here are some easy ways to take your squats to the next level:

  • Add weightswhich helps target upper body muscles, including shoulders and triceps.
  • Add a jump to improve your agility and make your heart beat faster.
  • Make squats part of a circuit to increase cardio benefit.

ten. Box be done at home – or anywhere

Finally, squats are incredibly versatile. It’s a move you can do at home, in the office, or anywhere in between.

You can sprinkle squats throughout your day, for example, while brushing your teeth or taking a call at work, or devoting an entire workout to them.

And, best of all, they don’t require any special equipment – ​​all you need is a little space.

How to do a squat

A woman performs a squat exercise.

Make sure your back is straight and your knees stay behind your toes.

kovacicela/Getty Images

Although squats are versatile, it’s still important to make sure you do them safely to avoid injury.

Follow these steps to do a squat with the right form:

  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your chest up.
  2. Bend your knees and hips, stick your butt out as if you were sitting on a chair.
  3. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your knees should be stacked over your ankles. Make sure to keep them behind your toes.
  4. Pause for a second. Your back should be straight and not rounded.
  5. Press through your heels and straighten your legs to return to an upright, standing position.

Common mistakes that many squatters tend to make in their form include leaning forward too much or letting their knees sink inward.

“This can be corrected to some extent by changing the gaze upwards to correct head position and focusing on pushing through their heels and not letting pressure advance towards their toes,” says Dr. Gregory D. Myer, director of the Emory University Sports Performance and Research Center.

Overall, keeping your head up, focusing your eyes forward, and making sure your knees stay aligned will help you maintain good squat form.

Insider’s Takeaways

Squats are one of the most effective and healthful lower body exercises. You can incorporate squats into your workout routine by doing three sets of 10, about two to three times a week.

The health benefits range from muscle building to injury prevention and pain relief.

Remember these four tips for maintaining a good squatting position and getting all the health benefits safely:

  1. Maintain a good posture, hips shoulder-width apart. Going too narrow puts extra stress on your body.
  2. Learn how to squat without extra weight first, says Myer. “Once the movement is mastered, then you can add external resistance.”
  3. Don’t extend your knees past your toes.
  4. Make sure you don’t round your back.

Finally, if you are recovering from an injury or have tender knees, be sure to consult your doctor before doing squats.

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