Squatting is one the most beneficial resistance training movement you can perform. The squat helps develop lower body strength, muscular endurance, power, mobility, and muscle when completed with the proper volume, resistance, and overall intensity. At the same time, when you perform squatting exercises, you engage you all parts of core—front, back, and side—as well as your mid to upper back, arms, and shoulders. The only parts of the body not engaged by the squat are the pecs.
Squatting helps every person perform everyday activities by improving his or her lower-body performance. This is not performance in the sense of athletics, but rather regarding performing daily activities. If a person’s lower body is weak and immobile, he or she will have trouble performing common tasks such as squatting down to pick something up, getting up from a seated position on the floor, or carrying groceries from the car.
Concerning athletic performance, the squat can help improve many metrics that apply. When a person performs the squat over time in a properly planned program, he or she increases power output, which transfers to jumps, sprints, and other athletic abilities, as well as static strength, necessary for sports like football and powerlifting, and muscular endurance, which is important for all sports.
What squat you perform is really not important in most instances, though there are exceptions to this, as any squat performed correctly as part of a properly planned program will reap the mentioned benefits. You can choose the back squat, front squat, overhead squat, Zercher squat, hack squat, etc.—any squat. Make the squat part of your workout program to aid the development of lower body strength, muscular endurance, power, mobility, and muscle. It should be part of a well-rounded comprehensive program, of course, which works the entire body and all of its systems, but the importance of the squat cannot be underscored enough.
In summary, few exercises build lower-body strength, power, endurance, and overall performance, as well as muscle, like the squat. If your workout program does not include the squat, you’re missing out on one of the most efficient and easy to perform exercises for the lower body.
Muscles worked by the squat
While the squat is a lower body dominant movement, all squat exercises work other parts of the body as well, including the core and overall upper-body.
The primary movers
The quadriceps, which are the muscles on the front of your thigh, are the dominate muscles involved in all squatting exercises. The quads extend to allow you to lower into the squat and contract to stand you up from the lower position of the squat. However, the gluteals (i.e. your butt) and hamstrings (i.e. the back of your thighs) help lower you into the squatted position and drive you back to the standing position as well.
At the same time, tendons, ligaments, and smaller stabilizer muscles help keep you balanced and stabilized as you work through range of motion (ROM) when performing the squat. Without these all-important assistance tissues, the primary movers cannot perform their job.
Other muscles worked
The core muscles—your abdominals, obliques, and lower back—work hard to keep you upright when performing the squat. This becomes especially true when you perform weighted exercises such as the barbell back squat, any front squat, overhead squat, and kettlebell squat, among others.
Additionally, when you perform weighted squat variations the mid back and upper back muscles as well as the arm and should muscles come into play. These muscles include the deltoids, forearm adductor, trapezius, and latissimus dorsi, among others.
Mobility benefits of the squat
As great as the squat is for building strength, it is also an excellent movement for building lower-body flexibility. When you squat to parallel—when the hip crease is even with the top of the thigh—or below, your quad muscles, soft tissues around the knee, hips flexors, and lower back, among other tissues, all receive a great stretch. The deeper you go, the better the stretch.
If someone has lower body mobility issues—for example, the individual cannot squat to depth—working on increasing range of motion in the squat over time will improve the flexibility of the tissues mentioned. Even performing just the air squat can have monumental benefit. What’s more, when performing the squat with weight, you receive an assisted stretch, as the weight helps push you deeper into the squat.
If you have mobility issues, consider working the squat in. Work within safe ranges, of course, and try to increase your range of motion over time as you become stronger, improve flexibility, and become more proficient in the squat.
There are many variations of the squat
When we talk about squatting, we’re not talking about a single movement. There are many different squatting exercises. Squatting variations
Barbell back squat
Dumbbell front squat
Barbell overhead squat
If you talk to enough people, read enough articles, or watch enough videos, you’ll find all sorts of comments about squat form. One person might say do it this way while another says no do it this way. Simply put, there are numerous ways to perform the squat safely and correctly. The exact method depends on the type of squatting exercise, your body structure, and personal preference, while also possibly considering the goal of the squat, such as general fitness improvement or competitive squatting.
The discussion about form is beyond the scope of this write-up, but we’re more than happy to answer your questions if you send them to us.
Squat and squat often
Do the squat. Work it in at least once per week with appropriate weight and volume. Your overall strength and mobility will improve.
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Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science. Nathan has 20 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.