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June 12, 2022 6 min read

Squats are arguably one of the best workouts for muscle growth and strength gains. There are many great compound exercises out there like barbell bench press, deadlift, and more.

However, squats are deemed to work the most muscle groups in your body compared to any other lift.

Any beneficial workout plan should contain some type of squat variation, regardless of your specific fitness goals. That is why it is vital from the start to know the fundamentals of squatting and how you can incorporate it efficiently and safely into your workout plan.

The mental and physical benefits they provide make them one of the best exercises to do.

According to Professor Damian Bailey, Head of the Neurovascular Research Laboratory at the University of South Wales, he mentions that, “You don’t need to be huffing and puffing and really pushing yourself hard in the gym to target certain parts of the brain”.

He has discovered that squatting gives an astounding amount of blood flow to the brain that is responsible for various types of neurological benefits.

What is a Squat And Why Should You Squat?

In the simplest terms, a squat is a strength movement where you lower your body down using your hips from a starting upright position and then ascend back up.

Everyone should squat regardless of their fitness goals, or even if you aren’t into fitness.

Squatting is essential as we age and we become more fragile, and starting to squat often as early as possible in your life is the way to go.

All of the other benefits too like an increased metabolism, strength or physique progress, and providing more mental toughness in your mindset are all positive outcomes that outweigh any potential cons you may have in mind.

Muscles Worked During Squats

Quadriceps: The quadriceps are a muscle group that cover the front and side of your thighs. The name “Quadriceps” is intuitive as it resembles four different muscles. These four muscles are the vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, and the rectus femoris. 

Out of all four muscles, only the rectus femoris crosses both the hip and knee joints. The others cross only the knee joint.

Glutes: The muscles that make up the glutes are the gluteus maximusminimus, and medius (buttocks).

While the quadricep usually is touted as the main muscle being used in a squat, when performed to full range of motion (ROM), the glutes are worked just as hard. If you don’t believe us, try squatting with your butt hitting the ground and let us know. 

Hamstrings: The hamstrings consist of the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. which run down the backs of your upper thighs. These muscles are along the back of your upper thighs and go all the way to your tibia and fibula.

Your hamstrings control flexion at the hips when you descend; and they fight the tension you have created when driving out of the squat position by contraction. The hamstring muscles are vital to the squat movement, however, your adductors have more of a pivotal role during squats.

Adductor And Hip Flexors: The adductor magnus is the main muscle that initiates hip extension from a squat position. Hip flexion and trunk stabilization are made possible by the psoas. This muscles, along with other hip flexor muscles, help us go into a deeper squat position while pulling the trunk forward to help keep our center of gravity. 

This allows you to get very close to parallel if not below it while squatting as these muscles allow you get your form to this efficient level without altering your positioning or falling.

Calves: Your calf muscles consist of the gastrocnemius and soleus. They engage during plantarflexion and dorsiflexion which relates to your ankle movement. An example of these two would be standing on your toes and walking on your heels, respectively.

The calves are an underrated variable to the significance they have on squatting. The gastrocnemius is deemed to be a more relevant calf muscle for squatting as it receives more of the force in activities like squatting, sprinting, and jumping. Your calf muscles have a decent impact on your balance and mobility for a movement that does require a notable amount of flexibility.

Core and Lower Back: The core muscles include the obliques, erector spinae, and the transverse and rectus abdominis. The squat works the core muscles way more than the average gym goer assumes them to (most likely).

There are many different squat variations out there, however, each individual one works your core muscles to some extent. The front squat is consistently regarded as the best squat variation for working your core the most.

Each squat variation requires you to engage your core to stabilize your body, but the front squat is the most intensified on your core as you have to keep your torso upright with the weight on the posterior section of your upper body.

General Rule of Thumb for Squatting Setup

Even if you are someone who has been squatting for a while now, this information still should provide you some type of utility for your progress and safety.

If you are going to perform the barbell back squat, you should strongly consider doing it as the first exercise of your workout.

The sound argument behind this reasoning is that you will have the highest levels of energy first thing first in the gym and the squat is one of the most taxing compound movements on your body.

You have to make sure you are fresh and fully recovered when performing a grueling squat session. Therefore, this combination concludes that squatting first can be an efficient protocol for your workout plan.          

Next, you want to warm up properly before going into the squat.

The recommendation is to do some sort of dynamic stretching (movement) like leg kicks and swings, hip circles, or somebody squats before adding additional weight to the exercises.

Some type of dynamic warm-up resembling something along these lines will ensure that you have a solid increase in blood flow to your muscles as well as maintaining a required, adequate range of motion in your hips, knees, and ankles which you will need in order to perform the repetitions.

Catch bars are highly recommended for the barbell back squat regardless of what amount of weight you are doing, especially if you are a beginner.

Catch bars are intuitive in their name: bars that should be set to some extent below a parallel squat repetition in order to “catch” the weight in case you were to fail the rep in some way.

Common Mistakes And Errors

Even though performing squats is an extremely efficient way to optimize your desired fitness performance levels, there are still many common mistakes and errors that people consistently do (whether they are aware of it or not).

The first and most major mistake that happens while performing squats is having bad form.

It will take tons of repetitions and overall form research/review to fully optimize your form, however, you still need to have a solid starting point going into it so you do not injure yourself. We have all seen the new lifter load up way too much weight on the bar, and then proceed to barely bend the knees when squatting. This won’t make you any stronger, and you would be much better off using a lower weight and a full range of motion (ROM). 

You may want to limit or monitor your caffeine intake when deciding on completing a somewhat high-intensity squatting session during your next workout.

Caffeine consumption prior to a workout can be beneficial to your overall performance.

However, there are a handful of anecdotal experiences that mention negative consequences like dizziness, uncontrollable heart-rate, and even fainting while performing squats with some type of caffeine intake prior to the squatting session.

Performing squats regularly can trigger testosterone and human growth hormone release which can improve fat burning and promote muscle growth.

It also helps in preventing injuries due to falls, especially as one gets older.

Start Squatting

Squats can be a great addition to your workout routine as they can provide several benefits for your body, strength, and health. With so many variations of this exercise, from back squats to single-leg squats, it will be hard to get bored. If you want to boost your lower body and your core, you should be squatting.