Which Muscles Are You Working When Doing Squats?

Squats are oftentimes the backbone of a leg day workout. They recruit several muscle groups to make this full-body movement possible. While it's common knowledge that squats work the lower legs, you may find yourself asking what specific leg muscles squats use.

According to Healthline, performing a basic squat targets the following lower muscle groups: calves, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, and groin. This functional exercise mimics similar motions such as sitting down in a chair.

Besides working your lower body, squats also strengthen your abdominals (per Healthline). This is because, when squatting, it's imperative to tighten your core. One study published by the Journal of Human Kinetics compared the activation of the core muscles between planks and squats. They found that one of the three core muscles — erector spinae — was significantly strengthened more by squats than planks. However, the two other core muscles — rectus abdominis and external oblique — had similar results. If you're looking to up your fitness game, then incorporate healthy foods, add cardiovascular exercises, and follow the steps below for achieving the perfect squat.

How to properly execute a squat

When performing a basic squat, there are a couple of things you want to keep in mind. Byrdie suggests always looking straight ahead, making sure your toes and knees are aligned, and letting your torso naturally tilt as you squat.

"If you are looking to build quadricep strength, keep your squat to less than 90 degrees, [but] if you are looking to increase hip extensor strength, go lower in your squat," says Alex Weissner, a personal trainer and co-founder of bRUNch Running (via Byrdie). Once you've mastered the proper technique of a basic squat, the sky is the limit for the number of squat variations there are.

Different variations will offer more challenges, keep you focused, target other muscles, and strengthen your body. For instance, the back squat adds weights to the shoulders via a barbell and also targets the hips, glutes, and quads (per Healthline). Similarly, jump squats, which incorporate a jumping motion, will also get your heart pumping. To get your arms, core, and upper back involved, try an overhead squat with a medicine ball. Another option is to add on weights or use resistance bands.