7 Health Benefits of Squats – Proven by Science (+10 Squat Variations for You to Try)

The squat is often thought of as an exercise for lower-body buffs because, when watching someone do a squat, you can see the immense amount of effort being exerted by the legs.

What many people don’t know is that squats target a huge number of muscles in the body, and a lot of these aren’t in your legs. Squats are special because they contribute to the wellness and structure of your entire body, instead of just targeting specific muscle groups like many forms of strength training.

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What makes a squat so special?

The squat is a very common form of body weight exercise - a body weight exercise being a versatile, easy-to-accomplish type of exercise that doesn’t require any additional equipment to perform. This means that you can do squats anywhere, any time, without having to rely on expensive equipment or going to the gym.

As far as being special for body weight exercises, there are a number of reasons that separate squats. They are very effective at training your core muscles - the sets of muscles that are used in almost every aspect of daily life.

  • Core muscles improve your balance and stability; training them can improve your mobility and your flexibility

  • Squats can also, when done with added weights, be very effective aet adding muscle mass

  • Squats train a wide variety of muscles without creating an imbalance or a disproportionate improvement to strength

How do I do a squat?

There are many different variations of the squat that can train various areas in your body. We’ll go into detail about the most popular squat variations later in the article, but for now, it’s a good thing for you to understand how to do a basic squat before you continue to read on about why the squat is so good for you.

  • Stand with your feet hip width apart, making sure your back is straight.

  • Tighten your abs for stability.

  • Lower your body as if you were going to sit in a chair. Keep the motion slow.

  • Stop when your legs are just below being parallel to the floor.

  • Stay in this position for a few seconds.

  • Now press down onto your heels and slowly rise back up to a standing position.

  • Repeat the exercise for a total of 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

  • Be sure to rest for 60 to 90 seconds between sets.

This is the most basic variation of a squat, which can be done without any equipment.

1.Squats are a great exercise for aesthetic benefits

Let’s face it – a lot of people exercise more for the aesthetic benefit than for any health benefit. Sure, health benefits are a great bonus for people who are hoping to get a great booty, but their main focus is on how they look, now how they feel (physically.)

Fortunately for them, squats are a great exercise to improve the tone and structure of your body. They provide a lot of awesome health benefits as well, but as far as body weight exercises go, if you’re looking to build up an attractive physique, squats are your best bet.

They tone the legs in a manner that can’t be achieved by traditional leg machines in the gym or by running - that’s not to say running can’t give you great legs, or that having leg day at the gym won’t give you great quads. However, body weight exercises bring a special benefit: since they’re completely reliant on your body weight, the difficulty and thus the proceeding improvements will be directly related to your current state.

Squats engage the quads, your hamstrings, and the muscles in your calves. Using your bodyweight to train these muscles creates a proportional development of strength.

Squats also raise the glutes, known as lifting the butt.

Squats strengthen and tighten the muscles in the glute, giving it a full, curvaceous and fit shape. You can improve the amount of energy exerted by your glutes by squeezing them when you’re returning to the standing position.

Despite seeming like they're leg-centric, squats also engage the abdominal core and your back muscles. Both of these sets of muscles are required to keep balance during the squat, which may not seem like it requires a lot of effort.

When you feel your entire body weight hinging on your bent legs, though, it becomes obvious how much strength you need to use to maintain balance. This makes for a tightened, strong, and flat abdomen, so you can work on getting your six pack, and a healthy, strong lower back. If you flex your abs while doing your squats, you’ll see much more benefit to your abdominal improvement.

Conclusion: Squats are one of the most versatile exercises that a person hoping to improve their aesthetic can do. They exercise a wide number of muscle groups and are effective at adding muscle mass and toning the groups that are most commonly associated with improved aesthetic - the glutes, abs, and back.

2. Squats can improve your flexibility

Squats may not be world renown for their ability to improve your flexibility, but they certainly do a good job. Squats improve flexibility in quite a few areas, as well:

  • The ankles bend in a manner that’s quite similar to a yoga pose that targets the ligaments in the ankles. Applying weight to this type of stretch improves the flexibility of this area, and your body weight is certainly enough to feel that stretch.

  • Your hamstrings don’t take the brunt of your weight during a squat, but on the rise back up, they certainly feel some of it. Hamstrings are very important ligaments and are used frequently in daily activities; squats can be a simple and effective way to train them.

  • Your hips, particularly the joints, receive some benefit during squats. They must be kept aligned during the exercise which helps to offer control and strength.

  • Squats are a great stretch and training exercise for the lower back, which is partially responsible for carrying your body weight any time you’re standing. Keeping the back stretched is crucial to preventing all sorts of injuries.

You can create a squat upper-body workout, which essentially turns the squat into a full-body workout which doesn't require a significant amount of equipment.

To accomplish this, all you need to do is add some weight to your squats. You can hold dumbbells, attach wrist weights or a weighted vest, and continue to do your squats as normal.

Don’t try to do anything heroic like doing arm curls with your dumbbells while doing your squat – this could lead to injury or, at the very least, throw you off balance.

If you’re planning to use weights during your squats, you need to make sure that you start out using very low weights. Adding more than your body can handle to this exercise can be a bit risky, so it’s important to make sure you don’t work beyond your capacity.

Conclusion: Squats are a very versatile exercise that can effectively improve flexibility, which is necessary for a huge number of daily activities. Weights can be added to improve the benefit of the squat and create a range of benefits that wouldn’t otherwise be seen.

3. Squats can strengthen muscles in your entire body

Squats obviously help to strengthen your leg muscles, but they do a lot more than you can observe just from watching someone do them. They work more muscles than it would seem, and they provide long-lasting benefits to your entire muscular system.

On top of the different muscle groups that squats target, squats create an anabolic environment in your body which is ideal for those looking to have an effective workout routine with better benefits.

Squats are also known to increase the amount of testosterone in the body, which has a number of benefits in the body of someone hoping to reap good benefits from their workout, as well as the human growth hormone, whose function is fairly self-explanatory from its name.

The enhancement of the body’s ability to produce these chemicals means that you will continue to find benefits from your regular performance of squats, even beyond the time you were actually doing the exercise. This means that not only do squats workout the muscle groups described earlier,they also help your body better improve on any other muscle groups that you work on during your other exercises.

Conclusion: Squats do more than simply exercise the groups of muscles that the workout targets. The combined improvement to your muscle systems creates an environment that allows muscles to thrive, creating a long-lasting promotion to your ability to build and maintain strong muscles.

4.Squats will make your life easier

Squats are known as a functional exercise. A functional exercise is one that benefits your body and certain groups of muscles or musculoskeletal regions that are used frequently during general activities during the average day, as opposed to exercises which target groups of muscles that are best used for the related exercise machine.

Human beings have been squatting for millennia; it used to be how we used the bathroom before the luxury of toilets were invented. Every time you lean down to pick something up, sit down in a chair, take out the garbage, or pet your cat, you’re using a group of muscles that are targeted when you’re doing a squat. Sure, some of these activities may not be the most physically exhausting, but doing any repetitive action can risk injury.

Squats, since they build fantastic strength in your legs, will also improve your endurance when it comes to walking, running, climbing stairs, and doing other mobile activities. Their ability to improve back strength will increase the amount you can carry. You’ll also become more nimble and be able to move more fluidly.

Conclusion: Squats are a great functional exercise. This means that performing squats on a regular basis will lead to an improvement in your general ability to function, since functional exercises get their name from improving a person’s ability to function at a general level.

4. Squats improve your metabolic rate

One of the best ways to burn more calories is actually to gain more muscle! A pound of gained muscle means that you’ll burn about 50 more calories in a day; the rate of which you burn calories even when you’re at rest is greatly improved with tan increase in healthy muscle mass. If you gain ten pounds of muscle, you’ll be able to burn five hundred calories in a day much easier!

This also means you’ll be a lot hungrier, but this isn't’ necessarily a bad thing. Being hungry means you can eat more food, but it doesn’t mean you have to eat unhealthy food. One of the best ways a human can reach their optimal state of health is by consuming more of the healthiest foods on the planet, not eating less food, like most conventional diets seem to suggest.

If you satisfy your need for calories with nutrient-dense food and continue taking advantage of an improved metabolic rate to burn off old fat and unhealthy foods, you’ll see a whole additional slew of health benefits that other exercises couldn’t provide alone.

Conclusion: Squats do more than the sum of their parts - they can help you burn calories as part of your workout, and they improve muscle mass, but more importantly, the improved muscle mass will help you burn calories even when you’re at rest.webmd

5. Squats help you maintain mobility and balance

Your legs are very vital for your ability to stay mobile. As you get older, your bones and muscles begin to deteriorate; when your legs start to wear out, it can be very difficult for elderly people to maintain their balance and mobility. Doing squats throughout your life is a great way to improve the strength and durability of your legs, which means that they will last a lot longer into old age.

Legs are important for balance, but not as vital as a lot of people seem to think. Your core muscles play at least as much of a part in helping the human body find its balance. Your center of gravity isn’t in your legs, it’s around your abdomen, and this is where much of your body weight rests – as well as on your back. This is one of the reasons that many backpacks come with a waist strap - the distribution of weight onto your abdomen makes it seem much less heavy.

Squats target your core muscles, and your legs, and they do a very good job of keeping these muscle groups in shape. Having a healthy core means that you’ll be more mobile and more nimble; you’ll be able to lift greater weight without injury, and you’ll be able to perform more difficult, physically exhausting activities for longer without sacrificing stability.

The amount of focus and concentration that’s required to do a set of squats properly also has a positive impact on your balance and mobility. You know how difficult it can be to focus during, say, a school exam - if you think about it, during a squat, you’re trying to focus while exerting your entire bodyweight worth of effort on various muscle groups.

Training yourself to focus during these exercises has a lasting impact on your ability to focus during the rest of your time. It also helps build a strong sense of coordination between your different muscle groups, which can help you perform more intricate tasks, like acrobatics or athletics, without losing your balance as easily.

Conclusion: Squats improve your mobility and your balance, not just because they improve your core muscles. They allow you to develop a better understanding of how your muscle groups interact with each other, which improves your ability to move with stability. They also help improve your ability to concentrate, because focusing through an intense exercise takes a lot of concentration!

6. Squats help prevent injuries

A lot of injuries that take place on the playing field can be attributed to a weak set of stabilizer muscles in the injured person, or undeveloped ligaments (like your hamstrings) or connecting tissues. Squats help to strengthen all of these different body parts.

On top of this, squats help improve your range of motion, by improving your flexibility. Pulled hamstrings are another common injury, which occurs when the hamstring is stretched beyond its natural capacity. A solution to preventing pulled hamstrings is to increase the range which you can stretch them at.

Quads help improve your mobility and coordination, both of which can lead to injuries if not maintained. A lot of injuries caused in old age are due to a lack of coordination or simply due to the natural decline of mobility,which can lead to falls, stumbles, dropped things, and other dangerous situations.

While it is possible to injure yourself doing a squat wrong, if you learn to execute the proper technique, it’s clear that the amount of injuries that squats can prevent is far greater than the risk of injuries you’d sustain while doing them.

Conclusion: Squats are a great way for people to reduce the likelihood of getting injuries, both on these ports field and in regular life. Additionally, squats train muscles that tend to degrade quickly during old age, so doing them with regularity is a good way to help prevent the onset of age-related mobility injuries.

7. Squats can improve your sports performance

Two things that squats do in earnest are improve the speed with which you can run, and improve the height you can jump. These two things are incredibly useful for sports; running is used in almost every sport, and jumping used in many where running is not (badminton, volleyball.)

Squats are included in a lot of sporting exercise routines because the groups of muscles that they target can greatly improve a person’s versatility on the play field. On top of their specific boosts to running and jumping ability, squats harness the power of your core muscles. Having strong core muscles is vital to any activity, especially something like a sport where you’re going to be using your body to its maximum capacity in competition against other strong people. An untrained core negatively affects your ability to compete, especially in a situation that tests your physical endurance.

On top of these benefits, squats reduce your chances of developing injuries on the play field. This means that you’re less likely to be a burden on your team by getting injured – you’ll be strong enough that you simply might not get hurt when you would have before adding squats to your routine.

Conclusion: Squats are a vital component of the workout routines that many athletic professionals perform before their games and between competitions. They exercise a large number of muscle groups that are components of a wide range of motion and can help people maintain their balance and composure on the playfield. Squats also help strengthen the body in a way that prevents the likelihood of getting hurt.

What sort of different squats are there?

There are tons of different squat variations out there, and each one targets a specific group of muscles. Some are good for specifically training your core, others can be good for improving your hamstrings’ flexibility or the strength of your quads. Each squat appeals to people who are training for different reasons.

A basic squat is one of the most powerful motions around for people hoping to improve their athletic performance, and adding any weight to it enhances the benefits they provide. In this manner, some people might be comfortable just adding wrist or chest weights to their squats, but some may want to target specific muscle groups or build strength in certain areas.

Choosing the best squat

Choosing the best squat can be a matter of preference or ability. Since there are many different squats, and many different intentions behind a person’s reason to work out, the choice can rely on a number of factors.

The following squats each target different areas for different reasons, and can be added to workout routines in order to compensate for a muscle group that’s unattended to. It’s important to remember to switch up varieties of squats so you don’t overtrain a specific area, and to not add too much weight for squats that involve using additional equipment.

  1. Plie squats

A plie squat involves you standing with your feet a bit beyond hip width, and with your feet angled outwards. The process is the same as that of a regular squat - keep your back straight and bend your knees.

This articular squat targets your inner thighs, making it a good option for people wanting to improve their posterior physique. It can be improved significantly by adding barbells or weighted equipment.

2. Pulse squats

To do a pulse squat, get into your regular squat pose and execute the movement. Once you’re at the bottom of the squat, return only halfway up, then return to the bottom.

The motion of only returning halfway to the top without resting is what is considered a pulsel. This squat can be repeated indefinitely and will provide a very intense burn and, thus, very significant improvements to strength and stability.

3. Plyometric squats

These squats are great for people who want to use squats as a part of their cardiovascular routine. The rules are pretty much the same as a regular squat except that when you reach the bottom of your squat, you must force yourself to jump upwards!

Trying to land softly is of key importance here, otherwise you might put unwanted strain onto your knees and ankles. This squat gets your heart rate pumping very well!

4. One legged squats

This is exactly what it sounds like. Prepare yourself in much the same way as a regular squat, but this time, perform the exercise with only one leg. This can be done by either lifting your leg behind you, or attempting to keep it straight as possible in front of you while you squat down on the opposite leg.

5. Barbell squats

This is an advanced squat that should be done in the gym, both for safety purposes and for the ease of access to equipment. You might want a sotter.

Hold the barbell on your shoulders, hosting most of the weight on your traps. Follow normal squat procedures, being sure to keep your abs clenched and to pay attention to your balance and stability, otherwise you might fall victim to injury.

Barbell squats are one of the most important squat variations for people who are doing a training regime with the intent to gain muscle mass. There are several different variations of the barbell squat:

  • Barbell back squats train your glutes, hamstrings, and are one of the best methods for training your lower body in the entire world. Grab the barbell with a grip just wider than your shoulders, keeping the barbell positioned above your trash, and ensuring your shoulder blades are pulled tightly together and your upper back is held tight the entire lift.

  • Barbell front squats are great for helping maintain equal power and strength between your legs, as well as improving your core strength. Hold the barbell on your shoulders towards the front of your body. Holding the barbell here puts a lot of strain on the quadriceps and your upper back, as well as still training your glutes and hamstrings.

  • Overhead barbell squats aren’t for amateurs and involve gripping the barbell directly above your head before doing a squat. Make sure you start with a low weight or your risk injuring yourself.

Many of the variations listed below also use barbells, and it’s important to keep the following safety points in mind when you’re going to do a barbell squat.

  • Start your barbell squats with just the bar to assess your ability and how much weight you’ll be comfortable lifting.

  • If you’re trying to determine which squat is best for you, start by performing the one that you can do with the best form and depth. Once you’re able to do this squat well, you can move to more advanced versions.

6. Zercher squats

Zercher squats aren’t very commonly seen in gyms, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t very effective. They are great for improving your core strength and helping eliminate spinal compression . Make sure you take your time with this squat, since much of the weight is directed towards your elbows.

Bend your elbows at your side and put the barbell in the crook of your elbows, then squat until your elbows are between your knees or the bar touches your thighs. This is one benefit of the Zercher squat - you don’t have to worry about over-stretching yourself because the limit of the movement's motion tells you when to stop.

7. Anderson squats

These are very similar to regular squats except that they start at the bottom of the motion instead of the top, which helps to eliminate some of the ‘bounce’ response that occurs when you squat down from your standing height.

This means that you’ll have to direct a lot more energy into your squat, which amplifies a lot of the effects you’ll see from doing the exercise. Anderson squats help improve your ability to perform all of the other squats on this list.

8. Hack squat

This squat variety is sometimes also considered be a variety of deadlift, since a barbell is involved and the weight lifted directly off the ground. Hack squats are great for building lower body strength and muscle, putting a lot of strain on your quads in particular.

Again, it’s recommended to start doing hack squats with a very low weight since they’re demanding and doing them with more weight than you can handle can lead to injuries.

Position a barbell just behind your legs and keeping your feet flat on the floor, grab the barbell from behind you in an overhand grip. Make sure your back is arched and your chest is held upwards, then extend your hips and knees until you find yourself standing. Repeat.

9. Wall squat

Wall squats are a great variety of squat for people who are just being introduced to squats, or for those who are entering old age, or are otherwise physically unable to perform a full bodyweight squat.

Wall squats allow you to use a wall for support during the exercise, which takes a lot of the strain off your knees. Fortunately, you’re still able to give your legs and hamstrings a great workout when doing wall squats!

10. Eagle squat

This is a very challenging squat that mixes together a popular yoga pose (known as the eagle) with the squat. The combination is unbeatable in terms of improving both focus and strength in a single exercise.

To get into eagle pose, cross your left leg in front of your right, wrapping your foot around so the to of your foot touches the back of your leg. Place your hands in front of your chest and cross them, allowing your elbow to rest in the crook of your other elbow, and then wrap your hands around so they are palm to palm (this part can be tricky.)

Once you’re in this pose, begin doing your squats. They will be much harder to balance than regular squats. Once you’ve done ten, switch your hands and legs, and do another set.

Precautions to take when doing squats

Even though the squat is a great exercise, it comes with certain dangers. Like any exercise, improper execution of the squat can lead to pulled muscles, overworked joints, and a heap of other injuries that can be extremely debilitating.

These are some of the most common mistakes that people make when they’re first being introduced to the world of squats.

Rising on toes with your knees forward

Keeping your feet on the ground is very important for anyone doing a squat. The weight is driven through your heels - so having them off the ground can cause a number of problems. You might strain your ankles, lose your balance, or pull a muscle.

You will feel some of the weight in the balls of your feet, but you must avoid all of it going there or you’ll start to rise off your heels, throwing off the balance of the exercise. A good thing to recognize is that you should be able to lift your toes off the ground at any point during a squat.

Not reaching the proper depth

During a squat, a huge portion of the benefit is received only when you reach the proper depth! If you don’t reach the depth, you aren’t going to work your muscles enough, and you won’t see many improvements to strength or balance.

The minimum depth required, at least for a standard squat, is where your hip joints go a bit below the knee. For more intense squats, the hip joint can be lowered further, but if you ‘complete’ a squat without your hip joints going below your knees, you won’t see much benefit at all.

In fact, doing squats with your hips above your knees the whole time puts a lot of stress on your knees and quads because you don’t include the hamstrings in the movement! This puts too much pressure on the knee; this pressure is reduced when your hips sink below parallel height.

Be careful - if you’re having struggle reaching the proper depth, trying too hard to reach it might cause injuries. If you’re extremely uncomfortable or seeing pain in an attempt to reach depth, stop the exercise. You might need to exercise your hamstrings, ankles, quads, or muscles more before attempting squats.​

Positioning knees

Make sure you keep your knees in line with your toes. Do not have them extended either outward or inward; doing so will throw off your balance and one room for you to take injury.

Positioning your back

Your back needs to be straight up and your shoulders slightly pushed back. Your body should maintain this shape for the duration of the squat, unless otherwise specified. Your spine should be kept neutral.

Too much weight on your heels

To compensate for making sure they aren’t putting too much weight forward, or attempting to fix their knee positioning, a lot of people end up putting too much weight on their heels or on the outsides of their feet.

Remember, the balls of your feet must also be planted firmly on the ground. Your feet should be flat. Having too much weight in either direction will throw off your balance and structure.

In conclusion

The squat is a great exercise that should be considered as an addition to anyone’s workout routine.

The squat works out a huge number of muscles in the human body, and focuses particularly on the core muscle. The core muscle groups are vastly important for daily function, and contribute to a person’s balance, mobility, and the general way that they’re able to compose themselves during their lives.

Squat training offers a huge range of benefits, and one of the most incredible things about the squat is that you can perform the exercise with nothing but your own body weight. Some people spend months using dozens of different types of gym equipment just to work out the same muscle groups that the squat exercises.

Squats aren’t without their dangers, so it’s important that you understand how to do them properly before you start doing sets. However, the amount of injuries that squat training can prevent is far greater than the injuries they are likely to cause, so once you understand how properly do a squat, you should start doing them!