Squats: benefits, execution and muscles involved

Let's take a closer look at the squat, the "prince" of exercises in the gym, which muscles work and how it is performed


  • What is the squat
  • The benefits of the squat and the muscles involved
  • The typical mistakes of the squat
  • Squat: the various types
  • How many sets of squats need to be done

What is the squat

The squat is a basic motor gesture that is fundamental both in free body workouts and in those with weights or large barbells. Known as the "king of exercises", the squat must be accompanied by proper breathing, so that all the benefits are derived from the execution.

Let's see how to do it briefly: the weight goes on the heels as you go down in squatting, the chest out and the hips are brought back and down, the knees are parallel to the feet as you go down and the head remains in a neutral position. Done correctly, the squat helps improve the body's performance in all muscle groups, especially the lower area, and keeps bones and joints healthy.

Let's see how you breathe during the execution of the squat. Usually you exhale during the active phase and inhale in the passive one. This kind of breathing is excellent when working free-body or with light loads, while, if the loads are heavy, it is necessary to protect the spine and then inhale and voluntarily restrain when going down to exhale when going up.

When we sit down, when we pick up objects from the ground, we do this movement, but we often use the back. Instead, by training the squat well, we can benefit the whole body and perform the gesture correctly, that is, descending in a straight and vertical line, without bending the spine.

The benefits of the squat and the muscles involved

The squat allows you to develop strength and improve support on both legs. Performed with correct breathing, it benefits the buttocks and all the muscles of the lower limbs. Being a multi-joint exercise, the muscles of the abdomen are also involved.

The execution of the squat must go hand in hand with a workout that also improves posture and the use of the joints in general, to avoid asymmetries or problems of various kinds affecting shoulders, knees, in the medium or long term. your ankles and pelvis get considerably worse. The alignment of the knee and the position of the spine are very important and it is precisely at these levels that the main errors in execution usually occur.

The typical mistakes of the squat

Let's start with the descent level in the squat: many think that lowering a lot or a little the squat is effective. So you go down too little or too fast. On the other hand, the right descent must be found, i.e. the hips must go below the knees. The idea would be to go with the buttocks towards the heels and at the same time push the hips back. Also be careful not to lean forward too much: the weight must rest above all on the heels and this allows you to work especially the muscle groups of the buttocks.

It must then be ensured that the knees are turned outwards and not turned inwards. To safeguard the ligaments, the knees must also be aligned with the ankles. Last common mistake: hunching your back. If the spine assumes an unnatural position, the intervertebral discs are at the expense.

Squat: the various types

In addition to the classic squat and side squats (here the leg is not parallel but takes the distance of one step to the side) there are many variations:

Bulgarian squat

You get a support for the foot of the leg that goes back and on which you force yourself while the front leg remains bent. To perform this squat it takes support, a rise. The foot of the leg that goes back goes over the rise, specifically only the toe, the instep must be left free. The torso tilts slightly forward and the foot of the front leg handles all the weight. When flexing the knees we are in the eccentric phase of the movement which continues until the hip ends below the level of the knee.In this type of squat, if the legs work equally, the glutes benefit greatly, along with other groups muscles such as hamstrings, quadriceps.

Sumo squat

The legs are more apart than the shoulders so that the inner thigh also works more. The hips remain in line and the legs are open, the heel is pushed far beyond the hips, the toes are directed outwards and are on the same level. It is called in this way because it recalls the position of the sumo wrestlers. Very easy to make the mistake of arching your back. Keeping your hands on your hips or in front or behind your back gives you more balance. You push yourself with your buttocks back and down without ever going beyond your toes. It goes up bringing the pelvis forward. The sumo squat is performed with different loads, be it a dumbbell, bottle, kettlebell, even medicine ball, or the barbell placed on top of the shoulders or in front.

Squat dancer

The basic position is that of classical dance and in the repetitions you go down and up. Obviously, it goes down to go back up with a straight back and the buttocks go towards the feet as far as possible. Often this exercise is performed with a chair to the side to facilitate balance. In addition to the muscle groups involved in the classic squat, we have some calf strain and toning here.

Sissy squat

Challenging for the anterior cruciate ligament, in the Sissy squat the body is lowered backwards and descended bringing the buttocks close to the ankles, without losing balance, while the heels rise. In summary, you go back as if the whole body were a single segment and the first point of flexion was that of the knees. It has the same effects and level of compression on the knees as a closed kinetic chain leg extension exercise, this means that it involves a muscle or a group of muscles as directly involved in the movement while other muscles perform the function of stabilizers of the same.

Pistol squat

Basic exercise of calisthenics, you go down on one leg while the other stretches forward. It requires major ankle work and strengthens the whole body significantly. To all intents and purposes it corresponds to a squat performed with one leg, while the one extended forward remains parallel to the movement and acts as a counterweight to the whole movement. A monstrous work on balance.

If you add the jump to the squat, here is jump squat, while if you add a kettlebell or a dumbbell close to the chest, we have the goblet squat. Finally, we mention the typical squats of weightlifting and strength training with the barbell as in the power lifting: the overhead squat, the front squat and the back squat. If in the first case the barbell rises above the head, in the second the movement occurs behind the back and in the third in front of the pectoral muscles.

How many sets of squats need to be done

First of all, we always recommend that you be followed by one or an experienced personal trainer or that you have understood the movement well before dedicating yourself to videos with exercises to be performed at home. The duration of the repetitions and the number varies according to the degree of training of the individual and the goals. The context must then be considered, that is, if we are talking about classic bodyweight squat or if loads take over. In general, the number of sets varies depending on whether the goal is to tone and grow muscle mass or to develop strength. In the first case, the series can for example be 3 or 4 with 10 repetitions or 8. In the second case, you go with 3 series of 5 or 4 of 5 repetitions. Therefore, training to develop red or white fibers, hypertrophy or strength is different. The best would be to train both ways.

However, they are very general references, as the specific case must be considered. The squat, then, is often included in personalized cards that include other exercises and the order in which the exercise appears in the card has a very important value. In other words, the squat works as a very powerful joker which, if included in the execution, helps to develop tone, strength and mobility.

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