For people who are keen on building a toned body, squats are often a go-to move. This is because squats are an incredibly effective way to target and build your glutes as well as most of your leg muscles. Like most compound exercises, squats work more than one muscle group at a time which is great for those who are short on time but still want to get a full-body workout. There are many different squat variations that you can try, so there’s bound to be one that suits your fitness level and desired results. If you’re new to squats, or just looking to perfect your technique, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about this popular movement. Included is a 6 week squat program to help you build strength and achieve your fitness goals.
What Are Squats?
Squats are a compound, full-body exercise that work several muscles at once, including the quads, glutes, hamstrings, core, and lower back.
This movement can be performed with or without weight, making it perfect for both beginners and experienced exercisers.
Let’s take a closer look at the muscles you can target with this compound movement.
Gluteus Maximus, Minimus, And Medius
In simpler terms, your glutes are your butt muscles. The gluteus maximus is the largest and most superficial of the three muscles, while the minimus and medius are smaller and deeper than the gluteus max.
The gluteus maximus is responsible for hip extension (moving your leg behind you), while the minimus and medius are involved in hip abduction (moving your leg out to the side) and medial rotation (turning your leg inwards) (5).
All three of these muscles are activated when you perform squats, making them a great way to target your glutes and get that killer butt you’ve always wanted.
The quadriceps are a group of four muscles on the front of your thigh. They are responsible for knee extension (straightening your knee), making them a key player in squats.
When you perform this exercise, your quads are working to keep your knees stable as you lower into and rise out of the squat.
Strong quads are important for overall knee health and stability, as well as preventing injuries (1).
The hamstrings are a group of three muscles at the back of your thigh. They are responsible for knee flexion (bending your knee), hip extension (moving your leg behind you), and hip rotation (turning your leg inwards or outwards).
All three of these muscles are activated when you perform squats, making them a great way to target your hamstrings.
Toned hamstrings can improve your speed, agility, and jumping ability, as well as reduce your risk of injuries (8).
The calf muscles are a group of two muscles on the back of your lower leg. They are responsible for ankle flexion (pointing your toes down) and extension (pointing your toes up).
When you perform squats, your calf muscles are working to keep your ankles stable as you move through the range of motion.
Toned calf muscles can improve your balance and stability, and reduce your risk of ankle injuries (2).
The core muscles are a group of muscles in the midsection of your body that support your spine and pelvis. They are responsible for maintaining posture, preventing injuries, and transferring force between your upper and lower body (4).
Squats work your entire core, including the rectus abdominis (abs), obliques, and erector spinae (back). A strong core can improve your stability and balance, as well as reduce your risk of injuries.
The abductor muscles are a group of four muscles at the outside of your hip. They are responsible for hip abduction (moving your leg out to the side) and medial rotation (turning your leg inwards).
When you perform squats, your abductor muscles are working to keep your hips stable as you move through the range of motion. Toned abductor muscles can improve your balance and stability, and reduce your risk of injuries (6).
The adductor muscles are a group of four muscles at the inside of your hip. They are responsible for hip adduction (moving your leg towards the midline of your body) and medial rotation (turning your leg inwards).
When you perform squats, your adductor muscles are working to keep your hips stable as you move through the range of motion. Toned adductor muscles can improve your balance and stability, and reduce your risk of injuries (6).
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Why Squats Are Good For You
Squats are a great exercise because they work many different muscle groups at once. Some of the benefits of regularly engaging in this compound movement include:
The muscles responsible for your posture are the core muscles, and squats work all of them. When your core muscles are strong, they can keep your spine and pelvis in alignment, preventing bad posture and injuries (7).
Improved Balance And Stability
Squats are a great way to improve your balance and stability, as they challenge you to maintain control throughout the entire range of motion (7).
This is especially beneficial for older adults, as they often have trouble with balance and stability.
Reduced Risk Of Injuries
Engaging in regular strength-training can help to reduce your risk of injuries by strengthening the muscles that support your joints (7).
Squats are a great exercise for this because they work all of the muscles in your lower body, including the muscles that support your knees, hips, and ankles.
Improved Bone Density
Weight-bearing exercises like squats can help to improve bone density by placing stress on the bones. This helps to stimulate new bone growth, which can prevent osteoporosis (3).
Better Weight Loss
Muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest. The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn throughout the day. Squats are a great way to build muscle, especially in the lower body (7).
Less Joint Pain
Joint pain is often caused by inflammation and weak muscles. The more muscle you have, the less joint pain you’re likely to experience, as the muscles take on more of the load (9).
Squats can help to build muscle and reduce inflammation, both of which can lead to less joint pain (9).
Improved Athletic Performance
Squats are a key exercise for athletes, as they help to improve performance in many different sports. The quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes are all essential muscles for athletic performance, and squats work all of them.
So, if you’re looking to improve your performance in any sport, squats should be a key part of your training.
6 Week Squat Program: How To Do A Basic Squat
There are many different squat variations that you can try, but the basic movement is always the same. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do a proper squat:
- Start with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward.
- Extend your arms out in front of you for balance.
- Slowly lower your body down, keeping your back straight and knees aligned with your toes.
- Go as low as you can without compromising your form, then slowly raise yourself back to the starting position.
6 Week Squat Program: Tips For Performing Squats Properly
- Keep your back straight at all times. Do not allow it to round or curve inward.
- Make sure your knees stay in line with your toes – do not let them cave in or push out to the side.
- Keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement.
- Use a weight that is challenging but still allows you to maintain proper form.
- Breathe in as you lower yourself down and breathe out as you return to the starting position.
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6 Week Squat Program: The Best Squat Variations For You
There are many different squat variations that you can try, depending on your fitness level and desired results.
Beginner Squat Variations
Bodyweight squats are a great way for beginners to start learning the movement. Start with your feet hip-width apart and simply lower your body down, keeping your back straight and knees in line with your toes.
Jump squats are another great option for beginners. To do this variation, start in the squat position and then jump up as high as you can. When you land, immediately go back into a squat position to repeat the movement.
Intermediate Squat Variations
If you’re looking to add some extra resistance, holding a dumbbell in each hand is a great way to do this. Start with the weight at shoulder level and keep your arms close to your sides.
Focus on perfecting your form before adding too much weight. Another great option for intermediate exercisers is the Goblet squat. Start by holding a dumbbell with both hands at chest level.
Keeping your core engaged, lower your body down into a squat position. When you return to the starting position, don’t pause for too long or you’ll lose the tension.
Advanced Squat Variations
Once you’ve mastered the bodyweight squat and are looking for a more challenging variation, try adding more weight to the goblet squat. To do this, hold a weight (usually a dumbbell) in front of your chest with both hands. This will increase the difficulty as you have to maintain balance as well as move the weight.
A barbell squat is also an ideal advanced variation. Use a weightlifting barbell and hold it across your upper back with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
If you’re looking to really challenge yourself, try doing pistol squats. To do this variation, start by standing on one leg and lowering your body down into a squat position. When you return to the starting position, switch legs and repeat.
6 Week Squat Program
Now that you know all about squats and how to do them properly, it’s time to put that knowledge to use with this 6 week squat program. This program is designed to help you build strength and achieve your fitness goals.
- Week 1: 3 sets of 10 reps
- Week 2: 3 sets of 12 reps
- Week 3: 4 sets of 10 reps
- Week 4: 4 sets of 12 reps
- Week 5: 5 sets of 10 reps
- Week 6: 5 sets of 12 reps
If you’re a beginner, start with the first week and gradually increase the number of sets and reps as you get stronger.
Safety Tips For The 6 Week Squat Program
Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when doing this squat program:
Prioritize Proper Form
Proper form is essential when doing any type of exercise, but it’s especially important when doing squats. Make sure you keep your back straight, knees in line with your toes, and core engaged at all times.
Maintaining proper form while squatting has the following benefits:
- You’ll be less likely to get injured
- You’ll get more out of the exercise
- You’ll look better and feel more confident in your appearance
- Use a Weight That Is Challenging But Still Allows You to Maintain Proper Form
When starting this program, it’s important to use a weight that is challenging but still allows you to maintain proper form. If you’re using weights, start with a light weight and gradually increase the weight as you get stronger.
If you’re using your own bodyweight, make sure you start with a variation that is appropriate for your fitness level.
Use Progressive Overload
In order to see results from this program, it’s important to use progressive overload. This means gradually increasing the intensity of your workout over time.
For example, if you’re using weights, you would gradually increase the amount of weight you’re lifting as you get stronger. If you’re using your own bodyweight, you would gradually increase the number of reps you’re doing or the amount of time you’re holding the squat position.
How do you know that it’s time to progress to a heavier weight? There are a few key indicators:
- You can complete all the reps and sets with good form
- The last few reps of each set are challenging but not impossible
- You’re no longer seeing results
Go To Failure On The Last Set
The last set of each exercise is known as the “failure set.” This is the set where you push yourself to failure, meaning you can’t complete any more reps with good form.
Doing a failure set helps to break through any plateaus you may be experiencing. It also helps to increase muscle mass and strength.
Don’t Rush The Movement
Control the descent and ascent of the squat. Don’t rush the movement as this can lead to poor form and increase your risk of injury.
Furthermore, rushing through the movement will not give you the same benefits as taking your time and doing the squat correctly.
Take Rest Days
In order to see results from this program, it’s important to take adequate rest days. This will allow your muscles to recover and grow stronger. If you’re feeling sore after your workouts, that’s a good indication that you need more rest days.
6 Week Squat Program: The Bottom Line
Squats are a great exercise for overall strength and fitness, and they’re especially effective when it comes to targeting the glutes. Make sure to add them to your workout routine and see how you progress over the next 6 weeks!
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Thigh Quadriceps Muscle (2021, nih.gov)
- Calf muscle strength and postural stability in young male athletes (n.d., researchgate.net)
- Changes in bone mineral density in response to 24 weeks of resistance training in college-age men and women (2011, pubmed.gov)
- Core Stability Training for Injury Prevention (2013, nih.gov)
- Gluteus Medius and Minimus Muscle Structure, Strength, and Function in Healthy Adults: A Brief Report (2017, nih.gov)
- Hip Abductor and Adductor Rate of Torque Development and Muscle Activation, not Size, are Associated with Functional Performance (2021, frontiersin.org)
- How to squat? Effects of various stance widths, foot placement angles and level of experience on knee, hip, and trunk motion and loading (2018, nih.gov)
- Mechanics of the human hamstring muscles during sprinting (2012, pubmed.gov)
- The effects of alpha lipoic acid on muscle strength recovery after a single and short-term chronic supplementation – a study in healthy well trained individuals after intensive resistance and endurance training (2020, biomedcentral.com)