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Bodyweight Squats: A Simple Yet Effective Full Body Exercise

bodyweight squats

Squats, we love them or at least have heard of them. Frankly, it’s hard not to with the kind of reputation this exercise has. It’s no longer just about being fit- no, it’s about looking good, toning your muscles while being fit. Squats help you achieve this, and that’s why it’s pretty popular in the modern age.

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Bodyweight squats are exercises that strengthen your lower body and can be performed in limited spaces without equipment. There are many ways to keep squats exciting and challenging, but their most basic form shouldn’t be underestimated. Keep reading to find out why.

What Are Bodyweight Squats?

Simply put, these are squats done without equipment. They are the most basic forms of squats out there. These squats are very convenient and effective since they require minimal space and can be done virtually everywhere.

Simplicity, however, does not make them less beneficial. Bodyweight squats can work your body just as well as the more challenging variants. Maybe you’re new to this and want to ask what muscles do bodyweight squats work that make them just as good? We find out in the next section.

Read More: Bodyweight Squat Variations To Keep Your Lower-Body Workout Game Strong

Air Squat
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What Muscles Do Bodyweight Squats Work?

The age of untargeted workout routines is past us. We want to know just what muscles we’re working on and what results working on them will bring. This, of course, is tailored to the specific needs and preferences of individuals. You want to beef up your muscles, or maybe tone your lower body- there’s only one solution, targeted workout.

Surfing through the internet and meeting the title, “ bodyweight squats muscles worked” you ask what the big fuss about it is. It’s imperative you know which muscles you are looking to build before you begin working out. Primarily, bodyweight squats work on six muscle groups:

Glutes

Perhaps the most popular muscle group worked by squats. Many people get in on squats because they want a firm butt, and squats deliver on this. They exert a lot of load on your butt muscles (glutes), resulting in a more robust and firmer outcome.

Bodyweight squats will work all three muscles-gluteus Maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. The most strain will, however, be on your gluteus maximus. Throw in some high-rep bodyweight squats, and you have yourself a winning combination.

Hamstrings

Connecting your hips to your knees, these muscles are located at the back of your thighs. When performing bodyweight squats, they are activated as you bend your knees, lowering into the squat. Strengthening these muscles increases support to your hip and knee joints, keeping you stable.

Quadriceps

Now to the front side. Your quadriceps are located in front of your thighs. When you straighten and push up your legs during a squat, these muscles are activated and engaged. Quadriceps and hamstrings working together during squats is a sure way of getting powerful thighs.

Isometric Squat
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Adductors

These muscles are located in your inner thighs. Adductors are vital in stabilizing your body during a squat workout routine. They do this by keeping your knees together instead of displaying them outwards.

Calves

Found at the base of your legs, these muscles provide stabilization during the ascent and descent phase of bodyweight squats. When your calves are strengthened, they give you more explosive power while balancing out the aesthetics of your upper legs.

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Core

Your core muscles play a significant role in stabilizing your body while keeping you centered during a squat routine. This will ensure your spine is protected while working on your abdominals, obliques, and lower back. Having the correct breathing technique will also go a long way in ensuring your core is activated and engaged.

So make sure you:

  • Take deep breaths into your abdomen, holding it while you lower in your squat. This increases pressure in your abdomen.
  • Exhale when rising to the top of the movement.

Benefits Of Bodyweight Squats

Now, why go through all that trouble of working on these muscles. What benefits can they possibly have on your body? And if they do, do the benefits of bodyweight squats outweigh the effort needed to do them? Some bodyweight squats benefits include:

Bodyweight Squats Do Not Require Any Equipment

You don’t need a gym or fancy equipment to get in some reps. You can always perform these exercises in the comfort of your home. This kind of flexibility makes them very convenient for everybody.

Reversing The Effects Of Prolonged Sitting

Prolonged sitting is associated with reduced hip mobility, neck pain, and chronic recurrent injuries (4). Bodyweight squats reduce the adverse postural effects related to musculoskeletal pain.

Curtsy Squat
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Strengthening Your Core Muscles And Lower Body 

Squats primarily target your glutes and quadriceps. Bending your knee to a 90-degree angle engages these muscle groups, hence activating them. Also, your core is engaged as it helps in the stabilization of your body.

Burning Calories, Consequently Helping You Cut Down On Your Weight

Squats involve compound movements, which means that they engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Anabolic hormone production is increased; as a result, helping you torch fats faster and build muscle (3).

Bodyweight Squats Tremendously Reduce The Risk of Getting Injured

When you regularly do squats, the chances of you getting ankle and knee injury is greatly minimized. This is because your bones, tendons, and ligaments are strengthened during the exercise. By extension, a considerable amount of load is relieved from your knees and ankles, according to this study (1).

Squats Relieve Lower Back Muscular Tightness

When your body is descending during a squat, there is a transition from the anterior to the posterior tilt of your pelvis. This move is commonly known as the butt wink. Your lower back muscles are then relaxed into an elongated position, decreasing compression and tightness (1).

Read More: 100 Squats A Day For 30 Days: Will This Routine Help You Score A Sculpted Booty?

Bodyweight Squats Increase Your Acceleration, Sprint Speed, And Jumping Height

Multiple studies show that 8 weeks of squat protocols significantly improve acceleration, sprinting, and jump heights (2).

Lateral Squat Walk
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Bodyweight Squats Increase Your Hip’s Range Of Motion

Hip joints degeneration and pain are some of the most common reasons for hip replacement (2). Squat routines that target these muscles increase their range of motion, and subsequently, their performance.

Bodyweight Squats Help Alleviate Groin Pain And Tightness

Your adductor muscles are essential when it comes to external hip rotation. When they are tight, movement in muscles such as the glute is greatly restricted. This then creates a domino where your hamstrings and lower back are forced to generate force for the movement (1).

This leads to the muscles being overworked and becoming painful eventually (1). Bodyweight squats done with the proper form lead to the right agonist-antagonist relationship between the groin and glutes.

You can only realize these benefits if you do bodyweight squats correctly. An improper form may prove to be disastrous rather than helpful. Here’s how you do bodyweight squats correctly.

Side Squat
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How To Do A Bodyweight Squat Correctly?

To get into the proper form for a good bodyweight squat, follow the following steps:

  1. Standing with your feet slightly wider than your hip width, turn your toes slightly outward. Prepare your abdominal muscles to engage your core.
  2. Take a deep breath and begin your movement by hinging at your hips then bending your knees into a squat position.
  3. Make sure that:
  • Your thighs are parallel or almost parallel to the floor;
  • Your heels start lifting off the floor;
  • And your torso flexed forward.
  1. Exhale while pressing your midfoot to straighten your legs, hips, and torso.

Sometimes, we find ourselves making mistakes, albeit unknowingly when doing bodyweight squats through no fault of our own. Next, we talk about some common mistakes during bodyweight squats and how to resolve them.

Plie Squat
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Common Bodyweight Squats Mistakes To Avoid

As basic as they may seem, there still are some important and common mistakes that people make. These errors can affect how effective the whole exercise will be and may even cause injuries. They include:

Squatting Too Low

Trainers usually give a general recommendation of descending to 90-degrees. When you go past this, extra strain is applied to your quad and knee muscles. Also, little leverage is provided from your glutes that you can use to stand up.

On the other hand, Shallow squats don’t lead to injury but aren’t effective at building muscle strength.

Solution: Maintain the 90-degree recommended posture, and if you find any difficulty in doing that, try using stability balls to increase your balance.

Raising Your Heels

Performing squats with the tip of your toes stresses your ankles and increase the risk of knee injuries. Also, it denies your glutes the much-promised workout. That’s because the weight is diverted from your glutes to your knees and quads.

Solution: Press down your heels. If there are difficulties in keeping them on the ground, it may be due to calf tightness. Stretch a bit and try again.

Squat To Heel Raise
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Leading With Your Knees

You should not let your knees go over your toes unless you’re in a deep squat. Chances are high that you’ll experience knee pain or injury eventually if they do.

Solution: Don’t send your knees forward and bend your ankles; instead, think of the squat like it’s a chair. You want to sit back into it. That way, your ankle stays straight, and your toes remain in sight when going into a deep squat. Doing this will protect your joints and give you the correct center of gravity.

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Wobbling Your Knees

This happens when your knees move towards or away from each other. As a result, extra stress is exerted on your knee, ankle, and hip joints during the exercise.

Solution: Always make sure your toes are pointed forward, and your knees are above your ankles. If you can’t keep your knees in one position, weak hip or glute muscles may be the cause. Extra squat sessions are a sure way to fix that.

Ignoring Your Core

Your torso may not be the focus during bodyweight squat routines, but ignoring it may lead to severe problems. A rounded back increases the risk of injury during the exercise.

Solution: Inhale and focus your vision forward as you descend into a squat. When you notice bending in your back muscles, engage your core muscles to keep them straight. This goes a long way in protecting you from any back injuries.

Squatting Too Fast

Being too fast when performing squats increases the risk of injury because of carelessness.

Solution: Take your time, and control yourself between squat sets. Allowing enough time for recovery will help you get the most out of every squat.

Squat Pulse
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Forgetting To Breathe Properly

Sometimes we find ourselves breathing into our chest rather than into our belly when working out. This is not advisable since it increases instability.

Solution: Breath into your belly. Control your breathing while inhaling gradually during a squat. Then, pressing your heels into the ground, slowly exhale and rise.

Dropping Your Chest

When you look upwards when performing bodyweight squats, your cervical spine is curved, exposing you to disc injuries. Additionally, leaning forward rounds your back, further stressing the pain.

Solution: Alway make sure you adopt an upright posture to avoid any unnecessary injuries.

Focusing On One Variant for Too Long

Once you’ve mastered one form, the same routine gets repetitive. Your muscles get used to the squat regimen, and the results will not be as robust anymore.

Solution: Engage in more squat challenges and variants. This makes your muscles constantly engaged in new exercises that strengthen and build them up.

Side Kick Squat
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Bodyweight Squats Modifications And Progression

Lots of questions usually arise concerning how to keep bodyweight squats interesting. Questions like how many bodyweight squats should I do at any given time? Or how many sets/reps of bodyweight squats should you do per turn without getting bored?

Whether you do bodyweight squats everyday or occasionally, the same routine over and over can be monotonous and boring. This, however, should never be the case when it comes to bodyweight squats. These exercises have numerous ways you can modify them, keeping them exciting and challenging.

Some modifications of these exercises include:

Using Suspension Squats

Try grasping the handles of suspension trainers when squatting to give you better control of your weight. Doing this can give your confidence a boost while you practice the movements safely.

Using Boxes Or Chairs For Your Squats

If you’re constantly feeling like you’re going to fall backward, try squatting onto a chair. Your range of motion will be improved in the process while giving you a confidence boost.

Try Stability Balls

This is an excellent option if you have stability issues. Place a stability ball against a wall and lean on it. Then glide down with your back against the wall to the squat position. Doing this transfers some pressure on the ball, keeping your body stable. It will also help you get in the correct form.

If You Have Tight Calves, Try Heel-Elevated Squats

This will help you squat lower as it demands minimal movement from your ankle. Just put your heels on an object that’s 1 to 2 inches high and squat like you usually do.

Progressions of bodyweight squats that are bound to make them more challenging include:

Single-Leg Squat Variations

Unilateral squat variants like split squats and rear-foot-elevated squats are an excellent way to add some fire to your routine. These exercises significantly increase the workout’s routine and are bound to get you revved up for a long time.

Change Your Stance

Do you want some challenge? Changing your normal foot position to a wider or narrower position is an excellent way to spice things up. Doing this can significantly increase the burn in your inner thighs.

Increase Your Time Under Stress

The logic is simple. Your muscles will fatigue faster if they take longer in each rep. Take three seconds to descend in a squat, then pause for one before rising. This and an extra three seconds pressing back should do the trick.

Split Squat
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Include A Pulsing Movement

When you get to the harder parts of squats, moving an inch up and down keeps your muscles under tension for longer. This ultimately increases your muscular endurance. You should, however, pay attention to your body and stop if you feel any pain.

Increase Your Reps

The more you do bodyweight squats, the less challenging they become. Increasing the number of reps for each turn brings back the fire, making the same workouts feel harder.

Combine Different Variations And Movements in Your Routine

While these progressions can be just as effective individually, mixing variations is an excellent way to take things up a notch. For instance, alternating between bodyweight jump squats and regular squats for five reps. There are numerous ways to achieve a working combination, but always make sure you pick exercises you’re familiar with.

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Conclusion

Squats are one of the most popular workout routines out there. They work on a number of muscles in your body simultaneously making them an effective way to sculpt your body. And the bonus is, there are a lot of ways to keep them interesting- with or without equipment.

Bodyweight squats are arguably the simplest and most effective form of these exercises. They are also very convenient for all levels of training ranging from beginners to professionals. So the next time you think of doing some squats, remember just how good and convenient bodyweight squats are.

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DISCLAIMER:

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 for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Analysis of the load on the knee joint and vertebral column with changes in squatting depth and weight load (2013, pubmed.gov)
  2. Improved Maximum Strength, Vertical Jump and Sprint Performance after 8 Weeks of Jump Squat Training With Individualized Loads (2016, nih.gov)
  3. The acute hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise (2014, pubmed.gov)
  4. Total hip replacement and surface replacement for the treatment of pain and disability resulting from end-stage arthritis of the hip (nih.gov)
Jeremy Mukhwana
Jeremy Mukhwana

Jeremy is a writer and part-time soccer player who is keen on demystifying the matters of fitness, health, and weight loss. His articles are focused on providing factual information and helping readers enjoy their fitness journeys. He understands that wellness is an often misunderstood yet deeply rewarding avenue of improving one’s life, which is why he is so committed to encouraging people to live their healthiest lives through his work. When he’s not typing away at his keyboard, he’s indulging his passion for soccer. The motto that guides Jeremy through his life is  ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world.’

I. Grebeniuk
I. Grebeniuk

Hey there! I'm a European Champion in synchronized swimming who holds a Bachelor degree in Physical Education. I have experience in working with Olympic level athletes, produced National Champions, State Champions and helped athletes secure their spots on the National teams.
I don't just want to work with professional athletes. I strongly believe that my purpose is to help anybody I work with to achieve their fitness goals and become their best self.

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