To begin with, you should know that squats are, without a doubt, one of the most important exercises you can do to build strength and power in your lower body.  When executed correctly a squat will primarily work your glutes, quads, hamstrings, adductors and abs.  With that said, in answer to the question; what muscles do squats work?  There’s actually a little bit more to the story.

Beyond the primary muscles trained when you squat, you will also be working on your calves and lower back.  Whether you intend to build these areas or not, the additional strength that you will achieve as a result of good squat form will go a long way towards improving your performance on all other lower body exercises.

Note that a squat is a functional exercise as much as it is a muscle and strength building exercise. 

It is often said that the deadlift is king, and so the squat must be its queen.

What muscles do squats work? – Here’s an illustration that explains all

As you can see from this illustration, a squat will train your entire lower body and core. 

And with thanks to its ability to be heavily loaded with a barbell, your gain potential with this exercise is literally endless.


Fancy a challenge?  Try our 30 Day Squat Challenge - With Weights!

Want to learn more about loading your squat?  See; How To Use A Squat Rack.

Squat variations

Generally speaking, when the question; what muscles do squats work? Is asked, we are typically referring to the barbell back squat.  However, it should be noted that the way in which you load a squat contributes to the emphasis placed on each muscle group.

For example; a sumo squat stance will place additional emphasis on your quads, glutes and adductors.

Whereas a front loaded squat will place additional emphasis on the abdominal muscles as well as the quads and glutes.

And finally, on the other hand a hack squat will place most of its emphasis on your quads.

See the illustrations below for reference...




Front loaded



What muscles do squats work? Concluded

Hopefully the above illustrations will help you see that not all squats are equal.  And that the way in which you load your squat determines which of your muscles take that load. 

And so this is why variety in your squat execution, and furthermore, your workouts in general, is important. 

The above are just a handful of examples based on the most common squat variations.  Of course there are many other variations and they each serve their own purpose.

The thing to take away from this post is that exercise variation is essential for well-rounded results.  If you continually repeat he same moves you’ll never allow some of your other muscle groups to shine. 

Also, and as a final note; this should get you thinking about the importance of understanding which muscle groups you are working with each individual exercise.  Without this basic knowledge you’re literally taking a stab in the dark with every workout.