Bodyweight Squats: How To, Benefits, Alternatives,…

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Even if you want to train at home there are many exercises to choose from. Find out how to do bodyweight squats and whether they are good.

Bodyweight squats are an exercise where you lower your upper body as far as comfortable by bending your knees. You then engage your quadricep (front thigh) muscles to push yourself back up.

Resistance training beginners could find bodyweight squats challenging enough to build some muscle mass.

Additionally, If you are only interested in improving leg muscle endurance, bodyweight squats could be good enough too.

However, it is also worth mentioning that many people will want to do a weighted squat variation or a one-legged compound leg exercise to see more and faster growth and strength results.

Even simple leg workout equipment options like a heavy backpack, resistance bands, and dumbbells could already increase your results by nice amounts.

How to do a bodyweight squat

Take the following steps to do a bodyweight squat:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and slightly pointing outward.
  2. Lower your hips as far as comfortable in a controlled motion by folding your legs. Keep your knees above your feet and your spine more or less straight.
  3. Slowly raise your body again until you stand up straight.
How to do a bodyweight squat

The main things to keep in mind when doing bodyweight squats are keeping your knees above your feet and your spine more or less straight.

Additionally, how deep you want to squat depends on what body parts like your knees are comfortable with.

Theoretically, you could also do bodyweight squats faster to make it a cardio exercise. However, there are many better options if this is your goal.

Muscles worked with bodyweight squats

Some of the primary muscles worked with bodyweight squats include:

  • Quadriceps (front thighs)

Some of the secondary muscles worked with bodyweight squats include:

  • Glutes (butt)
  • Hamstrings (back thighs)
  • Calves
  • To some extent erector spinae (lower back)

While you do work your glutes and hamstrings to some extent, bodyweight squats are mostly a bodyweight quadricep exercise.

You want to keep in mind that you still have to work your quadriceps with enough resistance, reps, and sets to grow and strengthen these muscles with bodyweight squats.

How many bodyweight squats you should do depends on what benefits you are looking for.

To increase muscle mass, you want to do something like 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 and potentially even up to 50 bodyweight squats.

Can bodyweight squats build muscle?

Since most people go to the gym and lift weights to build muscle, you may wonder if bodyweight squats can also help you achieve this goal.

The answer to this depends on your current strength level.

If you can do more than 50 repetitions per set before your muscle fatigue, bodyweight squats can likely not help you build that much muscle.

On the flip side, if these amounts of repetitions are challenging enough to cause muscle fatigue, bodyweight squats can likely help you build some mass.

So for example whether 100 bodyweight squats a day will do anything depends on how long your muscles last.

It is also possible that bodyweight squats are initially hard enough but that you need to add weights over time to keep seeing results.

Another option is doing the more challenging jump squat variation.

Benefits of bodyweight squats

Bodyweight squats can offer valuable positive effects. Especially if they are challenging enough for your current strength level.

These positive effects include both more general benefits of squats and more specific ones of only needing your body weight. A few examples include:

  • Can potentially help you build muscle: Bodyweight squats are a resistance training exercise that can potentially help you build muscle.
  • Does not require equipment or location: Because you only need your body weight, you don’t need to invest any time or money into going to the gym or investing in fitness equipment.
  • Can help you lose weight: Bodyweight squats can help you build muscle and burn more calories during the workout. Although you may need to make other changes too, these aspects of bodyweight squats can benefit weight loss.
  • Beginner-friendly: Bodyweight squats are relatively easy in terms of technique and muscle strength required. This makes them good for people who are just getting into resistance training.
  • Can help you prevent knee pain: Growing and strengthening your upper thigh muscles can reduce your risk of knee pain. You do want to be careful about doing bodyweight squats if you already have this issue.

As mentioned, you may still need to add weights to squats over time to keep seeing a lot of muscle growth results.

Bodyweight squat alternatives

Besides adding weights to bodyweight squats, you can also consider other movements that are more challenging for your leg muscles.

A few bodyweight squat alternatives are:

  • Weighted squats
  • Lunges
  • Step-ups
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Leg press machine
  • Hack squat machine

What you don’t like in bodyweight squats and what muscles you want to work more influence which alternatives you will prefer.

Is a bodyweight squat a good exercise?

For resistance training beginners, bodyweight squats can be a good exercise to grow and strengthen their quadricep (front thigh) muscles.

Some additional benefits are that you don’t have to invest any money or time into exercise equipment or going to your local gym.

At the same time, it is important to mention that bodyweight squats will also not be optimal for many people.

Just your body weight may be a bit too light to grow and strengthen the strong quadricep muscles.

If/when this is the case, it is typically smart to do one-legged bodyweight squat alternatives or add weights to the movement instead.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.