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Are Squats Good For Weight Loss?

There are many exercises you can do to lose weight, both inside and outside the gym. What about squats, are they good for weight loss?

Squats are the exercise where you start standing up, lower your hips by bending your knees, and go back up. You can do this exercise both with bodyweight and extra weights. Everyone knows that squats can be very good if you want a toned behind.

Squats also help you burn some extra calories. That means squats can certainly help you lose weight. Find out how good they are compared to other workouts.

Cardio versus HIIT versus Weight Lifting

All forms of exercise can be divided into 3 main categories. These 3 categories are cardio, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and weight lifting. In terms of what parts of your body they impact you can bucket cardio and HIIT together.

Each workout will inevitably use both your cardiovascular system and muscles. However, usually one of the two really stands out.

The way cardio and HIIT help you lose weight is slightly different from how more muscle helps you lose weight. One or the other can be better depending on the situation.

Squats are mainly a muscle-building exercise. You do get your heart beating to pump oxygen to your leg muscles but it’s only a tiny amount compared to something like running.

woman doing running as cardio exercise

Weight lifting

Weight lifting helps you burn more calories by increasing muscle mass. How much you weigh is an important factor in how many calories you burn each day. That’s how many weight loss plateaus happen, you lose some weight and you start burning fewer calories with the same habits.

Building more muscle helps you add healthy weight. A certain amount of muscle also burns slightly more calories than the same amount of fat. This means that by spending a little time building muscle you can increase the number of calories you burn 24/7.

Your legs have the biggest muscles in your body. That means squats are one of the exercises that helps you build the most muscle mass. In turn, that means that a squat is one of the best exercises to help you lose more weight for the least amount of time spent.

To build the most muscle mass you want to do about 4 sets of 10-40 squats depending on how advanced you are.

Cardio and HIIT

Cardio and HIIT help you burn more calories by increasing the intensity and quantity of movement right now.

This makes those kinds of exercise great for short term energy usage. The flip side of the coin is that once you stop doing these kinds of exercise the extra calorie burning will stop fast.

HIIT is basically cardio but faster. So depending on your tempo you are doing one or the other. The higher the intensity of the exercise you are doing, the more calories you burn.

HIIT can also cause something called “afterburn”. This is basically having an increased metabolism for a while after you stopped the exercise.

Do this for long term weight loss

So cardio and HIIT are good for fat loss in the next hour or so.

For long term weight loss weight lifting can be a lot more time and effort efficient.

You can also do both. The extra muscle will help you get more out of your cardio workout.


Often people forget that your choice of exercise isn’t only about how efficient the calorie burning is.

Squats are great for long-term weight loss but if you don’t like them, chances are you won’t keep doing them. In that case, you might want to choose a different workout or exercise.

group of women doing exercise

How many squats do you have to do to lose weight?

You have to keep in mind that the amount of calories burned by exercising depends from person to person. Things like age, weight, activity levels,… influence it.

That being said, there are still approximations for how many calories you can burn doing squats. You can also see the calories burned for different kinds of exercises to see how all the workouts compare.

The following numbers are an estimation for a 155-pound person doing the exercises for 30 minutes (1).

  • Weight Lifting (general): 112 calories
  • Weight Lifting (vigorous): 223 calories
  • Water Aerobics: 149 calories
  • Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 186 calories
  • Stair Step Machine (general): 223 calories
  • Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
  • Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
  • Elliptical Trainer (general): 335 calories
  • Running 5.2 mph: 335 calories
  • Jumping rope: 372 calories
  • Swimming (breaststroke): 372 calories

The thing with these numbers is also that the more intense and the longer you do your exercise, the more calories you will burn. These measurements are great to get an estimation but you can’t rely on them being the exact same for you.

You can check out the specific article on how many calories squats burn for different time intervals, repetitions, and bodyweights.

As you can see the weight loss power of weight lifting and more specifically squats is not in the number of calories you burn during the workout.

These numbers only represent the 30 minutes during the workout. It’s hard to measure exactly what the long term weight loss effects are of squats.

How long does it take to see results from squats?

One pound of body fat is about 3500 calories (one kg +-8000). How long it takes to see weight loss results from squats will also depend on the number of calories in your diet.

One person might eat more than the other. This might make it so they need to exercise longer or more intensely to see the same weight loss results. You can even lose weight without exercising so there are many factors that influence it.

30 minutes of weight lifting could help you burn an extra 2230 calories in 10 days which is about 0.64 pounds of body fat. 30 days 6690 calories and so on…

Keep in mind that losing weight too fast can be harmful. In general, a 500 calorie deficit per day is considered to be a healthy weight loss rate.

Because of the muscle you will gain from squats, your weight might not move that much. That does not mean you are not losing fat. If you lose inches but not weight when you start squatting you are most likely gaining muscle weight and losing body fat weight.

How often should you squat?

Muscle-building exercises like squats are not always about doing as many as possible. The way you build muscle is by first breaking muscle down with a weight lifting exercise. And then letting your body repair the muscle with a little extra on top.

That means 5 squats with heavy squat equipment might benefit muscle growth and in turn weight loss more than 25 repetitions with no weight.

How often you should squat depends on things like how fast you recover, the weights you use, and the number of repetitions you do. This is different for every individual but something like 2-3 times a week is common.

How often should you squat

Should you do squats for weight loss?

In terms of time-efficient calorie burning during the workout, squats are not that great. Their real power comes from the extra calorie burning from the muscle mass you build.

Squats are one of the best exercises for building a lot of extra muscle mass without spending that much time. This makes them one of the best exercises for weight loss in terms of time efficiency.

Implementing squats in your workout routine will help you burn more calories with everything you do. Preferably squats with extra weights. These will help you build more muscle than bodyweight squats.

Keep in mind that the things you eat stay important no matter what exercise routine you’re following. It’s hard to out-exercise a bad diet.

Do squats help you burn belly fat?

Losing belly fat is more about losing weight overall than doing a “targeted” workout. Since squats help you burn a good amount of calories they can help you lose belly fat as well.

Unfortunately, this also means that squats are not uniquely good to lose weight on your thighs or any other areas.


Matt Claes

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.