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Are Squats Good For Weight Loss?

Most people think of cardio when trying to lose weight but other workouts can be effective too. Find out whether squats are good for weight loss or not.

To lose weight and more specifically fat, you need to make it so you use up more energy than is coming in from food.

Squats can help in this process in different ways. First of all, the movements involved likely require more energy than your daily activities.

Additionally, doing squats with certain resistances, repetitions, and sets can help you build muscle mass. This helps you burn more calories (energy) throughout the day.

The result of these things is that you can definitely say squats are good for weight loss.

On the flip side, you still need to have good habits in other areas like nutrition to see fat loss results from squats.

Additionally, the extra muscle mass may make it so the number on the scale does not move that much. This does not necessarily mean you are doing something suboptimal.

Next, it is hard to predict how the long-term weight loss effects of squats compare to more short-term cardiovascular workouts.

Can you lose weight by doing squats?

Before going into the details and conditions, it is worth quickly noting that squats do have the ability to help you lose weight but that this will not always happen.

To achieve weight loss and more specifically fat loss results you have to get to a point where your body requires more energy than is coming in from the things you eat.

When this is the case, you start using up energy stores like body fat to get the difference between what you need and what you get.

Squats help you use up more energy than usual so it is fair to say that they can help you lose weight.

At the same time, the principles above also mean your habits in other lifestyle areas like nutrition need to be good enough to actually see fat loss results from doing squats.

Something else to note is that squats can potentially help you build muscle which increases the number on the scale but is actually progress toward a healthier you.

In short, something like doing 100 squats a day can help you lose weight but this will not always be the case.

Additionally, not losing or gaining weight from doing squats is not always a sign you are doing something unhealthy.

group of women doing exercise

Calories burned squats vs other exercises

While squats will not always cause this result, they can help you lose weight. However, this is not the only important detail. Knowing how squats compare to other exercises is relevant too.

That being said, a big challenge when trying to estimate how many calories squats burn is that you typically do the exercise with weights.

Exactly how heavy these weights are will influence the actual numbers a lot.

Even when taking this into account, two people of the same weight can burn different amounts of calories with the same weighted squats due to differences in hormone levels, age, speed, etc.

So the rough predictions below help you get an idea of how good squats are for weight loss compared to other activities but you should not take the numbers too seriously either.

That being said, here are a few estimations of how many calories a 155-pound (70 kg) person burns while doing certain activities for 30 minutes (1, 2):

  • Weight Lifting Aka Squats (vigorous): 220 calories
  • Water Aerobics: 144 calories
  • Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 144 calories
  • Stair Step Machine (general): 216 calories
  • Swimming (general): 216 calories
  • Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 252 calories
  • Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 252 calories
  • Running 5 mph: 288 calories
  • Elliptical Trainer (general): 324 calories
  • Jumping Rope (fast): 421 calories

Something to consider is that it is a lot easier to do something like running 5 mph for 30 minutes than doing heavy back squats for the same duration.

Everything considered, squats are not bad for burning calories during the workout but it is fair to say that there are many more effective exercises too.

Do squats build muscle?

Another important thing to keep in mind about the estimations above is that they try to show how many calories you burn during the workouts.

Squats are interesting for losing weight in the sense that doing them the right way can help you build muscle mass too.

How much you weigh influences how many calories you burn with everything you do.

That means building extra muscle mass with squats can offer a lot of long-term weight loss results.

Unfortunately, it is hard to put these results into exact numbers. Partly because different people can see different muscle growth results from doing squats.

Do squats help to lose belly fat?

Many people have the impression that you can target fat from specific areas like your body by choosing the right exercises.

Unfortunately, it is generally not possible to choose what areas you lose fat from in significant amounts. This applies to squats but to other exercises as well.

That being said, it is still possible to lose belly fat by losing enough weight overall.

In turn, you can say that squats can help you lose belly fat at some point. However, to get to this point, you likely need to pay attention to the things you eat and other lifestyle habits too.

Additionally, even if you do the right things, it can take a while before you hit your belly fat loss goals. This area tends to be one of the more challenging ones in terms of losing fat.

Do squats burn the fat on your thighs?

The same principles from the previous section apply to losing fat from your thighs with squats.

You can say that squats have the ability to help you burn the fat on your thighs. However, you will not necessarily target this area.

Additionally, even if you get your routine to a point where you start losing weight, it may take a while before you really start burning a lot of thigh fat.

How to do squats for weight loss

You can approach how to do squats for weight loss from two directions.

The most important one is from a high-level view.

If you do squats with the goal of losing fat/weight, you do not just want to do as many as possible similar to cardiovascular workouts.

Instead, a lot of the weight loss potential from squats comes from the extra muscle mass they can help you build.

To achieve this, you want to do squats with equipment aka weights that make the movement challenging enough for your muscles.

Once you have these, you still want to implement the ranges from below to increase the muscle growth results you can get.

Secondly, when it comes to specific exercise technique, you would do squats as usual in a weight loss context.

That means feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, keeping your knees over your feet, and keeping your spine straight.

How many squats you should do to lose weight

As mentioned how many squats you should do to lose weight is actually the same as the muscle growth ranges.

That means doing about 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 15 squats with a weight where you can barely complete these ranges.

The positive weight loss effects of these types of muscle-growth squat workouts will not show up as fast as a cardiovascular workout.

However, you can get a lot of long-term results from spending a relatively short time on exercise.

Types of squats for weight loss

There are many different types of squats out there. You may wonder which ones are the best for losing weight.

The main principles to keep in mind are that you want to be able to lift a lot of weight, build a lot of muscle in a short amount of time, and if possible avoid any trips to the gym.

Some of the types of squats that can be good for weight loss according to these conditions include:

  • Barbell back squats: It is true that you likely have to go to the gym to do back squats but they could be worth it. This type is one of the variations that allow you to lift the heaviest and build a lot of muscle.
  • Jump squats: Jump squats are a variation where you jump in the air. The explosive movements make it more likely you can build muscle mass at home with just your body weight.
  • Bulgarian split squats: Bulgarian split squats involve doing “squats” with all of your body weight on one leg. This does require longer workouts but also makes it more likely you can build muscle at home without equipment.

Keep in mind that these are just examples. You can definitely also build muscle with many other (weighted) squat variations.

Are squats a good exercise choice for losing weight?

If you want to burn the highest amount of calories in the next 30 minutes, squats are not the greatest choice.

On the other hand, one of the benefits of squats is that they can help you build a lot of muscle mass. Even with relatively short sessions if you are a resistance training beginner.

This extra mass helps you burn more calories with everything you do. Including during any cardiovascular workouts you also do.

In turn, you can still say that squats can be a good exercise choice for losing weight if you use the right amount of resistance, repetitions, and sets.

Keep in mind that the scale may “lie” about your fat loss to some extent. The extra muscle mass you build may hide some of the fat loss results you are getting.

Besides that, squats will not always help you lose fat/weight. You may need to pay more attention to other lifestyle habits like your nutrition to actually see results.

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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.