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The Squat Exercise: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

    squat exercise questions answers

    The good old squat exercise. Someone hates it. Others love it. But, there is no question that it is one of the most important exercises to develop strength, muscle mass and endurance that works your entire body. It must be in your workout routine for sure.

    Here I would like to answer the most common questions about squatting. Let’s start.

    How often should I squat?

    It is a tough compound exercise that put stress both on your mind and body. Hence, doing too often can result in tiredness, injuries and performance drop. To sum up, you need rest to recover.

    The recovery time depends on your workout routine and the intensity of your training. Also, on what your aims are. I mean, if you want to build muscles, like a bodybuilder, or you want to develop for strength, as a powerlifter.

    In case, you just build muscles then once a week will do because you also do other exercises for your lower body such as leg extension. This way on your leg day your entire lower body is trained hard, so it needs time to rest.

    If you want to do powerlifting, then you can do it twice a week. But, it is recommended to do other squat variations as well. Learn why powerlifters should train more here.

    If you do calisthenics, you can have even 3 bodyweight squat sessions per week. Logically, as you will don’t use weights, your muscles can recover faster.

    Why is it easier to do leg press than squat?

    The squat is the king of the lower body exercises. But if for some reasons you cannot do it, the leg press machine is a good alternative.

    In gyms, it is not rare to see guys lifting hundreds of pounds on the leg press machine while they can lift just half when they are under the barbell.

    The reasons are simple. It is a machine that is developed to make your training “easier.” The weights are on a 45-degree slope. They do not move forward backward, or to do sides that you can feel when you squat. Hence, those stabilizer muscles such as your core do not have to work.

    Also, since it is on 45-degree slope, pushing the weights is easier than when you stand up during squat because the pressure is entirely vertical. This way, on the leg press machine you lift only about the 70% of the weight your put on.

    I don’t say that leg press is bad, but the barbell squat is much better if you want to build real strength. If you are a beginner, use the machine until you get strong enough to squat correctly

    What muscles are worked with the squat exercise?

    As it is a functional exercise, it trains more than one muscle group. Though, the most worked muscles are the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, core and ankle stabilizers, adductors of the hip, etc. Watch the video below for more details.


    What are the downsides to Smith Machine vs. regular barbell squats?

    One of the downsides with the Smith machine is that people feel themselves safer when they use it. This way, they think they can use heavier weights, or they do not need the help of a spotter. Of course, this is not always bad, but they risk to get a serious injury.

    On the other hand, like with leg press, it is a machine that makes your life easier. Again, since you are in a frame, the barbell does not go backward, or forward, or to sides, so those stabilizer muscles do not work. You do not need to keep your balance like you do while squatting.

    Finally, here is a study that proved that barbell squat is better than the Smith machine.

    Six healthy participants performed 1 set of 8 repetitions (using a weight they could lift 8 times, i.e., 8RM, or 8 repetition maximum) for each of the free weight squat and Smith machine squat in a randomized order with a minimum of 3 days between sessions, while electromyographic (EMG) activity of the tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, biceps femoris, lumbar erector spinae, and rectus abdominus were simultaneously measured…the EMG averaged over all muscles during the free weight squat was 43% higher when compared to the Smith machine squat (p < 0.05).

    Source: A comparison of free weight squat to Smith machine squat using electromyography

    How do you squat correctly with the barbell?

    If you are a beginner it crucial to learn the correct form. I have seen many guys risking their health because of the poor form. While others do activities that were far away from the real squat. I’ve shared a detailed guide here, or just watch the following video.


    What are the best squat variations?

    There are a few that are extremely efficient not only for the lower body but the upper body as well. For example, the front squat has helped me a lot strengthen my lower back. The overhead version improved my balance.

    I’ve already shared 10 variations here.

    How to squat with dumbbells?

    If you do not have a barbell with weights at home, then a pair of dumbbells will do as well. There are a few exercises. The most popular ones are the single leg split and the goblet squat.


    Why should I do squat?

    This exercise is more than just an activity to build your legs. It has several other fitness and health benefits. Just check out the infographic below to learn more about its benefits.

    reasons to squat


    How many squats should I do for mass and strength?

    It is hard to answer since we are different, and with that what works for others, may not for you. Basically, lifting heavier weights with fewer reps works for building strength and mass. For example, if you do 3-5 sets of 1-8 reps with of your 1 Rep Max (RM). Although, for me, the 6-10 number of reps works the best.

    workout goals


    What is the best way to improve my squat?

    This question is answered in our how to squat guide.

    • Develop your core, dip, upper back strength.
    • Tighten up your grip.
    • Get shoes made for weight lifting.
    • Develop your technique.
    • Try different bar positions.

    But here is a killer tip, that actually works extremely well for me. That is: jump! Yes, plyometric jumping can help a lot to lift more. Watch the video to learn why.


    James Wright

    James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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