Squats: The Ultimate Mass-Building Exercise


Everything you need to know about this lower body building exercise.

If you’ve seen the movie Generation Iron or hung around this site for a few minutes, you should already understand that if you truly want to build a lean, muscular and powerful physique then you absolutely MUST train legs. You must train them intensely and consistently if you want to build a legendary physique that others will envy. Fortunately, there’s a single exercise that is the be all and end all to not only lower body development, but the entire body in the squat.

Whether you’re trying to shed fat or build muscle, no other exercise works better at targeting and developing the quads, hamstrings, and glutes in one single solitary movement. Most leg exercises target one muscle in the upper leg. Leg extensions hit the quads. Leg curls isolate hamstrings.

But nothing secretes more testosterone and growth hormone than squats. They target the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, even hips and lower back for a really nice and effective exercise able to build real strength and size.

Squats will also help you shed fat. How, you ask? Well, in order to burn body fat we must remember the three important keys: cardio, diet, and maintaining fat-burning muscle.  The legs hold most of the body’s musculature. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn when you’re resting.

Squats truly develop and work the entire body. Squats have long held the title of being a total body exercise, the king of all exercises, and one that has become a staple in many lifters routines.

Let’s take a look at the squat and see what makes this exercise so great. We’ll talk about what it is, what muscles get worked, the benefits of it, and how best to perform it so you see only the best gains possible as you look to boost your overall health and performance.


What Is The Squat?

Squats are a fantastic compound exercise used to build muscle and improve power while also working for a host of other benefits. What you will find is an exercise with tons of variations that can impact you in a variety of ways. Used with a barbell, this strength building exercise has become a staple in many lifters’ routines and is one of the big three lifts associated with powerlifting.

Related: A Definitive Guide To Improving Your Squat

Muscles Worked

Squats will work those lower body muscles so you see great gains, however, what you will find is that your quads will get a lot of action. Other top muscle groups worked include your hamstrings, glutes, calves, hips, lower back, and core, since this is needed to enhance stability and offer support as you drive through your feet.


Benefits Of Squats

The benefits of squats can help take your gains to the next level and knowing what these can do for you can go a long way when looking to optimize your strength and performance.

Benefits of squats include:

  • Stronger lower body: Build those muscles in your lower body and work to capitalize on strength while increasing size (1).
  • More power: Given the power and explosiveness required with this movement, you will find this can increase sport specific and functional movements when it comes to needing the right amount of power (2).
  • Improve stability: With this lift, you will improve stability and get the most out of balance while feeling supported (3).
  • Help with posture: Squats can help with posture by working to improve your spine alignment and giving you great gains when it comes to overall support and stability.
  • Plenty of variations: Squats have tons of variations that you can try that will work to offer variety in your workouts while still increasing strength and size.

Related: How To Alleviate Lower Back Pain After Squats

How To Perform Them

Knowing how best to perform this exercise is important as you look to capitalize on form so you see the best gains possible. With the right form, your greatly reduce your risk of injury and unwanted soreness.

Here are the steps for performing squats:

  1. Begin with your feet shoulder width apart. Make sure the bar is resting on the top of your shoulder blades and not the top of your spine. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. As you brace your core, maintain a neutral spine and bend at the knee, giving yourself stability before unracking.
  3. Unrack the bar and when ready, lower to the ground. Keep your weight centered and heels on the floor.
  4. Keeping solid form, push up to the starting position, driving through your feet to get the most out of your power.
  5. Repeat for your desired number of sets and reps.


Key Points to Remember

  • Keep time under tension. Don’t rush the exercise. You want to soak up the pain and soak up the burn so that the muscles can get hit efficiently and effectively.
  • Keep the lower back straight and look straight ahead. Looking up or down will cause rounding in the back which can lead to injury.
  • Squat till your thighs are parallel or slightly below parallel and ensure that your knees are kept behind your toes to ensure that stress is kept away from your knees.

Wrap Up

Squats are one of those exercises that you need to see in your routine in order to get the most out of your training and performance. With the right number of sets and reps, and this placed strategically into your routine, you will find this exercise is one to take advantage of as you seek the best for your gains.

Editor’s Note: Some of this information above was shared with us by Geo Chang, a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist whose mission is to educate and empower his clients to live healthier and happier lives. Geo has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition/ Biochemistry and is RD eligible. Geo Has maintained a thriving practice in New York City and brings the triple threat of education, experience, and passion to health & fitness for his clients.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

*Images courtesy of Envato


  1. Kubo, K.; et al. (2019). “Effects of squat training with different depths on lower limb muscle volumes”. (source)
  2. Chiu, L.; et al. (2011). “A Teaching Progression for Squatting Exercises”. (source)
  3. Chandler, T.; et al. (1989). “The effect of the squat exercise on knee stability”. (source)
Vidur Saini
Vidur is a fitness junky who likes staying up to date with the fitness industry and loves publishing his opinions for everyone to see. Subscribe to his YouTube Channel.