Doing squats

What Muscles Do Barbell Squats Target?

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. Updated: September 5, 2023
What Muscles Do Barbell Squats Target?

Training routines vary depending on the person, age, weight, physical condition and personal goal. Among the most common exercises for building strength and fitness are squats. Their popularity is partly due to their ability to work the entire lower body, specifically the legs and glutes. When performed quickly, they can also work other muscles groups, some of which are the key stabilizers of the body.

Although squats require a fairly basic movement technique, they can be notoriously hard. This is especially so if you are not doing them correctly. oneHOWTO explains not only what muscles do barbell squats target?, we also show you the best ways to do squats to benefit different muscle groups. These benefits change whether or not you use a bar.

You may also be interested in: How to Do Squats to Work Your Glutes
  1. What muscles do normal squats target?
  2. What muscles do barbell squats target?
  3. How to do barbell squats correctly

What muscles do normal squats target?

Squats are a type of exercise in which a type of sitting position is adopted, but without being able to lean on anything. It is one of the most performed in training routines, both in high intensity cardio workouts and strength training. For this reason, they are as popular among athletes for various sports, as well as those who want to build muscle.

Although there are various types of squats you can do as part of your fitness routine, there are two main types:

  • Bodyweight squats: this is when you tone and build muscle using only your bodyweight.
  • Barbell squats: this is when you squat while lifting a barbell to increase the resistance of your muscles.

There are also many different ways you can add weight to build resistance. This includes using dumbbells or even picking up a person, if they allow it.

For those squats which use a barbell, the arms are more involved than simply bodyweight squats. For this reason, the muscles we target when doing barbell squats include quadriceps, hamstrings, the gluteus maximus and abdominal muscles.

The abdomen is also worked by doing squats without a bar because it is the muscle that helps you maintain a stable position during the exercise. It is a very complete exercise in which you use your body weight and with which you can obtain great results.

By doing squats without a bar, you can vary the movement to emphasize the work on the muscles that you want to exercise more. This way you add extra value to the exercise.

Learn about different ways to do this exercise with our guide to the best squats for legs and glutes.

What muscles do barbell squats target?

Barbell squats are a perfect exercise to build leg strength, but that's not all. By moving your body closer to the ground and moving back up again, you can also work a lot more muscle groups. The following are the main muscles we work when doing barbell squats:

  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Erector muscles of the back
  • Lumbar muscles
  • Latissimus muscles
  • Abdominal muscles
  • Stabilizing muscles of the hip

Although barbell squats do not prevent the same muscles from being exercised, the increase in muscle activation changes depending on the technique and the absolute external load used when performing the squat.

What Muscles Do Barbell Squats Target? - What muscles do barbell squats target?

How to do barbell squats correctly

Doing squats will allow you to work a wide variety of muscles and exercise them with greater or lesser intensity. How much will depend on the type of squat practiced. To achieve this it is important that you know how to carry them out correctly.

How to do squats

To do squats properly without a bar or weight, we recommend that you follow these steps:

  1. Place the body in a straight position, with the gaze forward and keep the abdomen tensed.
  2. The starting position for these squats is to keep your feet apart (slightly wider than shoulder width), with your toes facing forward and slightly out.
  3. Pull your hips back as you lower your body, leaning your torso forward slightly. In no case lift your heel off the ground and always keep your back in a neutral position.
  4. Lower your position until the hip is below the knee. If you can't do this move correctly, lower your body position a little less or do a half squat. Progressively, you will be able to lower the body more.
  5. Raise the body to recover the starting position.

How to do barbell squats

If you intend to do barbell squats, apply the above technique with the following adjustments for each type of barbell squat:

  • Barbell overhead squats: these require a refined technique, custom weight loads and optimal physical condition to allow you to cope with such an effort. To do them, you have to raise the bar with your arms extended above your head.

  • Barbell back squats: this is the most popular type of squat performed with a barbell. To execute them correctly, you must support the bar on the trapezius, that is, the upper part of the back.

  • Squats with a forward bar: this variant implies a greater demand and a lot of experience at the time of execution due to the position of the bar. To do this exercise, rest the bar on your collarbones and keep your back straight.

  • Hex bar squats: this is the most unique of all the barbell squats. In this exercise, the hex bar refers to a hexagon-shaped bar with two handles and some weights on the sides. You have to position yourself inside the center of the hexagon to do the exercise.

Now that you know what muscles squats work when doing barbell squats, you may want to know how to do squats with dumbbells and how to make your legs bigger and stronger.

If you want to read similar articles to What Muscles Do Barbell Squats Target?, we recommend you visit our Fitness category.

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What Muscles Do Barbell Squats Target?