What Can Squats Do for Your Abs?
For many women, especially those who have had children, getting your abdominals in fighting form isn’t always easy. Just focusing on ab exercises like crunches and sit-ups will help to strengthen the abs, but incorporating strength training movements like squats, both bodyweight squats and barbell squats, can achieve activation of the abdominal muscles while also the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.
When doing squats, you'll find that it’s not just one muscle feeling the burn. Because of this, resistance training movements like squats and deadlifts, which work both the lower and upper body, are known as compound exercises.
Continuing to look at squats specifically, the primary muscles targeted are the quadriceps and the hamstrings. These two large muscle groups are located in your thighs. The gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in your butt, is also a primary muscle that is targeted during a squat. You’ll also feel the burn in secondary muscles such as the calf muscles, abdominals, lower-back muscles, obliques and the smaller butt muscles -- the gluteus medius and minimus.
Because squat variations like the back squat, front squat, and goblet squat are effective exercises for core strength, many personal trainers have turned away from traditional ab exercises and cardio exercises in favor of these full-body exercises, which have proven to be the best exercises to enhance muscle activation.
Strengthen and Tone
How do squats work abs? When performing a squat, the muscles of the rectus abdominis and obliques contract to aid in proper alignment of the back. Basically, tightening your ab muscles will help you maintain a straight back while performing a squat. Engaging the abdominals throughout the squat movement will strengthen and tone your ab muscles.
Another added benefit to performing the weightlifting movement of a squat is that you’ll increase stabilization of the core muscles, which increases your coordination and gives you better balance than a traditional ab workout would.
The core muscles are not just the abdominal muscles, but also include the obliques, back muscles and the muscles of the butt and pelvis, according to the Harvard Health Publications. This girdle of muscles links the upper and lower body, acting as a synergistic balance helping you with daily movements like reaching to pull cereal down for the kids in the morning or bending over to pick up a basket full of laundry. A strong core also helps to prevent back injuries and improves your posture.
Toning the ab muscles alone won’t get you a six pack, but losing body fat around your midsection will help to show them off. As women age, and after having babies, they tend to see a loss in muscle tone and an increase in belly fat.
But squats are nicknamed the king of all training exercises because they aid in building muscle mass over your entire body. The more muscle you gain, the better off your metabolism is. If you’re carrying some extra body fat around your midsection, a faster metabolism will help to burn off those pesky fat cells, allowing those beautifully toned muscles to show through.
Squats are not easy to perform. To avoid injury and to get the most out of this exercise, you have to perform them correctly.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your toes pointed forward
- Stand keeping your back straight and extend the arms out in front, keeping them level with your shoulders
- Lift your chest and make sure your shoulders are not raised
- Tighten your abdominals and push the hips back as you descend into the squat position
- Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor, making sure the knees are not bent over the toes
- Hold this position for a count of three then return to the standing position
Repeat the squat for 12 to 15 reps.