How many calories does the squat exercise burn ?

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Last updated on February 12, 2023

How many Calories do Squats burn?

Squats are exceptionally good at building muscle while burning calories at the same time. The amount of calories burned varies greatly depending on what your weight is, your age, and even your sex. Of course if you squat with external weight like a barbell, that will also massively increase caloric output.


* This will vary greatly with variables in relation to your body. Harvard Health estimates that you could burn between 180 and 500 calories in an hour of weight training.

How to do a Bodyweight Squat

The bodyweight squat is something that is extremely important as a human being. You will be doing a squat for the rest of your life, by sitting down on chairs, sitting down in the bathroom, on the train, in the car, basically you need to make sure that you are able to do a squat throughout your life.

  1. Assume a stable position, feet shoulder width apart, with your feet pointing slightly outwards.
  2. Now, brace your core muscles. Take a deep breath, and begin by ‘breaking’ your hips (just start bending around them), as well as bending at the knees. This will naturally force your body into a squatting position.
  3. Squat down to around 90 degrees at the knees – you can go deeper if you’d like, or not as deep if your mobility or genetics doesn’t allow 90 degrees.
  4. Then once you’ve reached your desired depth, you start by pushing through the balls of your feet and squatting upwards. You should feel muscular strain in your legs and glutes, not your lower back.
  5. Once you’re standing upright again, one rep has been completed.


Which muscles do Squats work?

The squat is definitely a lower body exercise. While people who squat hundreds of kilograms will definitely use the upper body as well, the bodyweight squat is just a lower body exercise, while certain parts of the upper body might just work for keeping the body stable. The muscles being worked are as follows:


  • Quadriceps
  • Abductors
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Abdominals
  • Transverse Abdominals


Like I mentioned, once you add weight the following muscles will also be used:


  • Lats
  • Rhomboids
  • Traps

Common mistakes to Avoid

The squat is something that needs to be treated with the utmost of respect, as doing it wrong can lead to serious injury.


  • Not going deep enough. While there is no set standard for depth, you should go as deep as your mobility allows.
  • Standing too wide. If your feet are too far from one another, you could end up causing injury to yourself. Sumo Squats are a thing, yes, however they require specific techniques.
  • Standing too narrow. Standing too narrow can cause strain on your knees.
  • Rounding of the back. While this is more common when performing the exercise with added weight, rounding of the back can put a lot of strain on the lower back and could lead to serious injury.


Squat Variations

The list here is endless. Squat variations depend on what muscles you wish to target, what your overarching goals are, and what the purpose of the workout is.


1) Split Squat

A Split Squat is something loathed by most people, yet most people will still suck it up and do it anyway. The payoff here is a greater emphasis on the quads and/or glutes, depending on which variation you end up doing. Instead of standing with your feet in line with one another, you place your one foot far in front of yourself. Then you squat down into that foot, causing that knee angle to be 90 degrees, and your hind leg to follow. This variation will burn the same amount of calories as a normal squat, however I would not recommend doing super heavy weights with this exercise.


2) Squat Jump

As the name implies, at the end of the squat rep, you finish by jumping. This variation will burn 10-20% more calories per rep. This is nor advised for beginners or with weights unless you are extremely strong. Plyometrics might help with maximal output, and slightly aid in hypertrophy.


3) Heel Elevated Squats

This will burn exactly the same amount as normal squats but that isn’t really the purpose of this variation. By elevating your heels, you will increase ankle mobility. This is one of the biggest problems we see when beginners are squatting. Low ankle mobility can limit the depth of your squat, and also the hip hinge angle you can achieve. Thus, the heel elevated squat can be a nice variation for beginners.

About the author  Steve

Steve Theunissen is from New Zealand and is a qualified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist with over 30 years experience. Read more about Steve in the 'about us' page.

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