Barbell Squats: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and How To

Barbell Squats: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and How To

You've probably heard a lot of great things about the barbell squat. You might’ve even heard it referred to as “the king of lifts.” But does it live up to the hype?

In a word, yes. Let’s look at the benefits of barbell squats and talk about how to do this strength training exercise correctly and safely.

Why Barbell Squats Should Be in Your Workout Routine

If you want to work multiple muscle groups with one exercise, the barbell squat is your answer. From your calf muscles to your abs and beyond, this exercise packs a punch. Let’s take a look.

Muscles worked

The barbell squat is one of the most effective lower body exercises you can do. Instead of having to perform multiple leg exercises to target different muscles, you can work all of them at once with this time-saver.

The muscles of your legs, hips, and thighs provide most of the power in the barbell squat. Your hamstrings, glutes, quads, hip flexors, and adductors will all be engaged during different stages of the exercise. And your calf muscles get worked at the bottom of each rep.

Although your lower body may benefit the most from a barbell squat, it truly is a whole-body exercise.

For example, your ab muscles come into play to keep your spine neutral and to maintain stability. The same goes for your lower back muscles, especially the erector spinae, which engages to maintain correct form.

Finally, although barbell squats by themselves aren’t the best choice if your goal is a jacked upper body, your arms do get an isometric workout from them. This is because your forearms, biceps, and triceps are all utilized in keeping the bar stable.

Additional Barbell Squat Benefits

Aside from being a monster total-body strength training exercise, the barbell squat has a few other major benefits going for it as well.

1) High calorie burn

First, the barbell squat is a great calorie-burner. We talked about how it saves time you would spend doing multiple exercises by engaging all of those muscle groups at once. But this also makes it a massive calorie burner.

In fact, compound lifts like barbell squats burn more calories than almost any other type of exercise.

2) Opportunity for improvement

To perfect your form during a barbell squat, you’ll need to make sure each muscle used is up to the task.

Because the barbell squat involves so many different muscle groups, your performance in a barbell squat can help identify where your workout routine needs improvement.

3) Better form in other exercises

Finally, practicing the barbell squat will improve your form in other weight-training exercises, such as the deadlift and bench press.

But even if your main goal is running faster or jumping higher rather than building pure muscle power, the barbell squat should still have a place in your workout routine.

How to do a Barbell Squat

1) Set yourself up for success

To begin a barbell squat, step underneath the bar on the rack or squat stand. (If you don’t have one, skip down to where we discuss equipment in the section on safety and then come back here. Don’t worry; we’ll wait!)

Grip the bar with your hands, keeping them a little wider than shoulder width apart. Rest the barbell on your back. It should be on your lats, not the bone at the base of your neck.

2) Lower into a squat

Take two steps from the rack, then stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Point your toes slightly outward with your feet flat on the floor.

Take a big breath and hold it. Bend your knees slightly, keeping your chest high and engaging your glutes and abs. Keep your eyes fixed on a point in front of you, making sure not to drop your chin.

While you do this, drop your hips, keeping your back neutral. Think of it like you’re about to sit down in a chair. Ideally, you want your bottom lower than your knees at the end of the rep, but your upper legs should be at least parallel to the floor.

3) Come back to a standing position

When you’ve reached the lowest point of your squat, pause and then push down with your heels and against the floor, driving yourself upward. Your hips should move straight up. Remember to keep your chest up and look straight ahead while you do this.

At the completion of the rep, you’ll be back in your original standing position. Exhale. Lock your hips and knees, take a breath, and check your posture and grip. You’re now ready for the next rep.

Barbell Squat Safety


With how beneficial barbell squats are, you might be eager to start as soon as possible. But if you’re new to strength training or haven’t been regularly working out, we suggest starting slow.

Before you start barbell squats, implement a regular workout routine with body weight squats to make sure you develop the correct range of motion and movement pattern.

Once you feel good about your unweighted squats, you’re ready to progress to the goblet squat. In a goblet squat, you hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of you with both hands as you do the squat, adding resistance and helping you learn to keep your back straight.

When you feel that you’ve got the goblet squat down pat, you’re ready to try a barbell squat.


To perform a barbell squat safely, you obviously need a barbell, but it’s also essential to have a weight rack or squat stand for the safest workout experience.

At Titan, we offer a full range of racks, cages, and stands. Our T-3 and X-3 series squat stands have 1,000 lb weight capacities, heavy-duty steel uprights, and Westside hole spacing. They’re easy to bolt together and come in different heights to fit into rooms with low ceilings.

For home gyms where space is limited, we offer options like the T-3 and X-3 Series Folding Power Racks, which mount on a wall and extend out just five inches when not in use.

When it comes to the barbell, consider this Safety Squat Olympic Barbell. It features a built-in padded harness to reduce strain on your shoulders. The bend of the weighted sleeves helps stabilize your center of gravity, and comfortable hand grips give you more control of the bar.


Just as with any weight lifting exercise, it’s important to learn how to do a barbell squat with correct form. Not only will you work your muscles more effectively, but you’ll also reduce your chances of injury.

First of all, your spine should remain neutral when doing a barbell squat. That means your back should stay straight, not arched or rounded. The bar should move in a straight, vertical line up and down over the middle of your feet, without horizontal movement.

If your back arches or becomes rounded, you may be trying to squat too deep. Don’t force yourself to go lower until you’re able to do so while keeping your back in the correct position.

Instead, reduce the amount of weight you’re using, or see if some other aspect of your form is the problem. Try pushing your knees out more to either side and turning your toes out more.

Speaking of the knees and toes, your knees should remain aligned with the angle of your feet throughout the squat. Be careful not to let your knees twist or cave inwards, especially on heavier lifts.

Your heels should remain firmly planted on the floor, as letting your heels come up puts more strain on your knees.

If you find your heels coming off the floor, consider your stance. Your feet should be the same distance apart as your shoulders, with the toes turned out. Also, make sure you’re wearing shoes that maximize your stability.

During the “descent phase” of the barbell squat, keep your hips and knees in sync. They should both be going down simultaneously. If you bend one set of joints before the other, that set of joints becomes stressed.

Lastly, remember there are no prizes for speed in the barbell squat. Don’t drop down too quickly, as this can throw off your form and strain your stabilizer muscles — and don’t try to spring back up too quickly, either.

Smooth, controlled movement throughout the rep is what you’re going for.

Take On Your Fitness Challenges With Titan

The barbell squat truly lives up to its reputation as one of the most effective and efficient weight training exercises, and it deserves consideration as part of any workout routine.

If you want to start barbell squats or other weight training exercises in your home gym, Titan Fitness can help. With a full range of racks, weights, and other equipment, our gear provides the high quality you need without the high prices you definitely don’t.

Thanks for reading our breakdown of the barbell squat. Check on our blog regularly for more tips on achieving your fitness goals.