If there is one king of all exercises, it may be the squat. The squat is the ultimate full-body exercise because not only does it work the muscle of the lower body, but it serves as a full-body workout. It requires more of an all-out effort than most other exercises and this is what provides many of the health benefits.
But is one other unexpected benefit the ability to work your abs and core muscles? This will be a look at why the squat is so beneficial and do squats work abs?
Why is the Squat So Great?
As mentioned, when you perform squats, you work your whole body. The effort required to do a squat requires almost every muscle body to work in conjunction. The balancing of the weight on your shoulders elevates your heart rate and creates a sympathetic nervous system response.
This is essentially your fight-or-flight response kicking and results in a dumping of hormones including testosterone and human growth hormone. This means your entire body is getting bigger and stronger by squatting. It may seem weird, but if you want a stronger and more developed upper body, you want to do squats. No other exercise can replicate this hormonal response and it’s a critical exercise in any strength training program.
This sympathetic response also helps with other health measures such as reducing hypertension and reducing resting blood pressure. This sympathetic response may even help in combating issues like diabetes.
Exercises like squats can also help you lose body fat as they are a tremendous calorie-burning activity. And, along with lower body strength and development, you may see improvements in your abs, too.
Do Squats Work Abs?
It may seem surprising, but the squat is one of the best exercises to strengthen the abs, lose weight, and achieve a flat and toned stomach. Due to the nature of squats, your core muscles are engaged throughout the entire movement. Just the act of standing with a weighted barbell on your back requires core engagement.
Your core is more than just your abs, they are muscles that surround your entire spinal column. Think of your core muscles like a weight belt. They help to support and stabilize your entire body. This is why it’s important to keep your abs engaged and contracted while squatting. Not only does this help you to safely execute the movement, but it also strengthens and develops your abs.
When you combine the calorie and fat burning aspect of squatting–plus the core and ab engagement–you get the perfect combination.
Here is a further look at how the squats work your abs, and a quick look at your muscle anatomy.
As mentioned, your core muscles are more than just 6-pack abs. You can see some of the other muscles that make it up. Simply put, your body could not be stablized without your core muscles.
What Core Muscles Are Activated During the Squat?
Rectus Abdominis: These are the most superficial of all the core muscles. The rectus abdominis are the ones you are referring to when mentioning a “6-pack.” These muscles are responsible for flexing your body forward.
Transversus Abdominis: These are also known as the deepest muscle of the abdomen. Your transversus abdominis helps to compress and stabilize your internal organs. Abs look good, but they are really there to serve a purpose: to protect our organs. These muscles not only protect your organs, but help to pull them back toward the spine to help you stay standing upright.
Obliques: Below your rectus abdominis, lie some of the other visible ab muscles. The obliques are responsible for lateral flexion and rotation. They help you to bend and twist which is critical in sports, but for everyday activities such as picking up a small child or moving boxes around.
Your core muscles aren’t just for looking good at the beach: they are critical in helping you sit, stand, and walk. They are also there for your posture and balance. Squats help to improve all of these things while building your abs at the same time.
How Does the Squat Compare to Other Ab Exercises?
Squats will activate your core muscles similarly to exercises like planks and crunches. But where crunches don’t burn many calories–or use many other muscles–squats burn a lot of calories and work a majority of the muscles in your body.
This means if you want to burn body fat and see your abs, you may be better off doing squats than sit-ups.
A study conducted by Roland van den Tillaar and Atle Hole Saeterbakken at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology compared the core muscle activation between a squat and plank.
The study concluded that the erector spinae and external oblique were activated the most when you performed a squat movement. The rectus abdominis, however, was activated slightly more during the plank. So, if you want a full ab workout, it looks like a good move to squat and finish your workout with a few planks.
If you’ve wondered, do squats work abs? You can now see that they do. This is because the squat engages your core muscles so deeply that they work the top and bottom half of your abs.
Not only do squats strengthen them, but they can burn calories and body fat at the same time. This makes squats one of the most effective exercises not only for strength, power, and lower body muscle but to make your abs more visible and defined.
Some exercises like planks and leg lifts may target other areas of your abdomen, but squats remain one of the best exercises for overall ab engagement and strengthening.
When you combine other compound movements such as deadlifts, lunges, and rowing exercises with ab workouts, you get the ideal formula to develop and strengthen your abs. Direct ab training still has a place as improved abominable strength will help improve your form, stability, and power when squatting or deadlifting.