The squat, with its wide range of variations, is one of the most popular weightlifting exercises among people of any fitness level, and for good reason. It is accessible and convenient to do while offering tons of benefits, from getting your body in shape to improving your balance and posture. For these reasons, experts view squats as essential in one’s journey to fitness.
Known to primarily target the lower body, especially the quads, hamstrings, and glutes, another reason that squats are so popular is that they also involve the upper body muscles for support and stability, allowing you to get an entire body workout with just one exercise.
Because of this, some believe that squats are enough to work the abdominal muscles. But are these reasons really enough to say that squats are good for abs?
The quick and short answer is yes.
When performing squats, you engage your core muscles throughout the entire movement. This is important in order to maintain the correct form and keep you protected from unwanted injuries. This helps strengthen the muscles in your core, where the ab muscles are included.
Due to the intensity of this exercise, squats are also effective in burning fats all over the body, which is important when you are aiming for that flat, toned stomach.
Are Squats alone good for abs?
Knowing the benefits that squats can do for your body, there is no doubt that it is a fantastic exercise that is worth adding to any program or routine.
However, if your goal is to get a strong and toned mid-area, performing squats alone may not be enough to achieve full strength and definition in your abdominal muscles. This is because the core, including the abs, acts merely as a stabilizer when performing the squats, and is not directly trained with the exercise.
As with many bodybuilding programs, you need to incorporate multiple isolation and compound exercises into your routine in order to see better results. Abdominal muscle strength and function are improved when your squats are done in conjunction with other ab-intensive exercises, like ab crunches, planks, hanging knee raises, etc.
Additionally, the amount of work that your squats do on your abs would depend on the load or weight that you lift. The lighter the weights, the less the overload that your abs get. This means that for those who are just starting out or who cannot lift heavy weights, their abs may get minimal benefits from squatting. This is also why doing direct abs training where you load the abs directly will give you better results.
Best Squat Variations for Abs
While all squat variations will engage your core to some degree for stability and support, some will give your abs more work than others. Check out this list of squat variations that you can add to your routine to work not only your lower body but also your abs.
The benefits of Zercher squats include effectively targeting several muscle groups at once, including the core. Unlike the regular squat, it involves holding the bar in the crooks of your arm. This stance increases the engagement of your core throughout the movement, making them work harder as you keep your torso upright and stable.
Being heavily demanding of your core muscles, it is not uncommon for your core to feel as if you had done a full-blown ab workout the day after performing Zercher squats.
As the name implies, this is a squat done with a load or bar overhead. This squat variation is perfect for developing strength throughout your whole body but requires good upper and lower body mobility. The overhead squat allows your core to work hard in order to stabilize the load.
Single-arm Kettlebell Front Squat
This squat variation involves you holding a kettlebell on one side at a time as you squat. Generally, doing exercises unilaterally engages the core more as they require more work to keep the torso straight. With that, the single-arm kettlebell front squat is perfect for activating the core muscles. Not only is it effective, but it is also ideal for people who don't have access or time to go to the gym as it only requires a single kettlebell.
So, while squats are good for abs, they alone are not enough to grow and strengthen those muscles to their full potential. Maintain a balanced workout regimen by incorporating squats and abs-centric exercises into your routine and you'll surely be on your way to achieving the best results possible for your abs.
Also, check out this article on qym machines for squats for the best equipment that will help you get the most out of your squats!