So, do squats work abs? Yes and no!
Many compound exercises require a strong core to lift heavier amounts of weight safely. Squats are certainly included in this group.
While you squat, your abs work because they are activated during the movement. However, squats should not be solely relied on to build your abdominals.
Eating in a caloric deficit helps burn the fat stored on your midsection. Add in a regular ab exercise routine, and you can get that six-pack.
The secret is that you have to be consistent.
Keep reading to learn about why many people ask, “Do squats work abs?” and why this is only partially true!
Do squats work your abs?
Performing squats can result in a stronger, more stable core.
However, squats do not contribute to the thickening or improved appearance of the abdominals. Rather, they contribute to enhanced performance with other general movements.
In fact, a 2018 study found that squats did more than planks to activate the muscles that support the torso, specifically the back.
For example, when you bend your knees while carrying a load, your abdominals will contract so the spine is protected and stabilized.
Doing squats can make your midsection sturdy and reliable when you have to squat in everyday life or perform other functional movements.
What abdominal and core muscles do squats work?
The four muscles that make up your abdominals are the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, external obliques, and internal obliques.
A group of muscles called the erector spinae doesn’t necessarily fall into the abdominal muscles group, but it does play a role considering its physical location.
The erector spinae is made up of three different long muscles that attach to the spine and are responsible for keeping it stable as the body moves.
Coming back to this 2018 study, there’s a good amount of activation in the erector spinae when you squat as compared to the four abdominal muscles we mentioned earlier.
So, the rectus abdominis is certainly activated to a certain extent to help with keeping the body upright for the duration of the movement. But it’s the erector spinae that squats really “work.”
Do squats burn fat in your abs?
Related: Should You Do Cardio On Leg Day?
Squats do have the potential to burn fat off your abdominals.
When you squat, especially if you are using heavy weights or doing a large number of reps, you will be sweating and breathing hard. Therefore, you’re burning fat.
However, you do not have control over where the fat will be burning on your body. This component is determined by genetics.
For example, some people initially burn fat off their abs, while that is the last place for fat to go for others.
So, in conclusion, squats should not be used for the purpose of burning abdominal fat, but it is possible that is happening as you squat.
Which one is better: sit-ups or squats?
Related: How Much Should I Be Able To Squat?
If you’re focusing on building your abdominals, then the sit-up is the preferable exercise.
Sit-ups primarily target the ab muscles and can be an effective exercise when done correctly. That means you shouldn’t be straining the back or neck.
Still, if you’re looking for a full-body exercise that’s great for building the lower body and activating the core, then squats are amazing!
Because this is a functional exercise, it is ideal that you perform a version of the squat motion at least once a week in your workout routine.
What are the best types of exercises to strengthen abs and core for better squatting?
Related: Weighted Ab Workouts
Using squats to build abs isn’t enough. Now we know that a good, effective squat is optimized by a stronger core. Here’s exactly how you get it.
Crunches are a classic. They help you avoid the possible pain that can come with sit-ups.
This exercise is great for working the upper abdominals! Make this one an essential in your weekly workouts.
How-To Perform Crunches
- Start by lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor.
- Place your hands behind your neck so that they support your neck but don’t carry too much weight.
- Tense up your abdominals and bring your head and upper back off the floor.
- Pause at the top of this movement before coming back to the ground.
- Improves posture
- Works the rectus abdominis
- Promotes strength in functional movements
- Focus on keeping your chin up toward the sky rather than tucking it into your chest to protect your neck.
- If you want to make this exercise more challenging, lift your feet off the ground for the duration of the movement so your lower abdominals get worked as well.
2. Hanging Leg Raises
Want to work on your grip, stabilization, and abdominal muscles all at once?
Try these hanging leg raises on the next day you want to target your lower abs!
How-To Perform Hanging Leg Raises
- Grab onto a horizontal bar so your feet cannot touch the ground and your body is lengthened.
- Pressing your legs and feet together, slowly bring them up until they are parallel to the floor.
- Pause here, then slowly bring them back down to the starting position before repeating.
- Builds the rectus abdominis
- Improves grip strength
- Strengthens stabilization of the body
- Do this exercise slowly to prevent your body from swinging.
- If lifting your legs straight out is too difficult, try bending your legs and doing knee raises instead.
3. Russian Twists
Russian twists are great for working your obliques, and they can be done with or without weights.
Use these in a superset on an upper-body day!
How-To Perform Russian Twists
- Take a seat on the ground with your knees bent and feet resting on the floor.
- Keeping your back straight and chest up, lean back slightly so you start to feel resistance in your abdominals.
- Clasp your hands together, keep your gaze forward, and bring them down to the ground on one side.
- Bring them to the other side, and keep repeating.
- Works the obliques
- Stabilizes the overall core
- Helps with posture
- If you want to make this exercise more difficult, bring your feet off the ground so your abs also have to help with balance.
- Hold a dumbbell or plate if you want to utilize progressive overload with Russian twists.
The plank is another classic ab movement that many people seem to have a love-hate relationship with.
Even if you’re someone who avoids planks at all costs, it cannot be denied that they are great for working the entire body and developing a strong core.
How-To Perform Plank
- Start on your hands and knees with your gaze on the floor in front of you.
- Extend your legs out so your body forms a straight line.
- Hold this pose for the predetermined amount of time.
- Works all four abdominal muscles
- Improves posture
- Challenges many muscles throughout the body
- If you would like a variation, try doing this exercise on your elbows instead of your hands.
- Focus on not letting your hips rise or dip too much to avoid putting too much strain on the lower back.
5. Lying Side Hip Raises
If you need an exercise to work your obliques, try lying side hip raises! This exercise is an easier version of a side plank that helps improve muscle endurance and more.
How-To Perform Lying Side Hip Raises
- Lay on your side with your feet stacked.
- Have your elbow directly under your shoulder and that palm flat on the floor.
- Place your other hand on your hip and raise your hips off the floor.
- Slowly lower them back down and repeat.
- Builds the obliques
- Stabilizes the body
- Helps with muscle endurance
- If it’s too difficult to be on your feet, you can start on your knees.
- You can also place the hand on your hip on the ground if you struggle with balance.
Why Exercising Abs Improves Overall Weight Lifting Movements
Having a strong core is very important for the physical motions you go through in everyday life, but it’s especially vital for getting through your weight training workouts safely.
If you have weak abdominals, you can be very limited with both range of motion and how much weight you are able to lift and carry.
If you overestimate your abilities, you put yourself at great risk for lower back injuries.
Frequently asked questions
Related: Why Are My Legs So Skinny?
Do squats help abs?
Many people believe that they can use squats for abs, but the compound works more as a core stabilizer than a strengthener.
This supports your overall fitness efforts and injury prevention. However, it’s not the way to get a ripped midsection.
Can I get abs by doing squats?
Unfortunately, using only squats to build abs isn’t the best tactic for really developing your abdominals.
Instead, keep doing squats for the many other benefits it brings. Also, do exercises like crunches and lying side hip raises during your abs and squat workout.
Will squats burn belly fat?
Squats alone can help you burn fat if you’re eating in a caloric deficit and lifting enough weight or doing a proper amount of volume.
However, belly fat cannot be targeted, so it’s up to your genetics where the fat on your body burns first and last.
In summary, squats could help you burn belly fat, but it’s not the only method you should use to do so.
If you originally wondered, “Do squats work abs?”, you now have a bit of insight on how they do – partially.
We hope that you enjoyed this little deep dive on squats and abs! Overall, the squat is a very beneficial exercise that truly challenges the lower body while stabilizing the core.
If you want toned, visible abs, eat in a caloric deficit, perform the suggested abdominal exercises every week, and keep doing those squats!
Leave a comment below letting us know what your favorite abdominal exercise is. And don’t forget to share this article with anyone else you have heard ask, “Do squats work abs?”