Once you learn how to do them correctly, squats are an easy exercise to tone and strengthen leg muscles. If you are new to exercise, you may wonder if leg squats are good enough. Can you strengthen your legs by focusing on squats, or should you also learn other routines?
No, it’s not a good idea, you should do more than just squats to strengthen your leg muscles. Even though traditional squats have several variations, you should include various exercises in your workout regimen, too, such as lunges. You can also walk, jog, and jump to tone your legs.
If you want to know more about squats, how to do them correctly, and why you should do other exercises to build up leg muscles, then you have come to the right place.
Are Squats Enough For Leg Day?
Absolutely not, here’s why:
Squats are great to build bigger legs, burn fat, and muscle gain in general, however, this movement by itself does not allow you to increase strength over time, as a consequence if you are not building strength you never are going to see gains (I mean muscle gains) you need to target other muscle groups that squats are not capable of.
The reason why you should target other leg muscles to complete not just squats but leg workout is simply that these small muscles function as stabilizers, supporting joints, bones, and core, and by the way, having a strong core can also help to perform squats correctly. Here you can take a look at 20 Core exercises recommended by Fitness Specialists.
What Muscles Do Squats Work?
Squats are exercises that target numerous areas of the legs:
- the quadriceps (the front of the thigh)
- hamstrings (back of the thigh)
- and hamstrings
But squats also strengthen other muscle groups:
- the buttock muscles (gluteus maximus, minimus, and medius)
- hip flexors
- core muscles (including abdominal and back)
In addition, some squat variations target shoulder, arm, and chest muscles.
Since squats work that many muscles, no wonder that people believe that squats are the only leg exercise they need.
How To Do a Squat Correctly
Before beginning a basic squat, keep in mind that your whole body engages in this exercise. You will focus on your core, keep your back straight without overextending and exhale at the correct time. Here are the steps:
- Start by standing with toes pointed outward slightly, feet slightly wider than hips.
- Use your core to stabilize yourself.
- Thrust your chest upward and push your hips behind you as you squat.
- Continue to lower yourself until either your knees are parallel to the floor or they begin to hurt.
- As you do so, keep your feet flat, knees over your middle toes, and your chest lifted.
- Exhale as you lift yourself to a standing position. Keep your buttocks tight and push down into the heels as you lift yourself.
Build up your leg muscles until you can do 12-15 reps.
How Many Squats Should You Do On Leg Day?
This is my best Advice:
|Beginner – 3 months plan||Barbell Squats||4×12||20 lbs||1 week – twice a week|
|Barbell Squats||4×12||20 lbs||2 week – twice a week|
|Barbell Squats||4×12||20 lbs||3 week – twice a week|
|Barbell Squats||4×15||20 lbs||4 week – twice a week|
|Barbell Squats||4×15||20 lbs||5 week – twice a week|
|Barbell Squats||4×15||20 lbs||6 week – twice a week|
|Barbell Squats||4×20||20 lbs||7 week – twice a week|
|Barbell Squats||4×20||20 lbs||8 week – twice a week|
|Barbell Squats||4×20||20 lbs||9 week – twice a week|
|Barbell Squats||4×12||40 lbs||10 week – twice a week|
|Barbell Squats||4×12||40 lbs||11 week – twice a week|
|Barbell Squats||4×12||40 lbs||12 week – twice a week|
|Intermediate- 3 months plan||Barbell Squats||4×12||50 lbs||1 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×12||50 lbs||2 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×12||50 lbs||3 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×15||50 lbs||4 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×15||50 lbs||5 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×15||50 lbs||6 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×12||70 lbs||7 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×12||70 lbs||8 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×12||70 lbs||9 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4x 8-10||90 lbs||10 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4x 8-10||90 lbs||11 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4x 8-10||90 lbs||12 week – twice a week|
|Advanced- 3 months plan||Barbell Squats||4×12||90 lbs||1 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×12||90 lbs||2 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×12||90 lbs||3 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×15||90 lbs||4 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×15||90 lbs||5 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×15||90 lbs||6 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4x 8-10||120 lbs||7 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4x 8-10||120 lbs||8 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4x 8-10||120 lbs||9 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×12||120 lbs||10 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×12||120 lbs||11 week – twice a week|
|||Barbell Squats||4×12||120 lbs||12 week – twice a week|
Notice: follow this pattern I guarantee you will succeed. Every time you want to increase weight, lower the reps in order to build endurance, and over time building strength, focus on resistance to build strength, by building strength you are going to be able to build muscle, which is a very low process, but it works every time.
Why You Should Also Do Other Leg Exercises
You should vary leg exercises for the same reason you should not have one exercise routine. The following will happen if you don’t mix up your routines:
- The lack of variety will bore you. If you only do squats to work out your legs, eventually, you will get bored of them, leaving you feeling less motivated the next time you want to exercise your legs.
- Your body will adapt to the exercise, and you will plateau. You might not see the plateau right away because beginners often see gains until their bodies adapt. However, plateauing will be frustrating and make it easy to quit your leg exercises.
- The risk of injury in other parts of your body will rise due to muscle imbalance.
If your goal is spot reduction, a single exercise won’t accomplish it, so you should do more than just squats to tone your legs.
Adding other leg exercises to your workout can also benefit you if you’re a woman. Your hormones will benefit from changing workout routines that track your monthly cycles.
As Chris McGrath writes in Ace Healthy Living, “You can try to cook a turkey with a candle, or you could use the oven. Prioritizing the smaller muscles without addressing the bigger ones is a pennywise and pound-foolish way to train.”
What To Do if Your Knees Hurt While Doing Squats
Your knees could hurt if you squat incorrectly and put pressure on them when your goal is to strengthen your glutes. However, if you use proper form and your knees still hurt, you could have knee problems that should be treated by a physician, physical therapist, or trainer.
Below are several reasons your knees hurt while doing squats:
- Knee sprain. This condition can make it difficult to walk or put weight on the knee. Use the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) to help the sprain heal.
- Runner’s knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome. It can also cause knee pain. This syndrome can affect people who do frequent running, jumping, or similar sports. RICE is also used to treat runner’s knees.
- Excessive repetitive motion. This can cause tendonitis of the knee, causing swelling around the knees and pain when squatting. Treatment will include rest, ice and heat treatment, and over-the-counter painkillers.
- Pain and swelling around the knee. This can be caused by knee osteoarthritis. Seek out medical attention if you suspect this might be the case.
Preventing an injury is better than dealing with one, so warm up properly before doing squats. Leg stretches, walking—anything that increases blood and oxygen flow to the muscles.
One way to provide additional variety to your squats is to learn and practice squat variations. Here are a few to try out:
- Jump Squats. A jump squat is basically a regular squat with a jump added at the end. After you complete the first five steps, jump up. Don’t overdo it—the goal is to have a soft landing and transition to another squat. Do 10-12 reps.
- Sumo Squats. You work your inner thighs and glutes in these squats. Start with your toes pointing out and your feet past your shoulders. Next, bend your knees and squat. As with basic squats, do not hyperextend your knees. Again, 10-12 reps, or as many as you can do in a minute.
- Overhead Squats. You need a dumbbell or medicine ball for overhead squats (although any ball that weighs three to four pounds will do). Overhead squats also strengthen your upper back, shoulder, and arm muscles. The exercise is essentially the same as a regular squat, but pay attention to your form, especially when you come up.
- Back Squats. Back squats require that you have access to a barbell on a rack. Since it is easy to hurt yourself when using the barbell, practice back squats at the gym or with friends who can be spotters until you get the hang of them.
Other Exercises That Help Strengthen Leg Muscles
No shortage of exercises will give you stronger leg muscles. Lunges, step-ups, and the calf raise are a few of the best ones. Keep reading as I teach you how to do these exercises effectively.
Sometimes called walking lunges or split squats, these exercises work on your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
Follow these steps:
- Spread your feet about three feet apart, with your toes facing forward.
- Lower your back leg until it is an inch off the ground.
- Use your quadriceps to bring the leg back up.
Beginners often lean forward too much, so trainers will remind them to have a “proud chest.”
All you need for this exercise is a box, step, or ledge that is 6-12 inches tall. Step-ups are simple. Follow these steps:
- Place a foot on the step and keep your back straight and shoulders back as you step up.
- Repeat step 1 but this time with the other leg.
- Do six reps for each leg, rest 60 seconds, and do another 6 reps.
Not only does exercise strengthen your leg muscles, but it also improves your balance.
This variation of step-ups isolates the muscles in your calves. Follow the steps below:
- Start on the ledge, with your toes on the step’s edge, and lift your heels.
- Hold the pose until you feel the stretch.
- Do 15 to 20 reps.
Everyday Activities That Target Leg Muscles
One way to add variety to exercising leg muscles is through everyday activities. Sometimes you just want to do something different or cannot get to the gym. Several everyday activities good for your leg muscles are:
- Walking. It is excellent for toning your legs, especially power walking. It’s good overall exercise, has a positive effect on your cardiovascular health, and is a low-impact activity.
- Indoor cycling. This low-impact exercise strengthens leg muscles and increases cardiovascular. There is no need to buy an expensive bike either—an inexpensive one provides the same benefits without the extra cost.
- Dancing. Look for organized dancing opportunities near you that will give you an aerobic workout, like salsa, country line, or aerobic dance.
- Roping. If you haven’t tried jump roping lately, give it a try if it’s safe to do so. Start off on a soft spot to prevent injury if you fall or trip.
Although squats are an excellent exercise to strengthen and tone your legs, relying solely on them will lead to muscle plateau, and the lack of variety can lead to boredom. Ideally, you should build your routine around a variety of exercises. Also, you will benefit from staying hydrated while you exercise, getting adequate sleep, and eating a well-balanced diet.