For a lot of weightlifters, squats are the last word lower-body train.  

Throughout a set of heavy squats, it feels as if each muscle in your legs has to work in live performance to raise the load.

Is that this true, although?

Some argue that, regardless of how arduous squats appear, the train primarily trains the quads and glutes however does little for the hamstrings.

Moreover, they declare that permitting your hamstrings to contribute to the squat makes the train tougher. This, they are saying, is as a result of your hamstrings work towards your quads, stopping you from straightening your knees.

Does squatting work your hamstrings?

Or does utilizing your hamstrings hinder squats?

Get evidence-based solutions on this article.

Hamstring Anatomy

The hamstrings are a gaggle of three muscle groups on the again of your thigh: The semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris. Right here’s how they give the impression of being:

do squats work hamstrings


They’re biarticular, which implies they cross two joints: The knee and hip. As such, the hamstrings contribute to motion at each the knees and hips.

Particularly, they’re liable for knee flexion (bending your knees) and hip extension (transferring your torso away out of your thighs).

Do Squats Exercise Your Hamstrings?

Many dub the squat the “king of workouts” as a result of no different train concurrently trains as many muscle teams throughout your whole physique.

Nonetheless, analysis exhibits they’re in all probability not as efficient at coaching the hamstrings as many weightlifters consider. 

Hamstring Activation within the Squat

In a examine revealed within the Worldwide Journal of Sports activities Physiology and Efficiency, scientists measured leg muscle exercise whereas athletes carried out the next workouts:

  • Barbell again squat
  • Stiff-legged deadlift
  • Good morning
  • Seated leg curl
  • Nordic hamstring curl

The outcomes confirmed that the hamstrings have been least activated within the squat. This isn’t too stunning, on condition that the opposite workouts are particular hamstring workouts. Nonetheless, in keeping with these outcomes, squats in all probability don’t activate the hamstrings sufficient to spur development:

does squatting work hamstrings



Equally, a examine performed by scientists at Auckland College of Know-how discovered that again and entrance squats elicited little hamstrings activation, particularly in comparison with how a lot they educated the quads and glutes. 

Notice the distinction between biceps femoris (a hamstring muscle) and vastus lateralis (a quad muscle) activation on this desk from the examine:

does squats work hamstrings



A standard counter to this proof is that whereas “shallow” squats may not sufficiently practice your hamstrings, deep, full-range-of-motion squats (the place you decrease your physique till your hips joints are beneath your knee joints) do.

Though some proof suggests this can be true, different research (together with the examine from the Auckland College of Know-how above) present deep squats nonetheless aren’t sufficient to coach your hamstrings successfully. 

One other rejoinder is that muscle activation information solely paints a partial image. That’s, it’s potential that hamstring exercise is low within the squat, however that doesn’t imply you received’t develop large, sturdy hamstrings from squatting.

Happily, we will use analysis to research this declare as properly . . .

Do Your Hamstring Muscle tissue Develop From Squats?

In a examine revealed within the European Journal of Utilized Physiology, weightlifters did 3 units of 8 reps of squats twice weekly for 10 weeks, progressively including weight as they grew stronger. 

The researchers used MRI to measure muscle quantity in the beginning and finish of the squat coaching program and located that squats prompted important development within the quads, glutes, and hip adductors (the muscle groups on the within of your thighs that deliver your legs collectively), however had minimal affect on the hamstrings.

Right here’s a graph as an example:

do squats workout hamstrings


In one other examine revealed in the identical journal, researchers at Copenhagen College Hospital discovered that weightlifters following a 12-week squat coaching program noticed a ~4-to-7%-increase in quad dimension however solely a ~1-to-3%-increase in hamstring dimension:

do squats work hamstrings


In different phrases, squats are a superb train for constructing beefy quads, glutes, and hip adductors, however they contribute minimally to hamstring development.

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The Hamstrings’ Function within the Squat

Many weightlifters consider that the hamstrings’ piddling contribution to the squat is a nasty factor. 

They suppose that if they’ll higher leverage their hamstrings whereas squatting, they’ll be capable to raise extra weight.

Whereas that is affordable logic, it’s truly incorrect.

As we’ve already seen, the hamstrings cross your hip and knee joints and work to flex your knees and prolong your hips. Thus, contracting the hamstrings pushes your hips ahead within the squat (yay!) and bends your knees (boo!). 

In different phrases, closely involving your hamstrings within the squat makes squatting tougher as a result of they instantly oppose the quads, which have already got their work minimize out straightening your knees.

To stop your muscle groups from “preventing” towards one another, your physique preferentially recruits monoarticular muscle groups (people who solely cross a single joint), such because the vasti muscle groups of the quads and the glutes. 

Your physique does this as a result of these muscle groups work to straighten your knee and push your hips ahead with out inhibiting your means to face up (in contrast to the hamstrings).

The best way to Practice Your Hamstring Optimally

Squatting might not be sufficient to coach your hamstrings, however the next workouts are perfect for gaining hamstring power and dimension:

  • Deadlift
  • Romanian Deadlift
  • Leg Curl
  • Nordic Hamstring Curl
  • Good Morning

And if you need a coaching program that features workouts like these, take a look at Mike’s health books for women and men, Greater Leaner Stronger or Thinner Leaner Stronger.

(Or in case you aren’t certain if Greater Leaner Stronger or Thinner Leaner Stronger is best for you or if one other power coaching program is perhaps a greater match to your circumstances and targets, take Legion Power Coaching Quiz, and in lower than a minute, you’ll know the right power coaching program for you. Click on right here to test it out.)


Squats stay a top-tier train for coaching a number of main muscle teams throughout your whole physique, particularly your quads and glutes. 

However, squats aren’t the most effective train for coaching your hamstrings.

Subsequently, together with hamstring workouts in your coaching is crucial for avoiding lower-body power and dimension imbalances. Some good choices are deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, leg curls, Nordic hamstring curls, and good mornings.

+ Scientific References