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 elevate the load.

Is that this true, although?

Some argue that, regardless of how laborious 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 in opposition to 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 bunch of three muscle mass 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 hamstringsdo 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 answerable for knee flexion (bending your knees) and hip extension (shifting your torso away out of your thighs).

Do Squats Exercise Your Hamstrings?

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

Nevertheless, analysis reveals they’re most likely not as efficient at coaching the hamstrings as many weightlifters consider. 

Hamstring Activation within the Squat

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

  • 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, provided that the opposite workout routines are particular hamstring workout routines. Nevertheless, in accordance with these outcomes, squats most likely don’t activate the hamstrings sufficient to spur progress:

does squatting work hamstringsdoes squatting work hamstrings



Equally, a examine carried out 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 skilled the quads and glutes. 

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

does squats work hamstringsdoes squats work hamstrings



A typical counter to this proof is that whereas “shallow” squats won’t sufficiently prepare your hamstrings, deep, full-range-of-motion squats (the place you decrease your physique till your hips joints are under 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 doable that hamstring exercise is low within the squat, however that doesn’t imply you gained’t develop massive, robust hamstrings from squatting.

Luckily, we are able to use analysis to research this declare as nicely . . .

Do Your Hamstring Muscular tissues Develop From Squats?

In a examine printed 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 vital progress within the quads, glutes, and hip adductors (the muscle mass on the within of your thighs that carry your legs collectively), however had minimal influence on the hamstrings.

Right here’s a graph for instance:

do squats workout hamstringsdo squats workout hamstrings


In one other examine printed 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 hamstringsdo 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 progress.

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The Hamstrings’ Function within the Squat

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

They assume that if they’ll higher leverage their hamstrings whereas squatting, they’ll have the ability to elevate extra weight.

Whereas that is cheap 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 lengthen 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 immediately oppose the quads, which have already got their work minimize out straightening your knees.

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

Your physique does this as a result of these muscle mass work to straighten your knee and push your hips ahead with out inhibiting your capability to face up (not like the hamstrings).

Methods to Practice Your Hamstring Optimally

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

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

And if you need a coaching program that features workout routines like these, try Mike’s health books for women and men, Larger Leaner Stronger or Thinner Leaner Stronger.

(Or in the event you aren’t positive if Larger Leaner Stronger or Thinner Leaner Stronger is best for you or if one other energy coaching program may be a greater match in your circumstances and targets, take Legion Energy Coaching Quiz, and in lower than a minute, you’ll know the right energy 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 total physique, particularly your quads and glutes. 

Nonetheless, squats aren’t one of the best train for coaching your hamstrings.

Due to this fact, together with hamstring workout routines in your coaching is important for avoiding lower-body energy and dimension imbalances. Some good choices are deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, leg curls, Nordic hamstring curls, and good mornings.

+ Scientific References