How squats can work your upper body

Workouts of the squat is a dreaded exercise shun by many wimps. In line with the motto ‘no pain no gain’, because the squat is such a demanding exercise, it is also an excellent all-round one for the legs, arguably the best overall leg exercise. However, its benefits are not restricted to the lower body as well. Find out how the squat targets the upper body too.

Some physics

The squat can be regarded as whole-body workouts to build muscle. This is due to the fact that the bar is positioned on top of the shoulders while the power comes further down from the legs. This force must go through the upper body to the barbell in order to raise it. This means the upper body must be able to withstand this force and transmit it in order to push up a 100 kg barbell or more. Imagine if your torso was weak like a pencil. There is only so much weight you can push with a pencil before it breaks. This leads us to core muscle strength.

Core muscle workout

In order for the upper body to enable this power transfer, it must be rigid. The core muscles made up of workout of the lower back, the abs and the oblique also get a good workout in the process. It is well-known that the squat places a great deal of stress on the lower back but did you know that it works the abs workout too? Many beginners, after a heavy session of squats, feel sore in their abs the following days. If your upper body is not rigid, then you will be less efficient in your squat. Imagine trying to push a heavy rock with a supple branch; it will just bend and the rock will not move. Replace the supple branch with a thicker and rigid one and the rock moves. The same applies to the human body where the torso is the branch, thin or thick, the barbell is the rock and the legs are the hand that pushes the branch.


With the bar positioned at the top of the body, the latter must be able to balance itself throughout the squatting workout motion. This is no mean feat with a heavily-loaded barbell. Now as you can see, there are two consequences to placing the bar on top of the shoulders: keeping the body in equilibrium and transferring power to the bar. Squats With dumbbells in your hands workouts instead of a bar on your shoulders are much easier because your center of gravity is much lower and therefore much more table.

The further up the weight, the higher your center of gravity and the heavier the weight, the harder you will have to work to maintain your balance. The barbell squat workout achieves both of these: higher center of gravity and heavy weight. This instability further develops your core muscles by the way.

To better grasp how the squat works the whole body, compare it with the leg press. Both allow extremely heavyweights workout to be used, both are compound moves yet the leg press does not work the upper body as the squat. With the leg press workout, the weight is positioned at the end of the feet and it is the back which is pressed against the back rest for leverage. Furthermore, the body is seated and does not need to keep itself balanced. If you do include the leg press in your workout, you may also consider doing the squat as well to target muscles in a slightly different fashion.

So yes, the squat indeed deserves its dreaded reputation because it taxes the body so much. But equally, it deserves to be the best leg exercise and as we discussed here, even workout to work your upper body too.So let the wimps shun it while you go ahead and make fantastic gains while squatting.

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