Whether you’re stepping into the world of strength training for the first time or you’re an experienced athlete, squats are a foundational movement that offers something for everyone. From building strong legs to improving core stability, squats work multiple muscle groups and offer multiple benefits depending on the type of squat performed. In this article, we’ll explore five different types of squats: front squats, back squats, goblet squats, heels elevated squats, and box squat, and explain what muscles they target and the demands they place on the body. We’ll also determine which ones are more suitable for beginners or advanced lifters. When in doubt, squat it out!

No need to waste time, you’ve come to this article to learn the difference between different types of squats and why you should be doing each and that is exactly what we are going to do! Below, you will find each type of squat, the muscle groups that that specific squat will target, and most importantly WHY you may want to add that squat into your routine. Let’s get into it!


Front Squats:

Main Muscles worked: Quads, glutes, upper back, and core.

Demands on the body: Front squats require a higher degree of mobility in the wrists and shoulders and put more emphasis on the quads. The barbell is placed across the front of the shoulders, requiring a strong upper back and core.


Speaking of squats that put increased demands on the quads, check out our YouTube video all about the mobility you need to conquer your first pistol squat! 


Why you should front squat: The barbell positioning in the front squat requires you to maintain an upright torso, engaging the muscles of the upper back and core. This can lead to improvements in posture and overall core stability, which are vital for other strength movements and daily activities. The upright position during a front squat may lead to reduced shear force on the lower back compared to the back squat. For individuals with lower back concerns or those looking to minimize stress in this area, the front squat can be a more suitable option. Front squats can aid in improving other strength movements, specifically the clean in Olympic weightlifting. The front squat replicates the catch phase of the clean, and practicing it can transfer to improved performance in this technical movement.

Suitability: Better suited for intermediate to advanced lifters due to the mobility and stability required.




squat warm up routine fundamental lower body exercises the prehab guys


Back Squats:

Main Muscles Worked: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and core.

Demands on the Body: Back squats are the classic squat form with the barbell placed across the upper traps. They require adequate hip and ankle mobility and engage the entire lower body.


Prehab Membership The Prehab Guys


Why you should back squat: It provides a comprehensive and time saving workout for the entire lower body. Back squats have a significant carryover to other strength exercises like deadlifts, power cleans, and lunges. The strength and mobility gained from back squats can lead to improvements in these and other compound movements. Back squats not only work the muscles but also place a healthy stress on the bones and joints. This can lead to increased bone density and promote joint health, which is beneficial for overall long-term well-being.

Suitability: Versatile enough for beginners to advanced lifters, with variations in stance and depth to match the individual’s skill level.


Goblet Squats

Muscles Worked: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, upper back, and core.

Demands on the Body: Goblet squats involve holding a kettlebell or dumbbell close to the chest. This variation teaches proper squat form and helps in maintaining an upright torso. It’s often used as a teaching tool for learning how to front squat.



fitness fundamentals common fitness training mistakes the prehab guys

Wanting to add these different types of squats into your fitness routine but aren’t quite sure where yo start? Look no further than our Fitness Fundamentals Program! This 4-week program is designed to make you feel not only confident in your squat mechanics but also help you to avoid those common fitness mistakes. Get started with a free 7-day trial! 


Why you should goblet squat: The goblet squat is simple and accessible, which makes it ideal for home workouts or crowded gym environments since it doesn’t require a barbell or squat rack. By holding the weight close to the chest, it helps maintain an upright torso, making it easier to learn the correct squatting technique. It’s often used as a teaching tool for those new to squatting. The goblet squat can be a beneficial exercise for developing ankle, hip, and thoracic mobility. The weight held at chest level acts as a counterbalance, allowing many individuals to achieve greater squat depth, thus improving mobility. Similar to front squats, goblet squats place less compressive stress on the spine due to the weight being held at chest level. This can be a gentle option for those with back concerns or those looking to minimize the risk of back strain.

Suitability: Excellent for beginners and those working on squat form.


Heels Elevated Squats

Muscles Worked: Quads, glutes, upper back, and core.

Demands on the Body: Elevating the heels shifts the focus more onto the quads and allows for greater depth. It can also ease the mobility requirements of the ankles.


Learn how using a heel lift may be beneficial for you in the early stages of squatting if lacking the necessary ankle mobility in this YouTube video! 


Why you should squat with heels elevated: By elevating the heels, the angle of the shin relative to the floor increases, shifting more emphasis onto the quadriceps. Heel elevation reduces the ankle mobility required to achieve deep squat positions. If you struggle with ankle flexibility or mobility restrictions, elevating the heels can allow you to reach greater squat depth, engaging the lower body muscles more effectively. Heel elevation can be done with a small wedge, weight plates, or specialized squat shoes. This makes it easy to integrate heel-raised squats into your strength training plan.

Suitability: Useful for those looking to target the quads specifically, from beginners to advanced lifters.


Box Squats

Muscles Worked: Glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and core.

Demands on the Body: Box squats involve squatting down to a box or bench, pausing, and then rising. This variation builds explosive power and emphasizes the posterior chain.



how deep to squat to prevent injury the prehab guys


Why you should box squat: Box squats shift the emphasis towards the muscles of the posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. This occurs because you must sit back further than in a regular squat, engaging these muscles to a higher degree. If you want to strengthen and develop the posterior chain, box squats can be a key exercise. The box provides a physical cue helping you learn to control and improve your form at the bottom of the squat. By pausing on the box, you can focus on maintaining tightness and proper alignment, which can translate to better control and strength in the bottom phase of a traditional squat. Pausing on the box also eliminates the stretch reflex which requires you to generate power from a dead stop. This can enhance explosive strength and is particularly useful for athletes and powerlifters looking to improve performance in this area.

Suitability: Great for powerlifters and those looking to build strength in the glutes and hamstrings. Suitable for intermediate to advanced lifters.



fitness fundamentals common fitness training mistakes the prehab guys


Different Types of Squats and Why to Do Each – Closing Thoughts

  • The front squat is a great option for those who want to build strength for other exercises like the clean.
  • The back squat provides a comprehensive and time saving workout for the entire lower body.
  • The goblet squat teaches proper squat form and helps in maintaining an upright torso.
  • Heels elevated squats shifts the focus more onto the quads and allows for greater mobility at the hips and ankles.
  • Box squats build explosive power and emphasizes the muscles of the posterior chain.



About The Author

Ryan Nosak, MS, CSCS, SCCC

[P]rehab Writer & Content Creator

ryan nosak the prehab guysRyan was born and raised in Throop, Pennsylvania and he has worked in the world of fitness since he was 15 years old. Ryan realized he had a deep affinity for strength training and how it can alter the human mind, body, and spirit. He began his coaching career in high school by coaching his friends through strength training sessions, which inspired him to pursue a career in strength and conditioning.

Ryan spent 10 years as a Division 1 strength and conditioning coach with stops along the way at Penn State, Tennessee State, Vanderbilt, Robert Morris, Charlotte, and DePaul. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and operates his own training practice, RyNo Strength, out of Studio DelCorpo in Chicago, IL. He specializes in fat loss, body composition, strength, and sports performance training programs.

Ryan received his Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology from Penn State and a Master’s in Sport Management from Western Carolina University. In his free time, Ryan enjoys training for bodybuilding, eating at amazing restaurants in Chicago, and spending time with his wife and dog.


Disclaimer – The content here is designed for information & education purposes only and is not intended for medical advice.

About the author : Ryan Nosak MS, CSCS, SCCC

Leave A Comment

Related posts


Select a Child Category

Latest Blogs