The squat is one of the most effective exercises, working nearly all of the muscles in your lower body at the same time. To perform this compound exercise, you rely on your own bodyweight to squat down and then push up off your heels to return to a standing position. This classic exercise is one of the most integral to include for any lower body or full-body workout plan, and it helps build strength in several muscle groups in particular.
The Quad Squad
The quadriceps muscles sit at the front of your upper leg and include the rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis and vastus medialis muscles. One of the strongest groups of muscles in the entire body, their primary purpose is to work in concert with other muscle groups such as the hamstrings, to allow for the flexion of the knee.
Gluteus to the Maximus
The gluteus maximus is one of three gluteal muscles, the other two being the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles. The gluteus maximus muscle is not only the largest muscle in the buttocks -- the outermost muscle in the butt -- but is, in fact, the largest muscle in the body. Because it is the largest muscle in the body, it can be the most difficult area in which to gain muscle. The split squat is one of the most effective exercises for toning the glutes.
The split squat works the gastrocnemius muscle in the calves as well as the smaller soleus muscle. Squats help you build strength and power in your calves, particularly during the upward-movement phase of the exercise, when you're pushing yourself up off your heels, using the strength in your legs to push yourself back up to a standing position.
Working the Hams
The hamstrings are one of the largest muscle groups in the body, located at the back of your upper legs. Three muscles make up the hamstrings muscle group: biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus. The hamstrings work to bend the knee and are also involved in the extension of the hip. The hamstrings are one of the primary muscle groups targeted during the split squat exercise.
Make the Most of Your Squats
To add resistance to the exercise and maximize the benefits of the exercise as a result, use dumbbells or a barbell. Use a weight you can manage without straining so you're not putting too much stress on your muscles. Only increase the weight by a 5- to 10-percent increment when you can complete a full set of 12 reps without impairing your form. When squatting, don't arch your back and keep your knees aligned with your toes during the movement to maintain proper form.