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For ages, fitness buffs have included squats in their workout routine. Why squats? This high-intensity workout will help you tone your calves, hamstrings, and quads. Plus, it’s one of those exercises you can do with or without equipment.
How many calories do squats burn? The number of calories burned is determined by the duration of the exercise and your body weight. Using the MET (metabolic equivalent) value, we are then able to calculate the number of calories burned. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, a 5-minute squats session will see you burn around 57 calories.
In this article, you’ll learn how to calculate the calories burned, how to perform squats, which muscles are targeted in squats, and so much more. So, let’s get started.
Table of Contents
How Many Calories Do Squats Burn? Complete Guide to Squatting
Calculating Calories Burned Doing squats
First, you need to get a good understanding about Metabolic Equivalent values.
A low-intensity workout refers to an exercise you do while performing other tasks such as reading, watching a movie, or conversing. This activity has a value of 3.5 in the MET table.
High-intensity workouts are vigorous and have a MET value of 8.0. You’ll be out of breath during this routine.
So, according to the Metabolic Equivalent table, low-intensity squats are a 3.5 while high-intensity squats are 8.0.
Please take note that the MET table calculates in kilograms (kg). To convert your weight from pounds to kg, just divide your weight by 2.2, thus, to convert 180 pounds to kg:
- 180/2.2 = 82 kg
To calculate the number of calories burned doing squats, take the MET value corresponding to the intensity of your squats, multiply by your body weight, multiply by 0.0175, and then multiple the number of minutes you performed the squats.
- MET x Bodyweight (Kgs) x 0.0175 x Time (minutes) = Calories burned
Note that the MET value in these calculations will vary from 3.5 to 8.0 depending on the intensity of the squats variations.
So from our above example, we first convert the 180-lb weight to kg:
- 180/2.2 = 82
Calories Burned in a Low-Intensity Workout, sample calculation
Using the above formula, let’s calculate the calories burned per minute:
- 82 x 3.5 x 0.0175 = 5 calories per minute
By multiplying this figure by the time or duration of your workout, you’ll get the total calories burned for low-intensity squats per session:
- 5 minutes: 5 x 5 = 25 calories
- 10 minutes: 5 x 10 = 50 calories
- 30 minutes: 30 x 5 = 150 calories
Calories Burned in a High-Intensity Workout, sample calculation
For high-intensity squats, the calories burned per minute is:
- 82 x 8 x 0.0175 = 12 calories per minute
Total calories burned per session:
- 5 minutes: 12 x 5 = 60 calories
- 10 minutes: 12 x 10 = 120 calories
- 30 minutes: 12 x 30 = 360 calories
Using the above method, we’ve made a table for the calories burned by someone who weighs 220 lbs (100 kg), working out at different intensities and different durations:
|Low intensity||High intensity|
|1 minute||6 calories||14 calories|
|5 minutes||31 calories||70 calories|
|30 minutes||180 calories||420 calories|
Note: These figures may have slight variations from one squat type to another because squats are an exercise that probably has the highest number of variations, and each variation introduces a difference in difficulty level and adds more challenge to your workout.
Calories Burned per Squat
What about the number of calories you burn per squat, not per minute as we’ve shown in the examples above?
An average person doing 25 squats per minute can burn 8 calories within that duration, meaning each squat burns 0.32 calories (8 / 25 = 0.32).
It doesn’t mean that all of us will burn 0.32 calories per squat that we do. What it means instead is that, we’ll burn roughly that depending on how we deviate from the ‘average’ person.
So, what determines how many calories you burn?
Factors Affecting Calories Burned in Squats
Several factors determine this. The basic questions to answer are: How old are you? What’s your gender, body weight, height, and fitness level? Which variety of squats are you performing, and for how long? Only then can you determine the calories burned per squat.
What Makes The Difference?
How many calories do squats burn? We all burn different amounts of calories when we perform squats. While you can burn 57 calories, another person may burn up to 130 calories performing the same exercise. Let us look at the determinants of this difference.
1. Age: How old are you?
Your age makes a huge difference as to how many calories you will burn performing squats. The older you are, the less calories you burn doing squats. As you grow old, your body will have more fats than muscles, which results in your body burning calories at a lower rate than when you were younger.
2. Gender: Are you male or female?
The female body stores more fats than males, which again translates to less calories burned doing squats than men do.
3. Intensity: Can you talk while doing squats?
How do you know that you are performing squats intensively? Simple, if you can still talk and sustain a conversation while performing squats, you’re doing a low-intensity workout. A high-intensity squat workout usually involves using equipment such as sissy squat benches, barbells and more.
Another way to increase intensity is by increasing the time you perform squats. You will burn more calories exercising for 15 minutes than when you do it for 5 minutes.
4. Weight: How many pounds do you weigh?
Heavier people will crush more calories doing squats than lighter people because they tend to lift more weight and subject the body to more intense workouts. Even when performing bodyweight squats, their weight will pose more resistance than small bodies and lighter people.
How to Perform Squats
You can do squats either with bodyweight or with different types of equipment. Most squats variations involving weights and machines turn out to be very intensive. An excellent example of this is the barbell squats. This is arguably the most intense of them all.
On the other hand, performing squats without extra weights or machines makes it far less intensive. Equipment-free squats are variations in which your weight acts as resistance.
How to Do Low-Intensity Squats
Simple Body Weight Squats
Step 1: Proper Stance
Get in an erect standing position with your legs shoulder-width apart and your feet pointing between 100 – 300 outwards.
The exact angle depends on your comfort when moving. They should not look directly in front. This will make it difficult to balance during the exercise.
Step 2: Stabilize
Dial your feet onto the floor to find the best position that establishes a stable stance and enhance alignment. This will also engage your muscles while ensuring our knees don’t curve inwards as you dip into squats. A steady position is vital when performing squats. A good squat machine can help keep you stable.
Step 3: Proud Chest
Breathe in and hold your breath as you keep your chest up. Doing this will help align your upper body properly. A raised chest will make sure your upper back and shoulders don’t round. This often happens to many athletes and may lead to pain and injury.
Step 4: Sink into a Squat
Initiate the downward motion by slowly and steadily bending your knees as you extend your hips behind. You should maintain a neutral position at your lower back. Do not rotate your torso as you execute squats. Doing so may cause a twist on your spine, which may cause serious injury.
Keep pushing your knees to your feet’s direction and control this descent to the bottom. For perfect squats, you should make slow and controlled movements that maximize the time during which your muscles are under tension. This works them harder and makes the exercise efficient.
Step 4: Hit Parallel
The preferred position to stop your squats is when your thighs are parallel to the ground. However, due to reasons like injury, some people may fail to hit parallel. In other scenarios, you might intend to sink a little deeper than this, depending on the variations and intensifying muscle engagement.
Step 5: The Way Up
Once you reach parallel, pause for a second and then start pulling your knee and hips inwards to help you return to the standing position. Maintain your stability to avoid any sideways movements as they may cause injury.
Breathing During Squats
Your breathing pattern during squats is fundamental. While at the top, take a deep breath and hold it as you go all the way down the descend and back to standing position. Exhale when back at the top. Maintaining your breath helps build enough pressure, which powers your intense movements.
The position of your hands may vary depending on preference and other factors. For instance, you can extend your hands sideways or in front of you parallel to the ground throughout the squats. You might also hold them together straight above your head or at your chest in a prayer posture.
High-Intensity Squats Variations (5 variations)
For you to burn more calories doing squats, you’ll have to increase the intensity levels. Squats have tens of variations you can perform to help you achieve your fitness goals. Here are three high-intensity squats variations that will help you burn more calories.
This is the most intense of all squats variations and is performed with weights placed across your shoulders. You should take all the steps as though you were doing the standard bodyweight squats, except that in this case, your hands will be supporting a barbell placed across your shoulders.
Dumbbell squats are variations involving dumbbells, which you can hold hanging on the sides when using the squat machine, close to the chest, or contained in front of you with outstretched arms and parallel to the floor. This extra weight intensifies your exercise by involving more muscle, resulting in more calories burned.
Just as the name suggests, you dip into a squat and power yourself up into a jump and land on your toes. This variation increases your heart rate and is, therefore, good for your heart. This aerobic nature makes jump squats one of the best bodyweight variations in burning more calories.
Other squat variations you can do include plie squat exercises.
Muscles Worked During Squats
When you perform this compound exercise, you will work multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Squats mainly recruit your lower body muscle groups, but by extension, your upper body muscle groups are also involved. Squats movements require coordination of both upper and lower body muscles and bones.
These are muscles on the front of your thigh. In all squats variation, these are the muscles that are worked intensely. They are subjected to tension in both upwards and downwards movements during squats. You have to tighten them to build pressure required to bear the load and control the movements.
Hamstrings are muscles found at the back of your thighs and which are worked in almost equal measure with the quadriceps. They complement the quads in controlling the moves as you perform squats and are instrumental in stabilizing the knee joints and supporting hips extension.
The Adductor magnus is located in the inner thigh, and it is one of the muscles in your body that is hard to target in workouts. One of the ways to target it is by doing squats variations that involve taking a wider stance. While the standard squats assume a shoulder-width position, there are other variations that require a wider distance between your feet. This way, you’ll subject the adductor magnus under higher tension.
By this, we mean the muscles of your buttock. Yes, squats work your butt. They are recruited as we sink into the squats by helping in hip extension. While pushing back up to the standing position, they are also involved in pulling the hips back to a neutral position.
Upper Body Muscle Groups
Squats work your abs, obliques, and erectors too. These are muscles supporting your trunk, working hard throughout the exercise to offer stability and ensure that you have an excellent posture. Different squats variations will target them with varying levels of intensity.
By extension, muscles of your lower leg are also worked. Your calf is made up of the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles, which are moved as the tension builds in the thigh.
They tighten to create pressure to support the Achilles tendons and provide you with a stable stance.
Read Next: Different types of squat machines for home use
Benefits of Squats
1. Ultimate Calorie Burner
Squats burn calories more than many other exercises you perform. This is because it is a compound exercise that recruits many muscle groups at the same time. This results in burning more calories.
2. Amazing Muscle Builders
Squats help you develop different muscles simultaneously and in almost equal intensity. The more muscles you grow, the fewer fats you have, and therefore, you increase the rate at which your body burns calories.
3. Improves Your Cardio Fitness
Intense squats variations train you to control your breathing patterns under extreme pressure, which is right for your cardiovascular muscles. Other variations like the jump squats also serve as very efficient cardio exercises.
4. Good for Your Bones and Joints
Squats are good at improving your bone strength and density. The vertical movements in squats work both your bones and joints. A healthy skeletal system is essential for all our physical activities. Working out your joints ensures that you are flexible enough to do all sorts of body movements.
1. How many calories do 20 squats burn?
If the average person burns 0.32 calorie per squat, then doing 20 squats will burn 6.4 calories when performed within less than a minute.
2. How many squats do you have to do to burn 100 calories?
One can burn eight calories in one minute by performing 25 squats. Therefore, going by the calculations, you’ll need up to 313 squats to crush 100 calories.
Written by Alisha Wishart – TheHealthPot.com
Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), Writer and Contributor
Alisha, is a Mother, Wife and Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). She understands how demanding everyday life can be and takes great pride in working with individuals and groups to help them achieve their desired fitness goals. Read more about Alisha here.