Quadriceps effort during squat exercise depends on hip extensor muscle strategy

Sports Biomech. 2015 Mar;14(1):122-38. doi: 10.1080/14763141.2015.1024716. Epub 2015 Apr 21.


Hip extensor strategy, specifically relative contribution of gluteus maximus versus hamstrings, will influence quadriceps effort required during squat exercise, as hamstrings and quadriceps co-contract at the knee. This research examined the effects of hip extensor strategy on quadriceps relative muscular effort (RME) during barbell squat. Inverse dynamics-based torque-driven musculoskeletal models were developed to account for hamstrings co-contraction. Net joint moments were calculated using 3D motion analysis and force platform data. Hamstrings co-contraction was modelled under two assumptions: (1) equivalent gluteus maximus and hamstrings activation (Model 1) and (2) preferential gluteus maximus activation (Model 2). Quadriceps RME, the ratio of quadriceps moment to maximum knee extensor strength, was determined using inverse dynamics only, Model 1 and Model 2. Quadriceps RME was greater in both Models 1 and 2 than inverse dynamics only at barbell loads of 50-90% one repetition maximum. The highest quadriceps RMEs were 120 ± 36% and 87 ± 28% in Models 1 and 2, respectively, which suggests that barbell squats are only feasible using the Model 2 strategy prioritising gluteus maximus versus hamstrings activation. These results indicate that developing strength in both gluteus maximus and quadriceps is essential for lifting heavy loads in squat exercise.

Keywords: Knee; co-contraction; gluteus maximus; hamstrings; musculoskeletal modelling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hip Joint / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiology*
  • Weight Lifting
  • Young Adult