The Activation of Gluteal, Thigh, and Lower Back Muscles in Different Squat Variations Performed by Competitive Bodybuilders: Implications for Resistance Training

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jan 18;18(2):772. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18020772.


The present study investigated the activation of gluteal, thigh, and lower back muscles in different squat variations. Ten male competitive bodybuilders perform back-squat at full (full-BS) or parallel (parallel-BS) depth, using large feet-stance (sumo-BS), and enhancing the feet external rotation (external-rotated-sumo-BS) and front-squat (FS) at 80% 1-RM. The normalized surface electromyographic root-mean-square (sEMG RMS) amplitude of gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, adductor longus, longissimus, and iliocostalis was recorded during both the ascending and descending phase of each exercise. During the descending phase, greater sEMG RMS amplitude of gluteus maximus and gluteus medius was found in FS vs. all other exercises (p < 0.05). Additionally, FS elicited iliocostalis more than all other exercises. During the ascending phase, both sumo-BS and external-rotated-sumo-BS showed greater vastus lateralis and adductor longus activation compared to all other exercises (p < 0.05). Moreover, rectus femoris activation was greater in FS compared to full-BS (p < 0.05). No between-exercise difference was found in vastus medialis and longissimus showed no between-exercise difference. FS needs more backward stabilization during the descending phase. Larger feet-stance increases thigh muscles activity, possibly because of their longer length. These findings show how bodybuilders uniquely recruit muscles when performing different squat variations.

Keywords: EMG; adductor longus; back squat; feet stance; front squat; gluteus maximus; quadriceps; strength training; weight training.

MeSH terms

  • Back Muscles*
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Quadriceps Muscle
  • Resistance Training*
  • Thigh