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Back squats develop functional lower-body strength.
Looking for the best ways to tone your legs and bottom? Want to make the most out of your gym time? Then you might wonder whether you should do more squats or focus on the hip abduction. After all, these exercises are known for their beneficial effects on leg and glute development. The truth is that it all comes down to your goals. Squats build overall strength and power, while the hip abduction activates and isolates the glutes.
Hip abduction exercises and squats both improve strength in your lower body. However, squats build strength and power with full-body movement while abduction exercises specifically target the glutes.
ID Muscles Worked
The squat is considered a full-body exercise. It engages nearly every muscle, including your quads, glutes, hamstrings, traps, lats, core and upper back. This compound movement also targets the adductors, hip flexors and erectors. Furthermore, different squat variations work different muscles.
Front squats, for instance, hit the quads and upper back muscles to a greater extent than the back squat. Additionally, they put less stress on your spine. Sumo squats are particularly beneficial for your glutes and inner thighs. Back squats engage your quads, glutes and hamstrings. The Bulgarian split squat helps develop your posterior chain, hip flexors and quadriceps.
Depending on the muscles targeted, you can experiment with different variations of the standard squat. This will allow you to diversify your workout and keep your body guessing. Plus, you can use different foot placement angles and stance widths according to your goals.
By comparison, the hip abduction is considered an isolation exercise. It engages the tensor fascia lata, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. This movement can improve leg development and lower body strength, but to a lesser extent compared to the squat.
There are different ways to perform this movement; some work better than others. The seated hip abduction machine, for example, fails to engage the inner and outer thigh. Even though it does isolate these muscles, it's less effective compared to other exercises, such as the pistol squat and single-leg squats. Certain variations like the clamshell and lateral band walks do a better job at working the abductors compared to the machine version.
Recognize the Potential Benefits
By now, it's clear that squats yield better results in terms of hypertrophy and muscle strength. However, hip abduction exercises have their role. According to a study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, this isolation movement may help increase hip abductor strength and reduce knee valgus, a condition that causes the knees to cave inward.
Strong abductor muscles can improve your range of motion, hip stabilization and overall physical performance. A study published by the European Society of Sports Traumatology, Knee Surgery, Arthroscopy (ESSKA) indicates that hip-flexor training may help prevent injuries and accelerate healing. Furthermore, hip abduction exercises have been shown to increase muscle strength by a staggering 40 percent following an injury of the lower extremities.
Squats, on the other hand, are more effective for building overall strength and power. When performed regularly, this compound movement can boost your athletic performance and speed up muscle growth. Additionally, it stimulates the release of anabolic hormones that promote hypertrophy and improve body composition.
According to The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, squats increase testosterone and growth hormone levels to a greater extent compared to the leg press. Both the squat and the leg press are superior to hip abduction exercises in this regard. These multi-joint movements can also enhance your balance and coordination, increase core strength and improve functional fitness.
Compare the Two
If you have to choose between the two, squats will give you better results. This movement provides a full body workout and can be customized according to your goals. Hip abduction exercises, on the other hand, are easier on your spine and knees. However, those who suffer from knee or back pain can try different squat variations that put little or no stress on joints. The wall squat, pliГ© squats, goblet squats and resistance band squats are just a few examples.
For best results, include both exercises in your workout. This way, you'll get the best of both worlds and prevent plateaus. Start with the squat since it's more challenging and requires greater strength. Plus, it allows you to lift heavier weights and work your muscles from different angles. Finish your training session with hip abduction exercises and other isolation movements.