Why Skinny Guys Should Squat (with decision helper)

Why skinny guys should squat.

Attention to all skinny guys; hate them or love them, there’s no doubt that the squat is one of the most important lifts you can do. But are they essential for fixing a weak and thin lower body?

Squats are one of the best exercises for skinny people to build and strengthen their lower bodies. A single squatting motion engages all of the leg muscles as well as the core and lower back. With that being said, no exercise is compulsory and effective alternatives exist.

Below, I explain why squats are so effective, the possible drawbacks to consider, and whether or not you should do them.

I’ll also share my favorite alternatives for building powerful thighs and a shapely butt.

My squat leg transformation before and after photos.
I performed heavy barbell squats for 18 months to transform my skinny legs.

Key Takeaways

  • The squat is an effective and powerful compound exercise for transforming skinny legs.
  • Target muscles include; quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, core, and lower back.
  • This exercise allows for heavy loading which is great for muscle growth.
  • But it also loads the knees with a lot of weight and can be a complex movement for beginners to execute using a safe form.
  • Alternatives include; a leg press machine, leg extension, leg curls, and calf raises, and glute raises.

Decision Helper: Should Skinny Guys Do Squats?

The below infographic can help you to decide whether or not to squat as a skinny person:

Should skinny guys do squats decision helper.

Squat Muscles Worked & Visible Results For Skinny Guys

Squats primarily engage the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, gastrocnemius, erector spinae, and core muscles. This makes it a good exercise to build thicker thighs and calves, as well as to shape the buttocks.

Primary target muscles in the squat.

Below, you can find the primary muscles worked by the squat and the aesthetic benefits each muscle confers for skinny guys:

Squat MuscleVisible Benefits For Skinny Guys
QuadricepsThicker thighs and wider hips when viewed from the front and side.
HamstringsWider and thicker thighs when viewed from the rear and side.
GlutesBigger buttocks and a more shapely hip.
GastrocnemiusThicker, bigger, and wider calves when viewed from all angles.
Erector spinaeImproved posture and reduced rounding of the lower-back.
CorePotential 6-pack abdominals with a low body fat percentage.

Thus, squats can help skinny people with a host of aesthetic benefits including; an increased leg diameter, toned-looking legs, and a shapely butt.

But they also confer a variety of functional benefits too (see next).

Functional Benefits Of Doing Squats For Skinny Guys

1) It’s a big movement for fast muscle gain

Are you struggling to put on noticeable muscle mass?

Well, the squat could help with that. It’s a big compound exercise.

This means it engages multiple muscle groups in a single motion, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. But they’ll also work the core and lower back too.

Furthermore- intense lifting on compound movements (alongside a bulking regime) is ideal for putting on healthy muscle weight fast.

Whether you’re trying to get jacked, or simply looking to build a toned and shapely lower body, squats can help you to achieve your goals.

2) Stimulates a powerful hormone response.

Skinny people often attribute naturally low hormone levels to why they can’t gain muscle.

Various lines of research suggest that heavy lifting on the lower-body compound movements like the squat and deadlift can drive a hormonal response in your body.

Testosterone and growth hormone are just two of the hormones released during and after heavy squatting.

These are naturally anabolic (muscle-building) chemicals that can help skinny guys develop an overall bigger and stronger body. And this includes your upper body mirror muscles as well as the legs.

For more details, you can check out my other post to find out why I recommend skinny guys to deadlift.

3) Strengthen the knee, ankle, and hips.

As a skinny guy, daily activities like walking, standing, and lifting often feel harder than they should.

Studies show that squatting doesn’t just benefit lower body muscle growth, but also joint, bone, ligament, and tendon strength.

Not only does this have positive knock-on effects on your other lifts (like a stronger deadlift and barbell row), but it also helps you to perform functional day-to-day movements more effectively.

4) Squats can boost a skinny guy’s confidence.

I use to be a skinny guy with no self-esteem or confidence and it sucked.

But boy let me tell you this- nothing lifts your ego more than beating your personal record on a squat.

There’s something strangely satisfying about being able to drive 300lbs using your legs…

In fact, squatting was a key movement in helping me gain my first 10lbs of lean mass fast. And this worked wonders in boosting my confidence.

5) They increase lower body strength.

Building leg strength isn’t often a priority for beginners. But trust me, this often neglected muscle group sets the tone for the rest of your skinny-to-muscular transformation.


A strong lower body has an indirect effect on boosting your other lifts. You rely on your legs for force transduction and to provide a solid foundation upon which to perform upper-body movements on.

Thus, increasing leg strength through heavy squat training can help you get bigger and stronger overall.

6) Build a stronger core with squats.

The core refers to your mid-torso where your abs are located.

And most people dream of getting a visibly defined six-pack (fast!).

If you’re time-limited and would prefer getting a chiseled core without having to dedicate endless hours working the abs, then squatting is a solution.

This 2018 study showed that performing heavy squats in the 6-rep range is just as effective as a 30-second plank for abdominal activation.

Remember, it takes a lot of core activity to stabilize your torso as you go through the squatting range of motion.

7) Squats can lead to improved athletic ability.

Skinny guys rarely excel on the playing field- athletic performance is usually predicated on your ability to generate lower-body strength and power.

That’s the reason why athletes (sprinters, footballers, rugby players, etc) often dedicate a portion of their training to lower body movements like the squat.

Well, all of the benefits mentioned previously come together to make this a great exercise for skinny guys who are aspiring to compete in most types of sport.

Are Squats Essential For Skinny Guys To Build Muscle?

Squats are not essential for skinny people to gain muscle. They are a popular and highly effective exercise for building lower body muscle size and strength. But other exercises can be performed instead to achieve similar results.

At the end of the day, no exercise is “essential” for building muscle and alternatives exist.

Furthermore, squats can be intimidating for beginners, whilst other people may simply not want to directly load their knees with heavy weights.

Squat alternatives for building bigger and stronger legs:

Squat AlternativeMuscles Worked
Leg extension machineQuadriceps
Leg curl machineHamstrings
Calf raise machineGastrocnemius
Barbell hip raiseGlutes
Leg press machineAll leg muscles.

These are mostly isolation-type movements (with the exception of the leg press).

This means that, unlike compound movements which engage multiple muscle groups, isolation movements work on a single muscle at a time.

As a result, a longer workout is required to get a comparable training volume than if you were to do a compound session.

Overall, squats are an efficient way to build bigger legs and they are one of the best lifts for a skinny guy to build muscle.

But there are also some drawbacks to consider (see next).

Drawbacks Of Doing Squats For Skinny Guys

4 Minutes Of Squat Fails - When The Bar Bends
Why skinny beginners and experienced lifters alike should be cautious when squatting…

1) It is a complex exercise for beginners.

There are many squat variations for skinny guys to try, all of which emphasize different leg muscles to different degrees.

But they all share one thing in common- effective squatting requires multiple form and technique cues to be met:

  • Feet placement- do not angle too far outwards or inwards. A 35-55° angle from the torso midline is generally the best.
  • Lower back- should be kept straight and not rounded during the movement.
  • Squat depth- thighs should reach just below parallel to the floor at the bottom of the exercise.
  • Knee angle- do not allow the knees to cave inwards.
  • Ankle mobility- heels should be planted firmly on the ground at all times.

You can therefore see why this is such a complex exercise that can be intimidating for a beginner.

2) Squats are a relatively dangerous movement.

Beginners may often miss one (and often more) of the cues detailed above. And when combined with a loaded barbell, this is a recipe for injury.

Heavy squatting can therefore be dangerous, especially for skinny guys who often have weaker muscles and joints compared to trained lifters.

If you’re unwilling to put your ego aside and spend time practicing good form with a lightweight, then you may want to consider doing light-load squats instead.

Additionally- failing a squat has dangerous consequences. Unless your rack has spotter arms, you’ll have a fully loaded barbell stuck on your back with nothing to catch the fall!

3) Bad lifting technique may lead to injury.

Skinny guys are susceptible to a variety of injuries if they squat incorrectly. These include:

  • Knee pain.
  • Back strains.
  • Concussions.
  • Impact trauma.

Regardless of whether you’re a skinny guy or not- there’s nothing fun about a fully loaded barbell falling on your head…

4) Can be intimidating for beginners.

The previous points combined, mean that squatting can be an extremely intimidating exercise for skinny guys and beginners in general.

Here’s a progression plan for beginners:

First, practice the movement cues using bodyweight squats.

Next, you can add dumbbells for a further challenge (see my other post for dumbbell squat weight recommendations).

After mastering the dumbbell variation, you can progress onto an empty Olympic barbell (20kg/45lbs). And only after you’re confident doing 8-12 reps with an empty barbell, should you begin to add weight plates.

How Often Skinny Guys Should Squat

Skinny guys should start with 2-3 squat workouts per week. It is recommended to rest for at least 24 hours before the next workout. It is unnecessary to do squats every day of the week if each workout is performed to a sufficient intensity.

How often to squat per week as as a skinny guy.

Too much of anything can be bad- that’s why you shouldn’t work legs every day.

If your goal is to build muscle, then aim to complete ~10 sets of squats per week as a beginner and up to 15 sets per week as an intermediate-advanced lifter (around 2+ year of squat training).

If you’re doing 2-3 workouts per week, then this equates to 3-5 sets per workout to give you ~10 total sets (a lower training frequency requires a higher number of sets per workout and vice versa).

Additionally, make sure you’re using enough weight to fatigue you (this is essential).

As a skinny beginner, this could simply be body weight alone. And as you get stronger, you can use heavier weights.

For a detailed progression plan, can check out my barbell full-body muscle routine.


Skinny guys should squat if they’re looking to maximize lower body muscle and strength. Heavy squatting is one of the most powerful and efficient ways to work all of your leg muscles.

However, it’s not the only way to train the lower body. Alternatives include isolation-type lifts like leg curls, extensions, and raises.

Additionally, it’s also important for beginners to practice good squatting form using light weights before progressing to heavy weights.

You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition (with printables) I used to go from skinny to ripped!


I'm Kal (B.S, M.S)- a health & fitness writer and owner of Kalibre Fitness. I love to nerd out on weight training and nutrition. My primary interests are in muscle hypertrophy mechanisms and strength development. You can connect with me in the "Contact Us" section below!

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