Last updated on November 1st, 2022 at 11:29 am
Have you ever wondered, “Why Do Squats Make Me Sweat So Much?”
You could be new to the gym.
Then again, you could be a well-conditioned athlete.
You probably find that when you perform certain exercises you produce a light film of sweat.
However, whenever you hit the squat rack you are literally drenched in sweat.
Your t-shirt has changed colour and your towel needs to be wrung dry
And often this is after only a few sets.
So, why exactly do you produce so much sweat whenever you squat?
Allow me to explain.
Why Do Squats Make Me Sweat So Much?
There are various reasons why squats make you sweat so much, even more so than most other exercises. Firstly, the largest muscles in the body are in the legs, and squats will typically hit all of these muscles, thus producing more heat. Squats can also be considered a full-body exercise, as your upper back, shoulders, and core will all get activated to some degree. This means that you are using even more muscles when you squat. Furthermore, squats require a different type of conditioning to cardio, so the change in intensity is likely to make you sweat a lot more.
1. The Body’s Largest Muscles Are in the Legs
The most obvious reason that you sweat so much from squats is because you’re working the largest muscles in the body.
Squats will hit the quads, glutes, and hamstrings to great effect.
So, it makes perfect sense that the bigger the muscles that are being trained, the more heat the body will produce.
And sweating is simply your body’s cooling system.
Additionally, working the larger muscles will typically mean you’re using more weight.
Think about how much weight you squat in comparison to your bench press or overhead press.
I know a lot of people (myself included) who sweat equally as much when they deadlift.
Once more, you’re using the largest muscles in the human body, and you’re shifting a lot of weight.
That being said, there are those of you who’ll state that it’s only really squats that make them sweat so profusely.
Yes sure, deadlifts definitely make you perspire, but it’s not in the same league as when you squat.
This will typically be down to using fewer reps, longer rest periods, and perhaps even a lower level of intensity (although I find that hard to believe).
2. Squats Are a Full-Body Exercise
I’ve mentioned that squats hit the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
But, in reality you work many more muscles, in both the lower body and upper body.
In fact, squats are definitely a full-body exercise.
The adductors get hit extremely hard during squats.
And that’s not to mention the hips and hip flexors too.
However, I view squats as much more of an upper-body exercise than many people give it credit for.
Firstly, for many of us, we will squat with a load that is greater than our own body weight (well, that’s the aim).
This loaded bar is then placed across the back of your shoulders.
So, immediately this brings the upper back, lats, traps, and shoulders into play.
Additionally, your core has to stabilize in order to support the weight, as well as providing protection for your lower back.
I would even go as far to say that the way you hold the bar during barbell back squats will stretch the pecs as well.
In reality that’s a lot of muscles that are being both activated and stimulated.
This will of course raise the body’s temperature as you work through your set.
So, it shouldn’t really come as any surprise that you’re sweating buckets when you squat.
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3. Cardio-Conditioned & Squat-Conditioned aren’t the Same
I’ve often heard people state that they can’t understand why they sweat so much during squats.
Their reasoning is that they are extremely fit and regularly perform bouts of cardio, conditioning drills, HIIT, Tabata, or whatever else gets their heart rate pumping.
There is an expectation that you’re going to sweat a lot when you perform these types of cardio and conditioning workouts.
However, being “cardio fit” doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll find it easy to lift weights.
In fact, you could be one of the fittest people on Earth, in terms of cardiovascular exercise, but this won’t mean that you are “squat-conditioned”.
Basically, they are two completely different stressors on the body.
As you now know, you are working a huge number of muscles at the same time whenever you squat.
And it is highly unlikely that you will work this amount of muscle performing conventional cardio.
In fact, the nearest you’ll come to the number of muscles activated with cardio is via the rowing machine.
The ergonomic rower will activate nine different muscle groups, and a total of 85% of the body’s muscles.
With that being said, even an extremely hard rowing session won’t place as much stress on the muscles as a few sets of heavy squats.
So, I would never compare sweating with squats to sweating when performing cardio.
They are two completely different beasts.
Plus, you can guarantee that a decent volume of high-rep squats will do much more for your body, metabolic system, and conditioning than a bout of steady-state cardio.
4. This Indicates That You’re Training With Good Intensity
Now this may go a little against the grain.
I’m definitely not in the camp of “it’s not a good workout unless you’re sweating”.
You can certainly have a fantastic workout and barely break a sweat.
Looking at the upper body again, most people can probably have a great chest workout, and will leave the gym just as dry as when they came in.
Basically, you’re not working as many muscles, and you probably aren’t pushing anywhere near as much weight as when you squat.
The pecs are also much smaller muscles than those found in the legs.
Even if you’re performing compound exercises for the chest, e.g. bench press, dips, dumbbell chest press, you’re still not activating as much muscle mass in the body.
Yes, you’ll also hit the delts and triceps with a compound chest movement, but again these are extremely small muscles when compared to the lower body.
I would also say that you’re likely to perform more isolation movements when working the chest, or any other upper body muscles.
Realistically, when it comes to the lower body, barring leg extensions, hamstring curls, and calf raises, you never really completely isolate a muscle.
For me, training with intensity in the upper body is extremely different from training intensely for the lower body.
I would even say that you could hit 5×5 squats and perform your reps and sets with enough intensity that you have nothing left in the tank.
Plus, I know for a fact that I will be sweating more after 5×5 squats than I would be 5×5 bench press.
Now, I know I’ve said that sweating doesn’t always indicate a great workout, but I honestly believe this is different when you squat.
In fact, if you’re not sweating after squats you’re probably not hitting them with enough intensity.
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Do you have a better idea of why squats make you sweat so much?
Basically, you’re using the largest muscles in the human body.
Additionally, you use more muscles when you squat than most other exercises.
This will automatically cause the body’s temperature to rise, so you will typically sweat in order to cool yourself down.
Plus, training with weights is very different to performing cardio.
So, simply being “cardio fit” doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be sweating when you hit the weights.
Finally, although not the case for every body part, sweating while squatting is a good indication that you’re performing the movement with good intensity.
Next, make sure you check out what I have to say about whether you should squat with a mirror or if it’s best avoided.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.