I've read that squats and lunges are primarily Hamstring/Glute exercises. But I tend to feel them much more in my quads. Is this indicative of a form issue, or an imbalance in the strength of my quads vs hamstrings?

  • What type of squat are you doing? Certain types of squats are more quad-focussed.
    – user4644
    Dec 26, 2012 at 22:33
  • Often I do not have a partner/spotter, so I've been doing my squats on a Hammer Strength V-Squat Machine. For Lunges, I'm either doing Standing Dumbell Lunges, or Barbell Lunges on the Smith Machine.
    – BillN
    Dec 26, 2012 at 22:38
  • 2
    I'm not sure about lunges, but with squats it depends on how low you go. If you reach parelel then you will feel the glutes and hamstrings otherwise it is only a quad exercise which is why you will only feel the quads. Dec 26, 2012 at 22:54
  • 2
    Just from looking at examples online of squats in the hammer strength machine, it looks like it'd be easy to do a quad-focussed squat. It's not a problem, just a different squat. But, if you really want a hamstring/glute-focussed squat, look at the low bar back squat (startingstrength.com/articles/squat_rippetoe.pdf), although I'm not sure how much of that can transfer to the machine.
    – user4644
    Dec 27, 2012 at 1:18
  • Thank you Kate, that link was informative. It may be that I am not going deep enough in my squats to effectively activate my glutes and hamstrings.
    – BillN
    Dec 27, 2012 at 21:16

2 Answers 2


The barbell squat is primarily a quadricep exercise. Secondary muscle groups include glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and even abs.

The best way to target your quads during a barbell squat is to keep your feet at shoulder width with your toes pointing out a little bit to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on your knees.

If you want to activate your glutes and hamstrings, take a wider stance and perform a deeper squat (to parallel or just below). I wouldn't recommend going any lower than that until your know that your form is really nailed down. Performing a full squat (hamstrings touching your calves) with improper form can put a lot of strain on your knees.

Lunges usually activate your glutes a lot more than a standard barbell squat, but it depends on how you perform them. If you're not feeling glute activation and you want to feel it more, there are two things you can experiment with:

  • The length of your stride. Experiment with the distance between your feet to target your muscles differently.
  • The angle at which you complete the concentric portion of the movement. If you lean forward during your lunge, you will put more weight and emphasis on your quads. Leaning forward is common in this exercise because the quadricep is the strongest muscle in the leg and transferring the load to the quads makes the movement easier to complete. If you keep your spine vertical throughout the movement, you should notice a lot more glute and hamstring activation.

If you are really looking into building your hamstrings and glutes though, you should look into performing Romanian Deadlifts.


Shorter stride lunges actually work the hip/glutes more.It is a common,broscience miscoception that a wider stride targets the glutes more.Thats nonsense.A shorter stride lunge involves far more biomechanical involvement of the hips and glutes.

  • Where do you take this information from? Any references?
    – Baarn
    Dec 30, 2012 at 1:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.