14 Awesome Squat Variations You Need to Try
Squats are just the best. They are one of the best leg and lower body exercises in existence. They’re a colossal compound exercise that hit everything from your hips and glutes through to your calves, and everything in between. What more could you possibly ask for from just one exercise? How about a little squat variation...
In fact, they’re so amazing that over time, they have adapted and evolved to serve different purposes. Now, no matter what your training goals, equipment options, space or time you have available to you, there’s a squat for you. Here, we’re looking at 14 of the best of squat variations that you can try for yourself. They all have their own advantages, so make sure you take care in doing them.
Just before we get started, we’re just going to say, your technique is the most important thing in any exercise, and we have a guide on how to squat right here
No Equipment Squat Variations:
So, to get the ball rolling, we've split our squats into two categories. The first one is the awesome list of squats you can do with just your body weight, which is incredible. No weights? No problem!
First up is the classic bodyweight squat. It does what it says on the tin, and it's an excellent way to get the most out of your squat anywhere, any time. Whether you're doing 10 speedy squats after nipping to the loo at work, warming up for leg day, or letting it be the star of the show at home; the bodyweight squat is not one to be sniffed at!
Once you have the general squat down, the sumo squat is a great way to mix it up. Make a wider stance with your feet almost outwards. That’ll get you going even lower than before and get you a great contraction in your upper leg; this hits your hamstrings and glutes more than the standard squat variation really could.
Taking things a little further, we have squat jumps. Again, they are what they sound like, but they are an awesome explosive leg exercise to get your heart rate fired up! A prime example of plyometric exercise, squat jumps just need you to push upwards explosively to lift yourself off the floor. You can jump up and down or try and jump onto an object in front of you like a step, bench, or box. Just be careful!
Taking things up a notch still, the Bosu® squat variation is an awesome example of how squats can do even more. The balance ball means that you’re using your core and other muscles to stabilise yourself throughout your squat. That makes things even harder and works even more muscles! Who’d have thought! (Use can use them for more than squats too!)
These squat variations are a little harder on the knees, but they’re a great way to change things up. The idea behind them is to stay the in the squat position, but go down onto your knees one leg at a time and back up into the squat position. The time under tension is huge to spark muscle growth in a new way, making it an incredibly effective exercise!
Pistol squats require some serious balance, so they are maybe one to try after you’re familiar with the squat exercise already. They are simply squats, but with one leg forward in front of you off the floor. That means you need to really balance yourself as well as having all the weight on just one leg! Hard work, and double the weight!
Dragon squats are just the hardest of the hard, which is really hard by our estimates. Even for squat pros, dragon squats are a true test of functional strength, balance and flexibility. If you’re confident, then go for it and see what you can do. The idea is to wrap one leg around and in front of the other and squat. This is just like the pistol squat, but even harder still!
Equipment Needed Squat Variations:
Once you’re a squatting pro with the bodyweight exercises, or you feel like packing on a little more muscle mass, weighted squats have a lot to offer you too, and they aren’t without their variations. Again, just really make sure your form is perfect. Extra weight makes things tricky, and it's easy to lift too heavy and sacrifice your form.
The back squat is one of the most iconic squats there are. You place a barbell over your shoulders (comfortably) and go to work. You can use a smith machine or power rack if you need to (like a pro), but the exercise stays the same. It's an awesome strength builder.
The front squat is better still. Front weighted exercises are almost always better than the rear, so we prefer this to the back squat. It gives your back more flexibility to squat lower comfortably and will target your quads more effectively. Hold the barbell in front of you carefully, and again, follow the squat procedure. Keep your butt out, and you should be doing well.
If you aren't quite where you'd like to be, or you are not confident enough to go free weights, there's nothing wrong with using a machine to get the ball rolling. (Just don't become reliant on it for stability). Machines are great for overload and just follow the same motions as usual. There's often room to angle your feet with the machine having a curved base, so find what works for you.
Resistance Band Squats
These are another of the squat variations that do what they say on the tin. You can do them as squat thrusters or standard squats depending on the workout you want and the band that you have. Simply get the band under your feet and squat like you mean it! Don't go too fast either though. You shouldn't be bouncing with the band.
Squat to Shoulder Press
As we touched on above, squat thrusters or squat-to-shoulder press exercises are an awesome way to take things to the next level and get your upper body working too. That maximises calorie burn and makes it a full-body exercise. Do the squat as usual, and when you're at the top, push the weight straight up over your head like in a shoulder press. It's hard work, but it's super effective!
The Bulgarian split squat is one of the best quad exercises there are. It's incredible for singling out your quads using weighted squats in a safe and secure way. They are arguably the best squat variation out there, so they’re one gives some though to! Remember to do each leg equally to avoid overtraining though.
The last squats we’ll look at are goblet squats. These are an iconic dumbbell or kettlebell exercise where you hold one dumbbell in front of you as you squat, however, you can change it up with a kettlebell too. Even further still, use any weighted equipment held by your sides, and you'll still get a great squat in there.
So that’s all of them in all their glory. We can’t state enough how awesome they are, but we also have to stress how vital it is that you get them right. Take your pick and make the most of them!
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