13 Squat variations and how to use them like a pro
13 Squat variations and how to use them like a pro
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Some say the king of all exercises. We can all agree that squats can be part of every fitness programme for almost any goal.
But there are so many variations that you can use to help you with your specific goal. I am going to run through 13 of my favourites.
1. Barbell Back Squat
The undisputed heavyweight champion! The back squat is what most people think of when you hear ‘Squat’. Generally a back squat will enable you handle more weight than other squats. In my opinion unless you have an injury that stops you doing them, these should be a part of pretty much every programme. Used for high reps they are a great cardio workout too.
My recommendation – Pyramid them. Do 20 reps, add some weight, do 16 reps, add some weight do 12 reps, add some weight and do 8 reps. Then work your way back up.
2. Front Squat
If the back squat is the king then the front squat is the queen. Featuring in most Olympic lifts the front squat is a real power builder. You may not be able to handle quite as much weight as a back squat but the more vertical back angle helps put a huge emphasis on your quads (front of thigh) without much strain on your lower back.
Greater core strength is needed for a correct front squat as well as some mobility in the shoulders and wrists. However the strength gains you can make from front squats are awesome!
You may also find it easier to squat to depth.
My recommendation – Slightly less reps than the back squat due to the harder to hold bar position (when getting used to the lift). Warm up and then do 3 solid sets of 10 reps.
3. Goblet Squat
For me, one of the most under rated but most effective squats their is. Awesome for conditioning, building muscle and more importantly it is an unbelievably useful exercise for teaching good squat technique. It teaches you to drive your knees outwards and maintain correct spinal alignment. Love them!
My recommendation – use them near the end of your workout for 3 sets of 25 reps. Oh the burn!
4. Dumbbell Jump Squat
You rarely see jump squats in a gym and I can’t understand why. They are a fantastic exercise for developing explosive power. They will get your heart racing and can be used to great effect with any fat loss programme.
My Recommendation – Do 3 Sets of 45 seconds with 45 seconds rest.
5. Split Squat
The one criticism of squats is that they are a bilateral exercise meaning that you use both legs at the same time. With upper body, you will often use dumbbells to work each arm individually. A split stance squat will allow you to put the majority of the load on one leg at a time. A fantastic way to build strength, balance and muscle.
My recommendation – 3 Sets of 10 reps on each leg towards the end of your workout. (watch your balance though)
6. Box Squats
Box Squats are another fantastic tool for teaching correct form. In a squat it is important to sit back. A box squat allows you do this with no fear of falling backwards. It is also deceptively hard. To prove this, sit in a chair right now…. now without using your hands to help, stand up and sit down again 10 times.
I know right! Box squats are awesome.
They are also really useful for developing explosive strength as you have no ‘bounce’ at the bottom of the squat.
My Recommendation – 3 Sets of 12 reps (make sure you pause on the box (or step/bench) before standing again.
7. Half Squats
Half squats do not mean half results. With these squats your legs will be burning like crazy. Squat all the way down but only come up half way, the reason for this is to extend the time under tension in the hardest part of the movement. This can result in better muscle development. I love using these at the end of a workout or in the middle of a cardio workout.
My Recommendation – 3 Sets of 20 Reps
8. Dumbbell Paused Front Squats
Similar to box squats, paused squats (where you pause in the bottom position for a second or more) take the ‘bounce’ out of the squat. This makes it harder to stand up, encourages better technique and can increase strength. It will also increase your time under tension. Overall if you do any variation of paused squats you will notice a huge difference in difficulty (and how much you ache). But over the weeks you will also notice some fantastic progress.
My Recommendation – 3 sets of 10 reps with a 3 second pause.
9. Squat Long Jumps
Explosive exercises like long jump squats require a lot of effort, making them huge calorie burners! It is also a great measure of power. Using these in a fat loss programme will help you achieve some great results, not just in shaping your legs but torching body fat.
My Recommendation – 5 Sets of 30 Seconds with 30 Seconds Rest.
10. Body Weight Rotational Jump Squats
So things are getting pretty serious now, these have all the benefits of squat long jumps but adding a 180 degree rotation really take sit up a level.
My Recommendation – 6 Sets of 30 Seconds with 30 Seconds Rest. Swapping your rotation direction on each set.
11. Air Squat
A classic! A regular body weight squat is another one you rarely see in the gym. The thing is, despite it being the simplest version of the exercise, it is still really challenging and useful.
As part of a strength programme it can be used as a conditioning tool. It also should have a place in any fat loss programme.
The funny thing is, you see it done wrong more often than right. The problem with this is, if you can’t do an air squat why would you squat with a bar on your back. It is a fundamental movement that should be learned before moving on to more complicated variations. If you are someone who struggles with these then try the goblet and box squats first. Usually the part people struggle with is getting low enough, they get so far and then just lean forward.
My Recommendation – Learn how to do one – Perfectly! Then do loads of them.
12. Isometric Squat
You don’t always have to be moving to be working. Squat down and then just stay there, give if a few seconds and it will burn, a few more and your legs will shake. This is a great exercise to finish your legs off after a workout.
My Recommendation – Do it once, set a time. Rest and then try and beat it. Keep doing it till you cant beat the time.
13. Wall Squat
It’s like sitting in a chair that doesn’t have a seat. It’s really hard work. Very similar to the isometric squat only you are using a wall for some back support. If you find them easy try placing a weight plate on your legs.
My Recommendation – Mix these with Dumbbell Jump Squats – 30 Seconds of each without rest for 3 minutes.