The humble squat exercise has become a regular part of many exercise routines but very few people really train the squat to its full potential.
There are numerous squat variations that can target your legs differently so you can get stronger, increase tone and help you overcome both boredom and fitness plateaus.
In this article we will introduce you to a variety of different types of squats that I use personally and you can use them to improve both your weightlifting and your overall strength and fitness.
Inside you will see me perform the squats along with a brief description as to each one and the benefits of the exercises. You will also see me perform a lot of the squats with a weight. In most cases this is optional and you can easily use a bar with no weight as well.
Just remember that in all squat variations it is necessary to engage the core for stability!
So if you are ready to become a 'Squat' Expert then walk this way as it is time to get those legs burning.
Front squats - used as frequently as back squats for Olympic weightlifting and it is important to develop great quad, glute and upper back strength.
This is the most specific type of squat to a clean and should be performed in a way which best replicates the clean specific movements.
Back squats - Weightlifters normally alternate between front and back squats, and they are often a weightlifters 'go to' exercise..
Back squats are great for developing quad and glute strength but also has a positive correlation to the lifters strength taking the bar off the floor through the first phase of the lift.
More commonly used by other athletes partly because back squats don't require the shoulder, elbow and wrist mobility that front squats demand.
You will notice the bar is behind my back but does not rest on my neck.
Split Squats - probably the least common of the squatting movements and often referred to as lunges.
Another name for the split squat is the Bulgarian Squat.
The lifters / athlete splits the feet forwards and back (similar to the jerk position) then raises and lowers their body keeping the weight evenly distributed on both legs.
Weightlifters wouldn't use this because you can't load it heavy enough or squat as deep as the traditional front and back squats.
The split squat works the glutes and quadriceps and this is a great exercises for athletes such as triple jumpers or runners who require strength through this more sports specific range of movement.
Front And Back Squat Variation
Front and Back squats can also be varied and in these next videos you were see me adding a few alterations to make the exercise. This makes it more challenging without adding to the weight.
First Variation: Front squats halting at the bottom
Second Variation: Front squats halting at 90 degrees
Third Variation: Front Squats to 90 degrees of half squats
Twitches or partial Knee bends
Twitches or partial knee bends!!
This is for those who may not be able to squat deeper for medical reasons or who experience pain in the hips and knees if they squat too low.
It is also often used to increase the load but the movement is so restricted that any gains to me made are somewhat limited.
It is also often used by a lot of people who want to look like they are lifting heavy but there is hardly any movement,
Not a great exercise for developing lower body strength because the movement is so limited.
These can be performed by holding a kettle bell or dumbbell just underneath the chin.
Elbows tucked under and squatting as low as you can avoiding any pain.
Great for the older clientele who don't need to lift heavy or for anyone not wanting to load the back.
Frequently used in gym studio classes or as part of a home workout, the goblet squat is great for the development of quads, glutes and flexors.
Pistol squats - a challenging 1 leg squat which requires a good degree of balance and stability as well as strength to stand up.
The pistol squat is an exercise that shows a combination of strength and technique. It is one of those exercises that everyone knows is tough to do and let's face it, the pistol squat looks impressive!
Can be used by weightlifters as a good way to maintain leg strength without loading the spine if struggling with back injuries.
Body Weight Squats
Bodyweight squats -
Exactly that, squatting through a range your body allows without loading more than your own body weight.
The great thing about the bodyweight squat is that you can do it without any equipment.
I will use this squat when I am away from the gym and it is part of my 'hotel room workout' when I am staying away from home.
The lateral squat is a great exercise to develop hip and ankle mobility as well as quad and glute strength
Place your feet wider than normal squats, the aim is to transfer the weight laterally from side to side.
This squat is also useful for increasing your core strength and improving your balance. but if you are struggling with your balance there is no harm in holding onto something for extra support. We all can get a little wobbly after a tough workout!
If you are feeling more adventurous you can combine the lateral squat with a kettle-bell by holding the bell in the same position as you would a goblet squat.
The plyometric or plyo squat is a great squat that builds some serious leg power and endurance if you increase the number of repetitions to over 10.
Ok so what are plyometrics and how does it help you
Plyometrics are exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of increasing power, speed and strength.
Ok so why are they good?
Plyomteric squats are great for anyone that needs to become more explosive. So weightlifters, Rugby players, Martial Arts fighters, footballers, tennis players and many more can benefit from the plyo squat.
Boxers and MMA fighters use squat jumps to help produce the explosive strength in their legs that is required for combat sports. This is another reason why we suggest increasing the number of reps. MMA fighters need to be just as explosive in round 5 as they are in round 1, so endurance is key!
In simple terms this exercise combines a squat with a jump to build plyometric power and they can be done with or without the weight.
The Sumo squat :
This squat is an an interesting variation where the feet are wider than shoulder width apart.
You can see that I am using the weight with my variation but it is usually done without the bar by most people.
The sumo squat is great for working the glutes, quadriceps and hip flexors.
So there you have it the complete guide to squat variations that you must try.
Squats should be performed through a pain free range but the knee joint is designed to fully flex, therefore, squatting as low as possible pain free will result in strength being gained through the full range.
Technically, any movement that involves a knee bend of some kind could be deemed a variation of squats but over time we will continue to grow this article to form a collection of squat variations you can try.
If you have enjoyed this article please like and share and as always train safely.
Michaela Breeze MBE